Having experienced PPD&A (postpartum depression and anxiety) with the birth of my first son, I make it a point to remain extremely aware of how I’m feeling from day-to-day. I’m always “checking in” with my emotions.
As hard as it may feel in the moment, doing some of the things below can rescue your mood and get you back on track again. The beautiful thing about them is they’re all things we can benefit from, low or not. And a bonus – no money required.
“You want me to do what?” Ya – you heard me right. I want you to pretend to be happy. I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous but there’s actual science behind it.
Did you know just holding a fake smile for about 30 seconds can make a difference? Those smiling muscles fire a message to your brain that signal happiness – whether you’re felling it or not. Your brain can’t tell the difference. Crazy right?
Fake smiling can reduce stress levels, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety/depression as well as increase our immune system. One study conducted by the University of Cardiff in Whales found that people who couldn’t frown due to botox injections were on average happier than others who were still able to frown! Botox anyone?! Laugh-cry emojis here.
Well, not literally. I’m talking about your own, self-imposed Shawshank. Spending just 15-30 minutes outside is enough to get you feeling refreshed and happier. Waling in nature has been found to directly reduce depression and anxiety. They’ve even been prescribed clinically to depression patients! It also can help eliminate mental fatigue. Being in the sun is important for our vitamin D stores. Did you know that 1 out of 2 people suffers from vitamin D deficiency? Being outside also reduces stress and increases oxygen levels in our bodies. I personally take a vitamin D supplement every day because I don’t get outside as much as I should – I’m not super outdoorsy.
There’s a direct correlation between higher anxiety/depression and suicide rates in cities that get fewer “sunny” days per year. Have you heard of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s an entire disorder dedicated to people who don’t get out enough during the colder months. They suffer from seasonal depression due to lack of outside (aka fresh air & sun) exposure.
Also, when we feel sad we tend to isolate ourselves more. So, simply getting outside to walk the dog or run to the store can go a long way in terms of feeling a sense of belonging. Interacting with others even if it’s just a smile and wave can go a long way to lift your mood.
So, take Buddy for an extra-long walk around the neighborhood tomorrow morning (fake smile and all) and know you’re doing yourself a whole lotta good.
Some people swear they only need a small amount of sleep to get by. Not me. I can survive on adrenaline for a few sleepless nights but then I crash big time.
Most people need between 7-9 hours every night to function at their best. I’ve noticed that my body naturally gets up after about 7 and 1/2 hours. So that’s my magic sleep number. You may need more or less. If I have a built-up sleep depletion then I need to add to that number for a night or two.
Sleep allows our bodies to repair and replenish themselves. If you’re already feeling low and you’re depriving yourself of sleep – you’re going to add fuel to the fire. It’s going to compound how you feel.
Feeling sad goes hand in hand with stress and anxiety. We worry about why” we’re sad…”Why can’t we get our work done?”, “Why don’t we feel like going to the party?”, etc. These worries can keep us up for hours and affect our quality of sleep so sometimes it’s easier said than done. That’s where 4 & 8 (below) come into play…so read on!
The number one thing you can do for yourself to help lift your mood is exercise. If you only pick one item off this list make it be this one. I gave Exercise top billing because it’s something you can do all on your own. It’s also the best sleeping pill ever.
I know. This is definitely the very last thing you want to do when you’re feeling low. Me too. But, the benefits on your mood are undeniable. You know the feeling after you’ve just done a high-intensity workout…maybe you felt like crap when you started…but afterward, you feel like you’re on top of the world. The change is mind-blowing. Also backed by science…exercise releases all those feel-good endorphins that boost your mood instantly.
Even as little as 10 minutes a day has been linked with reduced stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and increased happiness. It’s even been shown to be just as effective as anti-depressants for some people. Crazy, right?
The important thing is just doing an activity that increases your heart rate. And the more intense the exercise, the less time needed to see the same benefits. I personally love my at-home Flywheel spin bike. But I also love to put on 80s tunes and dance while making dinner!
Exercise is my go-to trick when I’m starting to feel low. It never fails to help bring me out of my funk. So, maybe turn that dog walk into a jog, girl. Get. It. Going.
Remember the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Use that lifeline, girl. There’s nothing like a belly laugh with your dear friend to lift your mood. The ones closest to you have the ability to lift your spirits just by listening to bitch. Not that you want to spend your time complaining…but that’s just where you are right now. She’ll understand…and know just what to say. God, she knows me so well. Heart eyed emojis.
Feeling connected goes a long way to combat depression. We tend to isolate when feeling down. Making the effort to connect even when we’re not feeling up to it makes all the difference. One of my favorite books on this subject, Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson talks about this in detail, how the quality of our friendships affects our health and happiness. She writes beautifully about the value and power of deepening friendship intimacy.
Did you know that feeling connected is the single largest determining factor in your life span?
In a 2012 study in the Netherlands, they found that participants over age 65 that reported feeling “lonely” were likely to die 30% sooner than those who didn’t feel “lonely”. What?? Mind. Blown. To top it off…did you know friendships have been shown to have a greater impact on happiness than money? Amazing.
Call. Her. Now.
