Have you ever had those days when your mood seems to stay down no matter what? Like you don’t feel like doing anything, you’re constantly in a funk, and it’s hard to shake off the bad vibes?
It can be hard to snap out of it and put on a brave face when you just don’t want to. The good news is that there are things you can do to change your mindset and start feeling better.
So if you’re looking for tips to lift your spirits, this one is for you. According to experts, here are ways to get out of a bad mood:
Melissa Barsotti, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker | Certified EMDR Therapist, Mindful Therapy Practice
Tune into your nervous system
First, consider the following question: “What is my body telling me?” This is an important question because our nervous system will dictate which resources are available for us to use at any given moment.
The following content will provide a glimpse into the first three principles of the Polyvagal Theory, which is the autonomic hierarchy. A full breakdown of the Polyvagal Theory is beyond the scope of this blog. If you would like to skip the science, feel free to go straight to the helpful steps section.
Deb Dana, an author and psychotherapist, has helped translate Dr. Stephen Porges’ research on Polyvagal Theory, making understanding the autonomic nervous system more accessible to us all.
My understanding of Deb Dana’s work is broken down into three autonomic zones: green, red, and grey. Imagine there is a ladder with the green zone at the top, the red zone in the middle, and the grey zone at the bottom of the ladder.
This ladder is constructed by organizing the most primitive zone at the bottom, often referred to as the reptilian brain (the Dorsal Vagal/grey zone), followed by what is referred to as the mammalian brain (Sympathetic nervous system/red zone), and the last to emerge, the ventral vagal system of social communication and connection (green zone) (Dana, 2020).
The Green zone is where we have access to all of the resources we know of internally and externally. Think of the Green zone as your wisest self. In this zone, you can access your thinking brain and remember the tools you have learned in therapy/your favorite books/or your most trusted friends and loved ones. The green zone indicates that you feel safe and connected.
When you are in the Red zone, you are in fight/flight mode and in a state of protection. Your nervous system has received signals of threat. In this zone, you are literally fighting or running in some way. In this state, we may find ourselves feeling “out of control, dysregulated, or in danger” (Dana, 2020).
Anger or fear emotions are typically activated in this zone. In a state of anger, you may find yourself in an argument or sending snarky and mean text messages. You may also find yourself overdoing things in a state of frenzy.
You may be overworking, over-cleaning, over-organizing, and over-planning, among other things you can overdo. Here, you are a human doing vs. a human being.
Lastly, the grey zone is a state of “shut-down, collapse, and disconnection from others and the world” (Dana, 2020). In this zone, you “may still go through the motions, but with no energy to care” (Dana, 2020). You may find yourself in this zone after exhausting your sympathetic nervous system.
Now onto helpful steps to get out of a bad mood:
Stop what you are doing
Literally, stop, move away if possible, and take a moment to tune into your body. Your eyes can be open or closed. Do a body scan from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head, scanning each and every muscle, looking for tension or relaxation, or collapse.
Important areas to consider are your:
- Facial muscles
- Lower extremities
- Are your jaw bones tense?
- Are you clenching your teeth?
- Are your shoulders tense and tight, or are they heavy and droopy?
- How is your breathing?
- Are you finding it difficult to breathe?
- Difficulty grasping air?
- Is your breath slow and faint?
- Notice your fingers. Are your fingers curled up into a fist?
- Are you cracking your knuckles?
- Notice your toes. Are your toes clenched up and tight?
Identify which autonomic zone you are in and do the following
- Engage in some mindfulness.
- Go for a walk.
- Do some deep breathing and stretching.
- Text or call a close, trusted friend.
- Play your favorite podcast or youtube video for inspiration.
Identify your emotions and your needs and make it a priority to meet your needs. Please see the resource list for a list of needs.
If you are in the Red zone:
- Notice your environment and identify something that signals safety to you.
- Release your tense muscles.
- Focus on your out-breath, breathing out longer and slower than your in-breath.
- Identify a soothing sound, or make a soothing sound with your breath. You can make the sound of the wind or the sound of the ocean or engage in some humming.
All of this will move you away from a place of danger and move you away from thoughts, which likely are in a tunnel and likely unwise at this moment.
Wait for your body to be more regulated. This will not take longer than a few minutes, if not a minute or two. Now that your body is more regulated bring kindness and compassion to yourself if possible.
Remind yourself of all the things that are true and present now that indicate you are safe because you may have experienced an emotional flashback, and your system may think and feel that it was in the past when you were in danger in some way.
Now that you are more regulated, ask yourself: What is within my control? Make the decision to let go of all that is out of your control, such as people, situations, or systems.
Connect with your values
What are your top 3 values in life? Many people identify three values:
- Personal health/wellness and authenticity
- Career/meaningful work/or contribution
Then choose which value will guide your decisions at this moment.
If you are arguing with your loved one, you can let go of the problem and choose connection as a priority. You may focus on your wellness, drink some water and tea, and engage in some aromatherapy to continue to nurture yourself and regulate your nervous system.
