Down. Blue. Having a ‘black-dog’ day. We all know those days. When it seems much more preferable to sit in a dark room with Ben & Jerry and lament about all of the life’s woes. But giving into the proverbial black dog is no way to lift you from your funk. All you’ll succeed in doing is feeding it. Literally, if you stick with the Ben & Jerry’s. Far better to pick yourself up and challenge that black-dog and deliberately set about to lift your mood.
Unsure how to start? Here are seven sure-fire ways to lift your mood when you’re feeling down.
This might seem a little paradoxical at first. If you’re trying to lift your mood, how will it help you to vent your frustrations? It helps by using the same principles of reframing; restate your frustration, review it, examine it and really explore whether it is as big a deal as you have internalized, or whether you’ve made it bigger than it needs to be. Venting should be done in a time-limited and structured way to avoid dwelling on the frustration. Use an egg timer, write a page in a journal. Just keep track and review your outcomes with a critical eye.
Practice positive self-talk
After venting and reframing your frustrations, you might be a little tender and in need of some positive affirmation. There is no better person to affirm you than you. Engage in some positive-self talk. Tell yourself how you will pick yourself up today. Challenge yourself about whether you might be over-generalizing, over-simplifying, over-dramatizing or mind reading. Above all be honest with yourself. If you’re feeling down because you haven’t done something, ask whether it was reasonable in the first place to do it. If your mood is low because you think you will never amount to anything, check in with all the achievements you have made so far.
Focus on the present
This goes hand-in-hand with venting. Focus solely on the present and don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Ask yourself whether you’re down because of something right now, or something that happened two weeks ago. Or something that might never come to be but you can’t stop worrying about. What’s done is done, and who’s to know what might be. Take yourself back to the here-and-now and focus on the present.
Mindfulness is a fantastic way of bringing your focus back to the present. There is simply an abundance of ways in which you can practice mindfulness. A counselor or therapist can teach you breathing techniques. Mindfulness and meditation apps are readily available for download on your smartphone or tablet. If meditation is not your thing, try a quiet sit in your favorite spot in the garden, or take up yoga. However you do it, get in touch with yourself.
Exercise is not only a great way to focus on the present and create an opportunity for positive self-talk, exercise also helps the body to release ‘feel good’ chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. Exercise may bring further mood lifting results by exposing you to the sunshine, fresh air, other people, a change of scenery and give your lungs, heart and sympathetic nervous system a good workout. Tiredness and the ability to have a long, refreshing sleep may be a long-term mood enhancing benefit of exercise.
Scientific studies have long investigated the link between laughter and uplifted mood. Those very same endorphins released during exercise are released when laughing and can flood the body with drug-like good vibes. Facial muscles are also activated when laughing and tensed muscles begin to relax. A relaxed body is less prone to a depressed mood than an uptight body. Laughing is a very immediate quick-fix mood enhancer, and it only takes a quick YouTube search to find yourself a big belly laugh.
Take time out with positive people
The saying goes, ‘Good people know good people’. The same can be said for people who are down in the dumps. Perhaps they’re your work colleagues or your family. Take a good look and you just might find yourself surrounded by a host of misanthropes. If so, seek out those people you know who always bring a smile to your face. The people who light you up just by entering a room. Positive people have an effect on the people they surround; they bring that positivity to the hearts of everyone they touch.
So the next time you’re feeling down, leave the ice-cream in the freezer. Slip in some earbuds, pop on your cap and take a brisk walk around the park. Let the sunshine refresh you and the endorphins do their thing. You’ll feel better for it.
Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research in mental health and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.