5 Steps to Improve Your Mood

1. Take a 20-Minute Nature Break
2. Move Your Body
3. Self-Soothe With Your 5-Senses
4. Reach Out to Others
5. Be Non-Judgmental
View more

Long-standing stressful conditions and circumstances can leave us feeling fatigued and out of sorts. Like a wagon wheel, the more sluggish we feel, the less we may do. And the less we do, the worse we will feel. This seemingly endless cycle  causes us to reach out less to our friends and family, stay inside more, and not engage in activities that were enjoyable. Fortunately, by acting opposite to these urges, we can improve our mood and get the wagon wheel going the other way.

You can try the following steps below to help put energy back in when you feel depleted.

1. Take a 20-Minute Nature Break

More and more research is showing how important nature is for a our mind, body, and overall health. Aim to give yourself 20-30 minutes of time outdoors daily either by taking a walk at a park, walking around a familiar lake, or plan a hike at lunch time. Regardless of the weather, giving yourself a break and time to look up at the sky can help take us out of the day-to-day grind. Some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Pay attention to your 5-senses, make an effort to notice what you see, hear, and feel when you're outside

  • Stay mindful of the present moment, allow yourself to be on "vacation" during this time and remind yourself that you can get back to worrying as soon as you return to the office.

1

2. Move Your Body

Similar to taking a break in nature, research is very established and very clear in how our mood is improved significantly by exercise. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you know you should move, but don't feel like it.

  • Focus on how you want to feel, and less on how you feel in the moment

  • Set small goals, for example, start out by setting an egg timer for just 5 minutes of walking

  • Play some upbeat tunes

  • Use projects that you have been meaning to do to get you moving, like cleaning, gardening, or cleaning out your garage

  • Remember how you used to feel when you walked, or did other exercise and imagine how you'll feel after trying it now.

  • Try not to compare yourself to the shape you were in then and the shape you are in now, just notice what it is about doing it that feels good.

2

3. Self-Soothe With Your 5-Senses

You can use your 5-senses to soothe your distress and mood. Often times, telling ourselves to "snap out of it", or to stop feeling a certain way creates more of the feeling we don't want to experience. Try using these strategies to get a temporary uplift in the moment.

  • Vision: Look at an image or picture of something beautiful. It could be an object, place, or person that has meaning for you. Surround yourself with interesting, funny, or beautiful things to look at. Go outside and look at the clouds or stars if its night. Watch the sunrise or sunset, set your table, redecorate your room. Buy flowers for yourself that have your favorite colors.

  • Hearing: Listen to calming, soothing, or pleasing sounds. Listen to gentle music, nature sounds. Hum or sing some of your favorite tunes, or turn on a calming radio station. Listen to a comedy or inspirational podcast.

  • Smell: Find some of your favorite smells, it could be with foods, like cinnamon tea, or baked cookies. Try some soaps, shampoos, flowers, or scent diffusers. Notice what you smell when you're in nature, you can open a window and smell the air.

  • Taste: Try a sample of different fruits and just notice sensations and flavors in your mouth before swallowing. Taste some peppermint candy or a caramel, treat yourself to a dessert.

  • Touch: Feel the wind outside, notice the temperature of the air. Take a long hot shower or a bath. Use a favorite lotion, pajamas, slippers, or put warm and fresh sheet on your bed. You can pet your dog or other animal, ask for a hug.

4. Reach Out to Others

Feeling connected to others is a significant factor that contributes to our health, well-being, and mood. You can cultivate feelings of connection by taking actions ranging from momentary gestures to more significant life commitments. Some ideas that work for building connectedness include: 

  • Smiling and saying hello to people throughout your day, to the cashier at the store, a colleague, or someone in the elevator with you. Inquire how their day is going and listen for their answer.

  • Create opportunities to interact with others on a regular and frequent basis. Try out a community center, go for regular walks around your neighborhood, take a class, or volunteer within your community.

  • Join an agency or organization that embodies your values and reflects reflects. Support a food pantry or animal shelter by working there. Offer to assist someone with their groceries, help out a friend or family who is ill, or give up your seat for someone on the bus or train.

  • Reach out to others who may need help and offer your support, ask them to lunch, send a card, or an e-mail, or give them a call.

  • Practice loving-kindness meditation daily. Loving-kindness meditation involves sending goodwill, kindness, and warmth to ourselves and others by silently repeating a series of mantras.

3

5. Be Non-judgmental

Judgmental thinking includes thoughts, self-talk, and perceptions about ourselves and others that tend to be rigid, inflexible, and conclusive. This way of thinking uses generic terms and assumptions, and is typically all-or-nothing in nature. Examples of judgments include good/bad, right/wrong, fat/skinny, stupid/smart, fair/unfair, and so forth. The problem with judgments is that they're not facts. "Right" or "wrong" is a reference to something that happened. Getting at, or describing, exactly what actually happened is called non-judgmental stance.

Judgments result in feelings of anger towards others or ourselves, and can also lead to feelings of shame, causing us to feel like quitting or giving up. Here are some strategies to try when you notice being judgmental towards yourself or others.

  • Describe just the facts of what happened using your 5-senses; imagine watching the event that upset you on video, pushing pause, then watching it happen in slow-motion. Observe exactly what you see, hear, and feel in your body. Then add descriptive words "I heard her say..." instead of "she thinks I'm an idiot." Or "he has not taken off his shoes when he walked in, he is not looking at the floor and does not seem to notice that I just cleaned it", instead of "he doesn't care me about me, else he would have taken off his shoes when he walked in."

  • Use the phrase "I'm having the thought that.......", or "I notice the thought that". This allows you to see that you are having thoughts as opposed to seeing your thoughts as "you".

  • Write your judgments down on paper, choose one, and then re-write it to only include facts. Facts can only be observed and experienced directly by your 5-senses, they can be measured. Having an emotion is a fact, we can measure it via electrodes and so forth. Having a thought is a fact, we can measure the neuronal firings. However, the content of that thought may not be a fact.

  • Count your judgments

4

Medical Disclaimer

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

1. MaryCarol R. Hunter, Brenda W. Gillespie, Sophie Yu-Pu Chen. Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019; 10 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722

2. Zschucke E, et al. Exercise and physical activity in mental disorders: Clinical and experimental evidence. Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health. 2013; 46:512.

3. Sandstrom, Gillian, M., & Dunn, Elizabeth, W. Social Interactions and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2014; 40 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214529799

4. Baraccia, B.,  et al. The more you judge the worse you feel. A judgemental attitude towards one's inner experience predicts depression and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 2018; 138 (33-39)