If you are at work, you may choose to focus on what you do well and what means the most to you at work, and let go of everything else, simply because your body is at work. A simple solution: Bring your mind to where your body is.
If you are in the Grey zone: Bring attention to one area or muscle group in your body that is not experiencing pain or fatigue, such as your elbows, eyebrows, lips, and clavicle. Get the picture? Touch these areas, caress these areas. Allow yourself to feel your own gentle touch.
You may notice a little more activation in your system, hopefully enough to get you out of bed, out of your chair, out of your home, to identify something you connect with.
Go to a window, go outside. Take your shoes off and let your feet feel the ground beneath you, such as grass or dirt. If you enjoy nature, bring attention to the sound of the birds and notice the color of the sky. Allow yourself to feel the elements outside.
Now, think of someone you know or do not know that needs kindness, compassion, and goodness in their lives and send them well wishes. Now that you are in that place of compassion, bring kindness and compassion to yourself.
You do not have to love or like yourself, but you can simply bring kindness and permit yourself to receive kindness. Do one kind thing for yourself right now. Bring to mind your values and focus on one value to dictate your next decisions.
Related: What Are Core Values and How Do They Control My Life?
Essentially, the steps for any zone include the following:
- Notice your body and release your muscles or caress areas of your body, such as your eyebrows or elbows and allow yourself to experience this felt sense.
- Bring kindness and compassion to yourself and do one kind thing for yourself.
- Bring to mind your values and allow your values to dictate your next decisions.
Dana, D. (2020). Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory. Sounds True.
Dana, D. (2020). Polyvagal Flip Chart: Understanding The Science of Safety. W.W. Norton & Company.
Psychologist, Addiction Group
Getting out of a bad mood can be especially difficult for those struggling with addiction. This is because the brain chemistry changes accompanying addiction can make it harder for individuals to regulate their emotions and feelings.
It’s essential to recognize that there is often no single, easy solution to get out of a bad mood; instead, it’s a matter of experimenting with different techniques and finding which ones suit you best.
Here are some tips for getting out of a bad mood from an addiction perspective:
Take time for yourself
Sometimes when we’re in a bad mood, our first instinct is to reach out to somebody else. However, taking some time out for yourself can be incredibly beneficial in helping you shift your mindset and find ways to manage your emotions.
Take a short walk in nature
Consider taking a short walk in nature — studies have found that spending time outdoors helps improve mental health, reduce anxiety, and elevate mood.
Build moments into your day to relax
Additionally, make sure you build moments into your day to relax and focus on yourself; this could mean anything from reading a book or meditating to simply listening to music or doing something creative like crafting or cooking.
Reach out to a supportive family member or friend
Having someone who understands us and will listen without judgment is essential for managing negative feelings associated with addiction recovery.
If you’re having trouble managing your emotions alone, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help from someone who can provide emotional support and guidance. This could be either a close friend or family member or even an online support group such as one provided through an addiction recovery center or website.
Related: How to Build a Personal and Family Support System
Address the root of your mood
While it may not always be easy, addressing the root cause of your feelings can be incredibly effective at helping shift your mindset.
Instead of focusing on how you’re feeling (which could trigger further negative feelings), try writing down what triggered the particular emotion or thought process behind it instead.
Once identified, take steps to address the underlying cause directly by speaking with someone trained in addiction counseling or reaching out for help from one of the many online therapy options available today.
Practice mindful awareness
Mindful awareness techniques have been proven effective at improving emotional regulation and helping individuals cope better with challenging situations related to addiction recovery by bringing attention back to the present moment rather than contemplating the past or worrying about future ones.
Consider engaging in some mindful activities such as deep breathing exercises or yoga.
Related: How to Improve Mindfulness and Meditation
These practices promote relaxation while teaching focus on the breath, which helps bring thoughts back into the present moment and away from any negative thinking patterns that may have triggered your current state of mind.
Stay active physically and mentally
Exercise has been proven as an excellent way to manage mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Still, it can also help those dealing with stress due to their ongoing recovery process!
Exercise releases endorphins which increase serotonin levels in the brain — both of which contribute positively towards overall wellbeing — so look into incorporating some physical activity into your daily routine regularly if possible (even just 10-15 minutes per day).
Additionally, staying mentally active can help alleviate bad moods — puzzles like crosswords or sudoku are great ways to keep your mind sharp while distracting yourself from negative thoughts!
Elena Duong, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist, Blooming Wellness Psychotherapy, Inc.
Most people label their emotions/moods as “good” or “bad.” In reality, there’s no morality attached to emotions/moods. Emotions/mood help inform and give meaning to our lived experience. Humans cannot choose their emotions/moods but can manage their own reactions to them.
Do not try to suppress or deny your emotions/mood
For this reason, do not try to suppress or deny your emotions/mood. They do not just disappear if you avoid them. The more we do not deal healthily with our emotions, we can become emotionally dysregulated, e.g., becoming irritated at a loved one randomly or yelling at strangers.
