9 Ways To Shift Your Mood And Feel Better
by Cheryl Rainfield, the award-winning author of STAINED, SCARS, and HUNTED, 2005, 2019
It’s hard to feel depressed, sad, anxious, or in emotional pain. And while it can be healthy to not run away from your feelings, it’s also healthy—and important—to not get stuck in those painful emotions, and to shift your mood if you feel yourself getting sucked into a downward spiral.
Shifting your mood is not something most people are taught, but it’s something you can do with practice. Some techniques include positive distraction – using something that makes you feel good to distract you from feeling bad. Others involve shifting your focus and thoughts to shift your mood.
Next time you’re feeling badly, try using these techniques to shift your emotional state to a lighter or happier one:
- Do something physical that requires concentration.
Try balancing on one leg with your arms held high above your head. If this is easy for you to do, try a position that is harder, such as holding one leg straight out in front of you, or another pose altogether. Doing something physical that requires your concentration can help to shift your thoughts and mood.
- Go for a walk and temporarily change your environment. If you’re inside, go outside. If you’re outside, go inside or move to another outdoor location. Consider going someplace you’ve never or rarely visited. Wherever you go, pay attention to your surroundings using your senses. What do you smell, see, hear, taste, or feel? The more you can engage your senses, the more you may shift your focus. Stand with bare feet on the grass. Touch the rough trunk of a tree. Move your vision from close to far away. Try to notice the little details. Sometimes changing your environment can help. Walking or being physically active can also help change your mood.
- Ask for some safe touch.Hugging, cuddling, and safe touch releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, reduce social anxiety, lower your cortisol which is a stress hormone, even boost your immune system. So hold hands with a friend or partner. Ask a friend for a hug. Pat a dog or cat. Hugging and safe touch are good for your mental and physical health and can boost your mood.
- Engage your sense of smell with a pleasing scent.
Your sense of smell is a quick, easy route into your emotions, and is one of the most powerful ways to evoke memory. Smell something from a time when you felt happy, joyful, or loved, that reminds you of someone you love, or that just makes you feel good. Citrus scents (essential oils or real fruit, not fake) are naturally uplifting. Many people are also drawn to the scents of cinnamon; vanilla or benzoin; favourite perfumes or colognes; the scent of cookies being baked or a favourite meal; etc. I personally love the smell of crayons.
- Find a way to laugh.
Read, listen to, or tell jokes; humorous movies or tv; funny books; watch funny animal videos; play with your pets and watch their silly antics; be silly with a friend. Laughter is an effective way to lighten your mood, and can help your body as well as your emotional state. You can read more about this here.
- Reframe your thoughts.
Your thoughts can have a powerful effect on your emotions—especially negative thoughts. Try to notice the thoughts you’ve been thinking lately. How many of them are negative? If it helps, write out what you’ve been thinking, so that you can see what you’ve been telling yourself. Then try to change or reframe those thoughts into more positive phrases—even if you don’t believe them. If you have thoughts like “I’ll never,” “I can’t,” “I don’t want,” “I should/shouldn’t,” try to change them into something more hopeful or positive, such as “I can,” “I want,” “It’s good that I,” etc. Negative thinking also includes self-criticism and self-hate. If you find yourself putting yourself down, gently stop yourself, then give yourself a real compliment or praise, even if you don’t believe it. Just changing the way you think can help change how you feel.
- Change your body posture and breathing.
Your body stores emotions, and your body can also show how you feel—you might slump when you feel depressed or tired; curl inward or protect your abdomen/stomach when you’re feeling vulnerable; tighten your hands, jaw, shoulders, or neck when you’re feeling angry; breathe shallowly when you’re afraid. Try to consciously change your body posture and breathing to reflect how you want to feel. Close your eyes, remember a time when you felt happy or confident, and try to move your body into that position. Or watch how other people look when they are confident or happy, and try to mimic their body posture.
- Listen to music that makes you feel good.
Try singing or humming along with the music. Music can help alter your mood. Choose songs that make you feel happy, inspired, or loved—music that is pleasant to your ears, where the music and words speak to you.
- Reach out to a friend and talk.
You don’t have to talk about what is upsetting you, unless you feel like it. Just connect with another person, with someone you care about. Often, making that connection can help shift your mood, even just a little.
Try out these techniques; you may be surprised at how quickly you can shift your mood. However, if you’re feeling really awful you may not be able to shift your mood as far as you’d like to right away—and that’s okay. You may be able to make a little shift—like from despair to sadness—and then later another shift, such as from sadness to contentment. When you’re feeling truly horrible it’s more reasonable to expect little shifts rather than an extreme shift. Each shift will help.
Consciously working to change your mood can help you to feel better. Even a small shift in your mood might bring relief—and you may find yourself feeling a lot better and happier than you thought you would.
Written by Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED
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