In trying times, it’s natural to try to figure out how to boost your mood. Try these nine expert-recommended mood boosters that can help turn a frown upside-down even when you’re short on time. And know this: You are not alone. If you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out to a health-care professional. Don’t wait to seek help!
1. Move your body
Exercise releases feel-good endorphins, so make time to move every day. While a fitness program like 9 Week Control Freak with Autumn Calabrese is awesome, even small bits of movement can feel good. “If you have a desk job, it’s critical that you take movement breaks throughout the day,” says Trevor Thieme, CSCS, Beachbody’s director of fitness and nutrition content. “These don’t have to be long or strenuous — just a short walk, a few body-weight squats, or a brief yoga flow can help reduce stress, increase focus, and improve your mood,” he adds.
2. Choose good-mood foods
“Food has a direct impact on our mood in a variety of ways,” says dietitian Julie Feldman, MPH, RDN. Incorporating mood-boosting foods (like fatty fish, whole grains, and blueberries) into your daily eats is a great way to influence your mood naturally. That’s another thing to love about 9 Week Control Freak — it includes creator Autumn Calabrese’s signature nutrition program, Portion Fix, so you don’t need to stress over what to eat!
3. Get quality sleep
There’s nothing like a good night’s rest to feel refreshed and ready to take on the day. Sleep is another natural mood-booster. “We all need quality, consistent sleep each night to restore the mind and body,” says Melissa Oleshansky, Ph.D, a yoga teacher and licensed clinical health psychologist. “Going to bed and waking up around the same time can regulate our circadian rhythm and keep our minds and bodies aligned with clarity and peace,” she explains. That’s right: Bedtimes aren’t just for kids. Getting yourself into a new sleep routine (so you’re not waking up exhausted) is definitely a habit worth establishing.
4. Stay connected
Keeping in touch with loved ones even during social distancing is a crucial mood-booster. “Lack of social connections can contribute to depression, sadness, and loneliness,” Oleshansky explains. “Every day we should pick up the phone and call a friend, co-worker, neighbor, or loved one. The art of talking and connecting with others can boost mood.” (Even for you, introverts!) You don’t have to clear an hour. Quick check-ins are fine, and so are text threads if you’re too busy for a call.
5. Slow down
Be honest: How often do you sit down to eat a meal or enjoy a cup of coffee or tea? Pausing your day for a ritual like sipping a hot cup of tea is a nurturing way to slow down and think about your current mood. It “allows space for the truth of what we are feeling,” says licensed mental health counselor Julie Booksh, MA, LPC. By trying too hard to fight a mood (this includes never taking time to breathe or slow down), this “keeps the nervous system stuck in fight or flight,” she says. Block out time on your calendar for meals, tea breaks, and other little “resets” throughout the day.
6. Sing it out
Love singing in the shower after a long day? Turns out, “singing your mood” is another strategy Booksh recommends. “Singing gives the mood a voice and allows movement and discovery,” she says. “You might find yourself laughing at some point, too.” And science backs this up: Singing (whether you’re talented or can’t carry a tune) has plenty of perceived emotional benefits.
7. Dance your feelings
For double the fun, why not combine movement and music? “Put on a good groove and dance,” Booksh suggests. “This can be an instant mood changer.” Not only do you get the boost from singing along (and letting out whatever you’re feeling), but the movement also delivers its own boost! If you want to develop your mad dance skills, try doing a dance fitness program like LET’S GET UP! with Shaun T.
8. Write it down
It’s easy for emotions to “get stuck.” One way to let go of negative energy and boost your mood is to write a letter to yourself (or the person who put you in that mood). “I often suggest having the part of you that is in a sad or bad mood write a letter to the part of you that wants to hurry up and change the mood,” Booksh says. Not a writer? Sketching or drawing your mood is fine, too! (And you never need to send the letter. You can keep it, burn it, recycle it, or do whatever you need to do.)
9. Love the mood you’re in
The best way to boost your mood, Booksh says, is to love the mood you’re in. (Or at least accept it.) This means accepting and understanding whatever you’re feeling. “Learn to be with the lower mood or bad moods,” she says, “otherwise you are constantly running from yourself.” All moods are important, she adds, because they help us learn information about ourselves that can help us feel more whole. As Booksh puts it, “you might discover a lot [about yourself], which can allow creative solutions to emerge.”