Steps to start healthily dealing with our emotions/mood:
Be aware of your mood through mindfulness
Become aware of your emotions/mood through mindfulness, i.e., being fully present in the here and now. If it is all too overwhelming, try to self-soothe or distract yourself, e.g., deep breathing, going for a walk, or playing a game on your phone.
Try to figure out what emotions are coming up
Once you are aware of your emotions/mood, try to figure out what emotions are coming up and what triggered the emotion. Our bodies can clue us into our emotions. Are you feeling tense? Flushed? Think back to before you started feeling the emotion. What happened?
Journal about your emotions
If you are still struggling with your emotions/mood, journaling about your emotions/mood and/or seeking support can be incredibly helpful. When you journal, you are more able to process and move through the emotion.
Seek support from your loved ones
Seeking support from loved ones and/or a licensed mental health professional can also help, so you do not get stuck in the emotions/mood.
Managing our emotions/moods can be tricky since many were not taught how to do so in childhood. Emotion/mood is an integral part of the human experience.
Dr. Rae Mazzei
Health Psychologist | Certified Hypnotherapist | Certified Sleep Hypnosis Specialist, Evolutions Behavioral Health Services
Why do we have “bad” moods?
When we are in a “bad” mood, our brain tells us something is wrong. Our emotions have multiple purposes, including signaling something has changed physically or physiologically, motivating us to act, facilitating decision-making, and providing information about how we and others feel.
Enduring emotions can turn into our mood, which lasts for extended periods. How to get out of a bad mood?
Use mindfulness to check in with yourselves
When we are in a bad mood, we can use mindfulness to check in with ourselves. Mindfulness refers to staying in present awareness with a non-judgemental stance. Using mindfulness, we get curious about our internal experiences without being self-critical.
Reflect on what triggered your unwanted mood. Using this information, you can make helpful changes.
Change your mood by engaging in pleasurable activities
Humming, singing, dancing, giving a hug, getting a massage, or eating your favorite food can induce instantaneous changes in your emotions. In addition, these behaviors can lead to positive mood changes over time.
Commit to a short exercise routine
Research has shown that exercise improves mood. Even if you are unmotivated, commit to a short exercise routine. Your mind might tell you no, but you can always make behavioral changes.
Related: How to Improve Your Mood
Find a psychiatric healthcare provider
If your mood stays negative for long periods and nothing works, you may want to find a mental health therapist or psychiatric healthcare provider. They can help you identify what is wrong and provide effective treatment.
Kate Nichols, LCSW
Psychotherapist, Cycle Breakers Therapy
Getting out of a bad mood is something we can do using a variety of strategies and techniques. With practice, you can learn which ones are the best fit for you. Some strategies I recommend include:
Get specific about what feeling you’re experiencing
The human mind tends to label things in very “all or nothing” or “good or bad” terms. Spend a moment trying to define the feeling you’re experiencing in this bad mood.
Are you angry, sad, frustrated, scared, stifled, jealous, confused, or stuck? Getting more specific can help you to cultivate more understanding and compassion for yourself.
Spend a moment validating yourself with compassion
When we’re in a bad mood, we tend to beat ourselves up for the way we’re feeling. While we think this might help move us out of the bad mood, it often just ends up making it worse. Once you’ve identified the feeling more specifically, you might be able to understand yourself a bit better.
For example, if you’ve identified you’re feeling dissatisfied with your job, you can speak to yourself the way you would a friend.
This might sound like, “I can understand why I’m feeling dissatisfied with my job. I haven’t been recognized for the hard work I’m putting in lately. It makes sense I’d be feeling down about that”.
Write down the things you’re grateful for
The human mind tends to experience a negativity bias, searching for wrong things. This served us evolutionarily because humans needed to be good problem solvers in order to survive. However, we can become overly fixated on problems or negatives.
Sometimes when we’re in a bad mood, some element of this occurs. Creating a list of things you’re grateful for, which can be as simple as your cup of coffee in the morning or as significant as where you live or the people in your life, can help shift us out of this focus on things that are negative and towards things that are good.
Do something you enjoy
You might not be “in the mood” to engage with your hobbies when you’re in a bad mood, but if we just start doing something we usually enjoy, our feelings of enjoyment or presence in those activities will often follow.
Related: How To Find A Hobby As An Adult
We mistakenly think we need to be in the right mood to enjoy things, but sometimes if you just get started with the action, the mood will follow.
Sports and Performance Psychologist
Pinpoint the cause, then talk about it with someone you trust
There is a reason you’re in a bad mood. Expressing your emotions releases built-up tension, which can help you feel better. Talking to someone, not in the situation can be helpful because they could see a solution to the problem you may not have thought of.
Get outside and be with nature
Going outside and being in nature helps improve your mood, helps reduce feelings of stress and anger, and helps you feel more relaxed.
Research proves that being outdoors boosts endorphin levels, promoting happiness. That’s why a simple walk around your neighborhood when you are in a bad mood can be so beneficial.
