When you wake up on the wrong side of bed this can be one of the most frustrating things to happen and it’s not just you who suffers either. From a productivity point of view waking up and feeling miserable is one of the worst things that can happen – you end up musing and ruminating on whatever your cause for gripe is and this then prevents you from focusing on doing anything more productive. Fortunately there are many ways that you can improve your mood, so here we will look at what those are and how they can benefit you.
Music can often be a very productive way to enhance your mood if it has an uplifting melody or a good beat to it. It’s very easy this way to get caught in the swing of the music and to this way forget any troubles you might have.
Smiling is a very effective way to improve your mood due to something called ‘facial feedback’. Facial feedback states that if we pull a certain expression, then we are likely to this way affect our mood in the corresponding way. So if you smile then you will find you feel happier, and if you grimace then you will find it makes you more annoyed. When we are happy this causes us to smile more and that in turn results in us becoming happier – so it’s a virtuous cycle. At the same time if you frown then it’s only going to make you more miserable. So if you’re trying to elevate your mood right now, then just force yourself to smile for a few minutes and feel it gradually make you feel happier.
Cognitive restructuring is a technique taught in a form of therapy caused ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’. Essentially this involves looking at the contents of your thoughts and how your thoughts work and then changing the way that you think in order to make it more productive. For instance, in the case of improving your mood, you might look at that thought processes you are currently having and then stop them in their tracks. Are you thinking of an argument you had with a partner that morning? Perhaps you are going over the argument in your head and thinking about how angry you are or what you are thinking of saying to them once you see them again. If you are though then you aren’t doing yourself any favors and all you are doing is preventing yourself from interacting well with other people and preventing yourself from focusing on other more positive things. So for instance if you are thinking about that argument then just say to yourself ‘thinking about it now is only going to wind me up’ or ‘if I get annoyed, then they have won’. If you can use this strategy in order to stop repeating the same thoughts over and over then you can put a stop to that vicious cycle and your mood will improve instantly as a result. Likewise you can restructure your thinking by just choosing to focus on all of the positive things in your day than all of the negative things, or by focusing on the things that really matter to you and thereby realizing how petty it is to be annoyed by the little things. If another person is the cause of your frustrations then remember that often the problem is theirs and not yours – a bad driver is eventually going to have his comeuppance, and someone rude and unpleasant is probably just having a bad day (or life). Don’t let it affect you.
See Other People Smiling
If you see other people smiling, then this can also help to improve your mood. Why does this work? Well it’s due to a relatively recent discovered set of cells called ‘mirror neurons’. Essentially mirror neurons are neurons in our brain that fire when they see other people do things. So for instance if you see someone eating a bagel then your mirror neurons might fire and you might feel almost as though you are eating it. Likewise if you see someone smiling or laughing then this is very likely to make you do the same. This might be the very basis for how empathy works, and it might also explain why we can often ‘come out in sympathy’ and feel like we’re in pain when we know someone else is. A combination of mirror neurons and facial feedback means that seeing other people smile can help improve your mood – so try spending time in good company and this will also help to distract you from whatever it is that’s lowering your mood.
Go to a ‘Happy Place’
Going to a happy place means essentially visualizing yourself in a situation, either from memory or from your imagination, that makes you very happy. By doing this to the point where it is very realistic you can make yourself feel happier or calmer as a result. You don’t just have to visualize a beautiful lake though, you can just as effectively improving your mood by remembering something that makes you smile – like some of the nice things people have said to you in the past, or your pet, or a funny thing that happened. You can also achieve this with external cues, for instance if you have a photograph of your partner or your child then just looking at that can help you to improve your mood. A great thing to do is to assemble a list of positive things on a piece of paper and then to look at them to raise your spirits. Or alternatively try listing all of the compliments you’ve been given that have really boosted your mood and then just reading this whenever you are feeling low or low in confidence.
They say you are what you eat and actually this is far more literally true than most people realize. The hormones in your body, your tissue and more all are actually crafted directly from what you eat and that includes the hormones that regulate your mood. If you want to be happier then you should eat foods that are going to help boost your mood. The best way to do that is to eat a slightly ripe banana. This will cause you to be flooded with dopamine which is the hormone we associate with reward and motivation. At the same time bananas are a complex carbohydrate and that means that they will supply your body with lots of energy that releases gradually throughout the day and that doesn’t result in a subsequent ‘trough’ where you have no energy.
Go for a Run
Going for a run or doing any form of energy results in the release of feel good hormones called endorphins and this is where the term ‘runners’ high’ comes from. At the same time many people find that getting their blood flowing and having the feeling of accomplishment that comes as a result of exercise is the perfect antidote to the blues.
Watch a Funny Film
When we watch a film it often has an almost ‘hypnotizing’ effect. This is because we are concentrating purely on the film and this completely engages our faculties. Because we are watching the film this then means that we aren’t thinking about other things – and if the film also happens to be funny or having a happy plot then this has the added bonus of lifting our spirits and often causing our brains to react in much the same way that we would if the events were actually happening to us. Funny films are particularly good if they make us laugh because this results in the production of endorphins through the activation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.
Sometimes bad moods are a simple result of not getting enough sleep, and in these scenarios you can of course help yourself to wake up in a jollier mood. In other cases sleeping can just be a great way to almost ‘refresh’ your brain, and if you sleep on something that’s annoying you it often won’t seem so bad when you wake up.
Anchoring is a technique used by therapists and hypnotists and that is often promoted in self help books. This involves creating an association between a feeling or a word and then using a trigger to recreate that feeling whenever you want to. For instance then you would think of all the happiest things you can and remember a time you felt truly great, then you would let that emotion fill you up and make you feel better and better until you felt like a ray of positivity and sunshine. Now you would hold that feeling and at the same time touch your thumb and little finger together and make a mental note to link the feeling with the sensation. Practice this and do it a few times, and this way whenever you touch the thumb and little finger you will in theory be able to recreate that feeling of happiness and optimism. If this works for you then you can also do it with other emotions – for instance you can make yourself feel more powerful, confident or creative.