I mean laugh out loud funny. We touched on laughter above with friends and this one goes hand in hand. Isn’t “laughter is the best medicine”? And now we know it couldn’t be closer to the truth. Laughter has been proven to boost our immune system and reduce our stress levels similar to smiling but even more so.
I remember reading a story many years ago about a young girl who watched her favorite comedies over and over while confined to her hospital bed, battling cancer. I know…sorry…it gets better. She was determined to keep her spirits up, stay positive, and visualize getting better. She ended up making a miraculous recovery that stunned her team of doctors. This story has never left me because it really hit home what the power of laughter, positivity, and visualization can do.
It may seem silly that just watching a movie could help us mentally break away from our sadness. But it’s effects are residual and produce a snowball effect. So go ahead and fire up a double feature of Office Space and Hangover tonight next time you’re feeling low.
I mean like crazy awesome. Maybe a throwback 80’s playlist? Or if that’s not your thing…classic hip-hop in the hoouuse? Definitely do not…and I mean DO NOT put on sad, drippy music when you’re feeling down (unless you’re getting over a breakup in which it’s been known to help us feel connected/supported). I know instinctively it’s what we want to do but you’ve got to just say “no”.
Music affects our mood instantly. There’s no lag-time. It’s been known to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and increase our happiness. Anytime is a good time to jam out to tunes but mornings are especially great because it starts your day off on a positive note and gets your feel-good hormones in high gear.
There’s an entire practice of therapy dedicated to regulating your mood through the use of music. It’s even been known to benefit those suffering from neurological disorders. So cool. Who knew? Music can literally create new neural connections in your brain equating to self-healing.
So, turn it up and jam out! Maybe an impromptu dance session? Even if it’s only from the waist up in your car?…Haha
It’s easy to reach for that extra glass of wine or drink when you’re feeling down because it temporarily makes us feel better. We’re even able to socialize more freely because our anxiety is reduced. We’re able to put our troubles to the wayside for a few hours.
The dangers of self-medicating with alcohol (outside of developing a dependency) is that the Booz induced buzz or “happy” feeling is only temporary. Alcohol is actually a depressant and will intensify your feelings of sadness after the initial “buzz” wears off. And, this compounding effect is residual, meaning it could last for days.
The safest thing to do is not have it in the first place when you’re in a vulnerable state. If you need to, avoid going to places where you’ll be tempted and don’t bring it into your home until you’re feeling better.
When we’re sad our mind is constantly in motion. We’re magnifying all our stressors and problems. Doing something to calm your mind can be extremely beneficial. Try meditating for 5 minutes, reading before bedtime (when our mind can be especially active), or doing some relaxation yoga before you turn in.
Really, anything that helps slow you down and relax is beneficial. Maybe a long bath? Or giving your pet some much-needed love. There aren’t any rules here. Taking our minds off our negative internal dialogue is the goal.
My favorite thing to do is…light a beautifully scented candle, make my favorite chamomile tea and read a book all snuggled up in bed.
My absolute favorite app to zen out with is a meditation app. It’s in my 5 Must-Have Apps for Intentional Living guide. Grab it below.
Do something that brings you enjoyment outside of work. A passion project maybe? Plant that flowerbed you’ve been meaning to. Write a poem. Clean out your closet. Anything that may bring you joy and a feeling of accomplishment, however small will do. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone of negative self-talk. When you create something or complete a task you’re proud of, you’re heading into a positive headspace.
Although I love being an online content creater and educator, I also love reading and writing fiction. So, my passion project right now is finishing my psychological suspense thriller…fingers crossed this year!
The healing power of touch is a powerful thing. As humans, we all need, desire and crave touch. Touch releases oxytocin in our bodies making us feel happy. Going long periods of time without touch can have detrimental effects on your health. More people than ever are living solitary lives. They live alone, work from home, order-in their groceries, and on it goes. Would you guess that the majority of the population is touch-deprived?
Research has shown that we need affection the same way we need other things to survive. In fact, it can be almost just as important as sleep, food, and water. Have you heard of something called skin hunger? You guessed it…it refers to our basic need for touch. The wording here is important because it suggests that we don’t just want touch, we need touch for healthy survival. People who exhibit skin hunger score much lower in happiness and are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, lowered immune system, and so on.
Family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” The consensus…the more hugs the better.
It’s so important to give and receive and affection. And, I’m not talking about one of those 2-second hugs either. Bring it in for the real thing, girl. So, go hug your dog, your husband, your kids, your mailman, your boss (well maybe not your boss) but you get the picture. Make it rain hugs!
No one in your life right now that you can love on? Here’s a go-to trick – book a massage or even self-massage. It’ll provide all the same benefits as cuddling up with a loved one.
And last but not least…to end on a lighter note…eat some Godiva when you’re feeling down. I know this sounds silly and very cliche a la Bridget Jones but it’s legit backed by science. Chocolate has been found to increase endorphin production in the brain which can reduce pain and stress. It also contains an amino acid, tryptophan, that increases serotonin production in the brain, the chemical responsible for happiness. Seratonin is considered a natural anti-depressant. Amazing, right? Pass the Bon Bons my sweet friend. We can eat through this together 😉
Thanks so much for reading. I hope some of these tips and tricks help lift you up right now. What are some things that have helped you lift your mood? I’d love to hear from you…leave a comment below!