Listen to music
Music is a good idea when trying to improve your mood. Music can enhance our brain’s production of the hormone dopamine, helping to relieve negative feelings such as anxiety and depression.
When we listen to music, our brain processes the music using the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates our moods and emotions. So next time you’re feeling down, turn on some of your favorite tunes and sing along.
Lend a hand
When you are in a bad mood, socializing with others might be the last thing you want to do. But studies have shown that interacting with others can boost your mood, especially when helping somebody. When we do something nice for someone, it makes us feel good about ourselves.
Focusing your attention on someone else makes you less likely to think about your problems.
Manuel J. Cantu, MA, LPC-Associate
Counselor, Hope For The Journey
You’ve found yourself stuck in a bad mood. No matter what you do, you can’t snap out of it, and it might be affecting your life or making it difficult to get things done. Perhaps it’s having a negative effect on your relationships.
Here’s how you can start bouncing back:
Listen to your literal “gut”
Maybe you think you’re grouchy for no reason and can’t place where it’s coming from. A good place to start is always the basics for survival: food, sleep, and safety. If any of these things are off at any given time, they’re sure to have an effect on our moods. Have a snack and see if it helps.
Maybe you’re hungry. Now you know to make sure you have a granola bar or apple handy.
Check your sleep habits
Another reason you just can’t cope is that you’re missing out on reparative sleep. Sleep is what helps us build memory, recharge our bodies, and process/store away emotional information.
Without sufficient sleep, our minds may feel scrambled, and we might react poorly to even the most simple of irritants. In extreme cases, some people report feeling symptoms of schizophrenia from lack of sleep — paranoia, hallucinations, and more.
Related: 14 Proven Tips to Fall Asleep Faster and Sleep Better
Have a safe foundation
This is a big one. Without a safe foundation (whether that’s a safe, relaxing home life or supportive family and friends), the world can be an overwhelming and scary place. If you’re unable to find time and space where you can let go and breathe, managing life’s stressors will be extremely difficult.
Look for patterns
Do you find yourself being bothered by the same things, situations, or people? Take a hard look at why you might be feeling so down. Once you’ve identified a recurring theme, you can more easily take steps to remedy this and take back control of your emotional well-being!
John F. Tholen, PhD
Cognitive Psychologist | Author, “Focused Positivity: The Path to Success and Peace of Mind“
Scientific research has found two effective strategies for improving our mood:
Boost brain levels of the neurotransmitters associated with positive mood
Four different chemical neurotransmitters have been found to play a role in producing human pleasure and sustaining positive mood: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.
Although each of these hormones acts differently and performs distinct functions, there is considerable overlap in the methods by which their production can be stimulated.
Serotonin helps to regulate mood and emotions but is also involved in digestion and the immune response. Boosting serotonin levels — as some antidepressants do — can be an effective treatment for depression.
More natural — but much less powerful — ways of boosting bodily serotonin levels include exercise and consuming foods high in tryptophan, such as turkey or salmon.
Dopamine promotes feelings of reward, pleasure, and motivation but is also essential in maintaining attention, learning, and muscular movement. Our dopamine production can be naturally boosted by consuming protein or probiotics, exercising, moving to music, meditation, and sunlight.
Endorphins, known as “natural morphine,” can provide a surge of pleasure and can be boosted by exercising, moving to music, and sharing positive feelings.
Oxytocin — known as “the love hormone” — provides a rush of pleasure in response to sharing affection with others. Our oxytocin level can be boosted by connecting — and sharing positive feelings—with others, hugging someone, sharing humor, enjoying a pet, and acts of care.
In summary, we are most likely to boost the neurotransmitters most responsible for positive feelings by:
- Developing a regular exercise routine.
- Eating a healthy diet high in protein, turkey or salmon, and yogurt.
- Frequently listening to music or dancing.
- Appreciating humor, especially laughing with others.
- Interacting with others in a caring manner.
- Regularly obtaining brief periods of sunlight exposure.
Focus your attention on thoughts that tend to motivate responsible self-assertion
Focusing attention on thoughts that tend to reassure, inspire hope, or motivate responsible self-assertion. Although it seems that our mood results directly from the events and circumstances we encounter, it is more often a reaction to our self-talk.
This internal monologue streams endlessly through our waking consciousness, interpreting our every experience and creating our perspective or mindset.
When dysfunctional thoughts — those that cause distress without inspiring constructive action — are allowed to occupy the focus of our attention, they invade our self-talk, disrupt our peace of mind, and inhibit productive responding — even though dysfunctional thoughts are almost always incomplete, unreasonable, or completely wrong.
We can improve our mood, therefore, by shifting our attention to more balanced and reasonable (functional) alternative ideas that reassure, inspire hope, or motivate self-assertion.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment approach considered “evidence-based.”
A review of 325 different research studies involving more than 9,000 subjects found CBT to effective in treating depression, anxiety, and related conditions (Frontiers| Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy | Psychiatry (frontiersin.org)).
CBT works because it is an efficient method of challenging our dysfunctional thoughts, and an efficient form of CT is a focused positivity strategy:
- Becoming more mindful of our thoughts by recording and examining them whenever our mood is low.
- Identifying the dysfunctional thoughts that have become the focus of our attention and are spoiling our mood.
- Collecting more reasonable, balanced, and functional alternatives that reassure, inspire hope, or motivate constructive action.
- Systematically refocusing our attention toward the latter.
Our best response to any low mood is often to employ the closest thing we have to a “superpower,” our ability at any moment to shift the focus of our attention to a more functional thought.
When our mood is poor, we are likely to benefit from reviewing thoughts such as:
- Everything I need to thrive is either within me or my reach.
- By learning how to alter my perspective, I can make every new moment an opportunity to make my life more purposeful and fulfilling.
- I am almost certain to find peace of mind by simply trying to do the next right thing.
- Continuing to pursue my goals and doing what I feel is right will demonstrate my belief in myself.
- If I do my best to treat others with respect and kindness, I will eventually find others who will appreciate me.
- I deserve compassion for the difficulties I have encountered in life and respect for having survived them.
No activity has been found to have a more substantial or lasting positive impact on our mood, as do five minutes of reviewing reasons we must be grateful.
Advocate | Author, “Small Steps Big Shifts: 52 Simple Activities to Boost Your Happiness and Well-being“
Bad moods — even the most positive people among us are visited by emotions that can leave us feeling irritable, grouchy, and downright in a funk. Drats!
Fortunately, there are ways to move through those emotions, so we don’t have to feel trapped by them or stay stuck.
Prepare in advance
If history is any indicator, there’s going to be a moment, a day, maybe even a week, left unchecked, where you will find yourself in a bad mood. You might not be able to predict the precise timing, but you can feel secure in making a bet that it will happen again at some point.
Armed with that knowledge, it makes good sense to be proactive, so let’s explore five strategies to help you avoid experiencing life feeling like Oscar the Grouch.
List, listen, and dance
Create a high-energy playlist filled with music that gets your heart pumping and your feet dancing. Hit play whenever you need a mood booster. Sing at the top of your lungs and move your body like no one is watching. Dance off the bad mojo that feels like it’s creeping your way.
Change your environment
Shake things up with how you feel by changing your environment. Move into a brighter room or take a drive to your favorite coffee shop.
Maybe rearranging the furniture will do the trick. The big thing is to pay attention to the energy of the space you’re in. Switch things up so it feels uplifting, not draining.
Have a fresh air break
Nature has a gorgeous way of making us feel better. The fresh air, the Vitamin D-drenched sunlight, and the energy of the trees and water. If it can elevate your mood, drink it in!
Clean up your surroundings
Unnecessary clutter not only creates chaos in our physical space, but it also creates chaos in our minds. Whether physical or emotional clutter, it takes up an excessive amount of energy “bandwidth.” The spaciousness you create makes room for feel-good emotions to make their way back to you.
Related: How to Declutter Your Home for Simple Living?
Seek out laughter
There is nothing like a good belly laugh to open the endorphin floodgates, allowing those natural feel-good chemicals to flow freely.
Actively seek out laughter through:
- Watching funny cat videos
- TV shows
- A comedy podcast
- Talking to your hilarious best friend
Heck, even consider a session or two of laughter yoga to really give yourself a boost!
Related: The Healing Power of Laughter
Stop overcomplicating things
My best advice before we wrap up? Stop overcomplicating things.
Small steps can make significant shifts in the way we experience our days and our lives. Focus on the result — how you’ll feel — then act accordingly. Be flexible with your strategy, and remember, there is more than one way to get where you want to go.
Be mindfully aware of your mood and actively take steps to experience more of what you’d like instead of getting swept away in the downward spiral of a bad mood.
Coach Trainer | Director of Curriculum and Content, Coach Training EDU
A bad mood is an inevitable part of life, and its cause can be as simple as the traffic lining the highway to work or as aloof as a nagging sense of negativity that persists without an obvious trigger.
This makes “bad moods” tricky because they can develop at any time and have any number of causes. However, there is one thing that holds true across just about every bad mood you experience — they are trying to tell you something.
Identify the cause of the bad mood
The first step to breaking out of bad mood funk is to know what caused the bad mood in the first place. Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution.”
The point of Einstein’s quote is that we often gloss over what causes our problems in the first place, bad moods, and, otherwise, that we never have an opportunity to solve the problem truly.
Instead, we end up placing a band-aid over the problem, only for the problem to reappear the next time we experience a similar trigger.
Take a problem-solving approach
Taking a problem-solving approach to our bad mood is the first step in not only breaking out of the bad mood but preventing this same bad mood from reappearing in the future. Surprisingly, not all causes are as obvious as they seem. Even the traffic can have an underlying cause.
For example, is it the traffic itself that puts you in a bad mood or the feeling of being rushed? What about the fear of being late? Fear and overwhelm are two emotions that can easily trigger negative thinking and put us in a bad mood.
One way to get to the bottom of things is to conduct a root cause analysis, which will help you dig beneath the surface of the bad mood and identify what has truly gotten you so upset.
A popular root cause analysis is called the 5 Whys, which by the general rule of thumb, requires you to ask yourself “why” approximately five times to get to the root cause of any problem.
While popular in lean management, this tool can be used with individuals to help them identify what is beneath their problems or, in this case, their bad moods.
Let’s look at an example — Marnie logs into the work for the day to a few standard emails from her coworkers. Instead of calmly answering them as usual, she feels frustrated, overwhelmed, and even a bit angry.
She immediately realizes she’s in a bad mood. Instead of leaning into her frustration, she takes a breath and asks herself why she’s in a bad mood. After a few seconds of thought, she realizes she woke up in a bad mood.
Now, she could stop there and chalk it up to just “a bad day,” but she decides to dig deeper and, again, asks herself why she woke up in a bad mood.
Upon further reflection, she acknowledges that she went to bed late, which resulted in her getting less sleep than usual. Not wanting to give up here, she reflects on the reason for going to bed late and acknowledges that she drank caffeine late in the day, which kept her up late.
Of course, Marnie can keep going, but even stopping here gives her a few “causes” of her bad mood beyond “I just woke up this way.” With this knowledge, Marnie can work toward addressing her caffeine intake and her bedtime routine to prevent herself from operating from a sleep deficit.
Often, identifying what’s causing the bad mood is enough to jar us out of our funk. From there, it’s a matter of doing the work to shift our mindset to something more positive.
Adopt a new perspective
Identifying the cause of a bad mood is an excellent first step, but it’s not always possible to take action on the root cause at the moment. This is where a shift in perspective could be helpful.
A perspective is a set of beliefs and attitudes through which we perceive the world. When we are in a bad mood, we see the world through a negative lens; everything around us feels frustrating/annoying/overwhelming.
To combat this, we need to remove the negative lens and opt for something that will pull us out of our funk. For example, we may want to ask ourselves how we would see the situation in front of us if we had a more positive or curious perspective.
This is an opportunity for us to tap into our character strengths. If we tend to thrive when we feel more playful, how can we perhaps gamify what is right in front of us? If we tend to be most productive when we feel creative, how can we use that creativity to tackle the situations and challenges we are facing?
It can be helpful to identify positive perspectives you would like to keep on standby when you’re feeling in a funk. If you’ve already done the work to develop them, it will be easier to leverage them when you need them most.
Lean into gratitude
When all else fails, gratitude can be your savior. Research routinely shows that gratitude is linked to positive emotions. When you are feeling in a funk, taking a few moments to identify what you are most grateful for can pull you out of your bad mood and help broaden and build positive emotions.
List three things you are most grateful for
Start by listing at least three things you are most grateful for and why you chose those things. Perhaps this inspires you to send a note of gratitude to someone you love. Allow your feelings of gratitude to carry you throughout the rest of your day.
The most important thing to remember when you experience a bad mood is to listen to its message. Only when you learn what’s beneath the bad mood can you truly begin to overcome the negativity and move toward a more positive mindset.
Vision Coach | International Speaker, True North Visionaries
Intercept negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones
New research in the past two decades on positive psychology has made it clear that there are impactful physical and mental health benefits from practicing gratitude. But how does one express gratitude when life is bringing you real challenges?
Practice silencing your inner critic first
One powerful way is to practice silencing your inner critic first. New science shows that the most prominent mental break comes not from increasing positive thoughts but the reduction of negative thoughts in proportion to positive thoughts.
The best part about shifting negative emotions? You reap the benefit of reduced negative self-talk and also get to replace those thoughts with positive ones, which continues to take away power from negative thoughts and create a feedback loop.
Observe the way you talk to yourself for a few days
Easier said than done, I know, but like any muscle, it gets more robust if we work it. To give this a try, observe the way you talk to yourself for a few days. Listen to your inner voice when it starts to go down the negativity rabbit hole.
Once you’ve watched yourself doing this for a few days, begin to stop yourself and say, “Okay, hold up. You’re doing that thing where you ruminate on this negative experience.” Once you’ve stopped yourself, you have the opportunity to introduce a new thought pattern.
I use, “But right now I feel grateful that…” and fill in the rest of the sentence with a silver lining that aligns with my core values. It will feel much easier to have gratitude — and pull yourself out of a bad mood — when you can recognize and redirect negative thoughts at the moment.
Medical Health Researcher, Welzo
What causes a bad mood? Our internal emotions are constantly in flux. A combination of biological processes such as hormones and chemicals in the brain, our personal psychology, and the impacts of our environment can cause a bad mood.
A negative mood is easy to fall into as it is often the consequence of occurrences from our external environment, which is largely outside our control. A bad mood can be easily exacerbated by simple things such as a bad night’s sleep, hunger, or even weather changes.
Our minds can be easily influenced by common interactions or observations in our day, such as:
- Watching the news.
- A negative interaction with someone around you.
- Even feeling stressed and need a break from your work, school, or life in general.
How can you get out of a bad mood?
Know what can cause a shift in your mood
Firstly, knowing what can cause a shift in your mood is the first step in avoiding or reducing the occurrence/severity of a bad mood.
For example, if you know that watching the news will put you into a negative headspace, you should reduce your intake or find another source of information that won’t be as negatively skewed.
Understanding yourself can help you to rationalize your behavior
Second, when a bad mood does arise, understanding yourself can help you to rationalize your behavior.
For example, knowing that if you start tapping your foot or knee is an indicator that you are becoming agitated, you can try to reduce your reaction in the early stages. Getting out of this mood can be accomplished with a few strategies.
Practice positive thinking moment-to-moment
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the treatment for various mental health issues that has an individual change the way they think in order to change their mood. Practicing positive thinking moment-to-moment can get you to tip your inner thoughts into a positive spin rather than a negative one.
Other ways to improve your mood may include:
- Practicing a hobby or interest that usually brings you comfort, e.g., reading a book or listening to your favorite music.
- Doing something to improve yourself, e.g., getting a massage or exercising.
- Reduce stress in another way, e.g., cleaning your space or washing your clothes.
Senior Editor, Tandem
Whether we are having a bad hair day, we are mad at our significant other, or we do not like something happening at work, many things can cause us to be in a bad mood.
Why does it sometimes seem like it is pretty easy to get into a bad mood, but it can be so hard to snap out of it? What are some ways to get out of a bad mood?
Learn to be thankful for even small things
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, try to focus on what you do have. Learn to be thankful for even small things. This can help you realize that sometimes when you are not yourself, there are many other people with much bigger problems.
To be happy, think happy
Visualizing yourself in a happy mood can go a long way in helping you achieve that happiness. Sometimes when we are in a bad mood, we do not even know the reason why. Try to forget about being unhappy and focus on being happy.
Related: How to Make Yourself Happy
Go for a walk
If you can, separate yourself from the situation that is causing you to be in a bad mood. Even separate yourself from, well, everything. Go for a walk, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. This will help you clear your head instead of focusing on the negative.
Do something you love
Give yourself a moment to get away from what is making you unhappy and focus on something that brings you joy. Maybe it’s a few minutes of scrolling through silly memes or sending your loved one a text. Whatever it is, make sure it puts a smile on your face, as it might help to remove your dour mood.
Talk about it
Sometimes, we want to be heard. Try reaching out to a friend or family member who can listen to you without judgment. You might not want or need advice, but venting your frustrations can often help alleviate your lousy mood.
Getting out of a bad mood is admittedly easier said than done. It often depends on the severity of the situation that put you in that bad mood in the first place.
Hopefully, by focusing on being grateful and happy, or by going for a walk, doing something you love, or even talking about it, you’ll be able to turn your frown upside down.
Blogger, Parks Elevated Design
Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed or down, I get an urge to get out of the house and get away. That usually involves spending money and can’t always be accomplished in my schedule.
When you’re on a journey of simple living, it’s a huge accomplishment to find ways to better your mood and lift your spirits at home.
I’ve compiled a list of quick and fulfilling ways to boost your mood at home. They only take a few minutes of your time, save you money, and are natural mood boosters. It’s a win-win-win!
Take a walk and soak in some sunshine
Getting outside is the first way I know I can lift my mood. The sun is medicine all by itself. We soak in Vitamin D and lift our serotonin levels just by being in the sunlight. These both help boost your mood naturally and brighten your day (pun absolutely intended!)
Walking and physical activity help to get your blood pumping. Your body naturally releases endorphins that will help alleviate a bad mood and relieve stress.
A bonus to this is that viewing nature helps reduce anxiety too. Studies found that even a simple plant in your room can reduce stress and anxiety, so just imagine the effect it’ll have when you get outside for a walk.
Create a spa routine at home
Going to the spa is seen as a major relaxation activity. You’re pampered from head to toe and leave feeling amazing!
Why can’t you create the same routine at home? You can!
Did you know taking a warm bath is linked to serotonin release and fighting depression? You can fill up the bathtub and soak in this natural remedy to heal from depression and anxiety.
End your bath with luxurious body butter to leave your skin feeling soft and glowing.
To really amplify your spa day, play soft music and add your favorite essential oils to the water. You’ll feel your bad mood disappear in no time!
Lift your mood by making a cup of tea
Did you know the act of boiling water and steeping tea can boost your mood? There is something in the actions of slowing down and spending a few minutes making tea that relieves stress and lifts your mood.
Besides making tea, the tea itself has many health components to help boost your mood. Much research shows that tea can reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and lift your spirits. There is an amino acid in tea called L-theanine that helps you feel calm.
Taking 5-10 minutes out of your day to enjoy a cup of tea can do wonders for your health and mood.
To amplify my tea time, I like to use a pretty teapot and teacup. I also sit in a comfy spot with a good book and set a ten-minute timer. You’ll be surprised what 10 minutes of intentional relaxation can do for your mood.
Master Qigong Expert | CEO and Founder, Holden Qigong
- Shake your arms and hands for 30 seconds
This will discharge anxiety, stress, and any negativity you picked up (this can be done anytime!). This will also desensitize your triggered emotional state, allowing more rationality and focus prior to taking your first shot off the tee.
- Tap vigorously at your chest and breathe deeply
This will clear up negative emotional stress and release any pent-up tension.
- Rub your “fire fingers”
Rub your four fingernails together vigorously while breathing in sync. This will trigger your “chi” from within and energize your body. Feel your energy by dropping your hands down at your side. This will center you, bring you into the present and allow you to feel in the moment.
- Practice “bamboo in the wind”
Stand with both feet together, place your hands on your belly and let your body rock and sway like “bamboo in the wind.” This will allow you to release negative tension and refocus your energy on the task at hand.
- Engage in QiGong breathing exercises
Without moving, you can change your breathing by slowly inhaling through your nose (“cleansing breath”) and exhaling through your mouth (exhale partially, not all the way), allowing you to let go of any negative energy that is weighing heavy on your mind/emotions.
Daniel “Bokey” Castillo
Founder and CEO, Bokey.co
It can be a pain to be in a bad mood. Being in a bad mood can affect your performance and make it difficult to complete even the simplest tasks. The process I like to use when I’m in a lousy mood requires three steps.
Identify you’re in a bad mood
It starts with being self-aware enough to know you’re not having a good day, and that’s okay. Not every day is going to be rainbows and sunshine.
Realize it’s temporary
When you realize the feelings you’re going through are temporary, you’ll begin to understand that you shouldn’t be taking actions based on your feelings. Emotions and moods are ever-changing.
Shift the actions you take
Now that you’ve identified and realized, you can make the necessary actions to stay on a good track. Actions tend to snowball in one direction.
So if you’re in a good mood, you’ll likely perform better and continue to perform better. And vice versa if you’re doing poorly because of your bad mood.
At some point, you’ll need to see that you’ll have to break the chain by changing course if you’re in a bad mood. And over time, you’ll realize your bad mood can just be a bad moment.
Chief Revenue Officer, eLuxury LLC
Break a sweat—go for a run
Running is an excellent way for me to relieve stress and improve my mood. It’s a great release.
After a hard day of work, you’re probably not thinking about lacing up a pair of running shoes and going for a jog. You’re thinking about winding down, having dinner, and chilling for the night.
But the conclusion of a long workday is the perfect time for you to go for a run. You may be tired, but it will be good for you. Don’t approach the run like you’re trying to improve your split times. You’re not doing it for any other purpose than to clear your mind and reduce the stress that weighs you down mentally and physically.
Jobs make me feel happier. They make me feel accomplished. They help me relax my mind. Sometimes I listen to music when I run because it makes me feel like I’m more energized during the run.
Other times, I don’t play any music at all. I just want to hear the noise of the natural environment around me. Sometimes even the sound of my shoes pounding on gravel relaxes me.
Running isn’t the only cardio exercise that works in this situation. Walking does the trick. So does swimming. Some people like doing some kind of high-intensity training like plyometrics.
The point is to break a sweat. Physical exertion has been proven to boost the production of the feel-good transmitters in your brain. That fact alone should induce you to exercise more. It’s the best way to improve your mood.
Teacher | Blogger, Loulabellaxoxo
If there’s one thing that’s really frustrating when you’re in a bad mood, it’s when someone tells you to “snap out of it.” Wow! I really wish it was that easy. Sometimes, you’ve just got to ride the storm and wait for it to pass, but other times, you can shift your mindset to a more positive one.
You can guarantee that when you’re in a said bad mood, everything is going to go wrong to irritate you further, whether this is dropping your favorite mug on the floor, being out of milk that day, or even getting your belt loop on your jeans hooked onto a door handle as you exit a room.
I’ve gotten to a point where I try turning these scenarios into funny ones instead.
Shift, don’t spiral—see the funny side
It’s all about shifting your mindset! Instead of screaming in frustration, I try to see the funny side. I might even just shout something like, “Why handle, why?”
Just laughing at myself (and the situation) can prevent me from spiraling further into a dark mood, and things don’t seem as bad. I’ll say it out loud, too, just so that the door handle knows that it hasn’t ruined my day. Heck, I might even turn it into a song if I’m really desperate to get out of that mood.
It’s all about self-awareness when I’m in a bad mood because, in the past, I’ve said the wrong thing to the wrong person, and that’s made me feel even worse than the original reason for being in a bad mood.
Granted, it’s not going to work every time. It does take a lot of practice to shift that mindset to a positive one (especially when I might even want to rip the handle off the door and throw it across the room).
Still, the outcome is certainly a better one when I haven’t caused any collateral damage to my family, friends, and colleagues (or even my boss!).
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