We’ve all had those days. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep or a vivid nightmare shook you awake. Perhaps you woke up with the bitter taste of last night’s argument still lingering. Sometimes you don’t even know why; you just wake up unhappy.
Whatever the reason, we all occasionally wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
When this happens, the best thing you can do is shake the bad mood as quickly as possible.
Consider it an act of kindness to yourself and those around you to take the time to cheer yourself up. After all, a bad mood is contagious to everyone we interact with, from loved ones to coworkers, according to Scientific American.
But this isn’t even the most destructive effect of a bad mood.
Negative feelings lower productivity, prevent us from being present in the moment to enjoy life and even suppress our immune systems.
With so many reasons to turn that frown upside down, check out these 11 tips for reversing a bad mood:
1. Write in a Journal
Before you can shake a bad mood, you need to figure out its cause.
Sometimes that’s easy to do. If you fought with a loved one the night before or learned your car needs an expensive repair, you’re likely to wake up still feeling badly about it.
Other times, the root of your bad mood is harder to identify. In these cases, journaling can be a helpful way to explore your feelings.
You don’t even need an official journal. Any piece of paper and pen will do, or you could type. The important part is to free write about whatever comes to mind without filtering or judging your thoughts.
Spend at least 10 minutes writing, more if you have the time. It’s amazing what surfaces when you’re not trying to edit your thoughts. You might start out writing about the friend’s birthday party you attended and realize that seeing your friend with her grandmother triggered your sadness over the loss of your own grandparents.
You’re likely to feel better just by articulating what’s wrong. Then you can start to move on.
In the case of missing a loved one, reaching out to another close friend or family member could remind you that you still have plenty of love and support in your life.
Whatever the origin of your negative feelings, identifying it is the first step toward fixing things.
2. Take One Step toward Completing a Task or Project
Often a looming deadline or large assignment makes us feel overwhelmed. We then feel paralyzed and don’t start the project, which makes things worse.
Breaking large tasks into smaller, manageable steps makes it easier to get started. Once you start, the rest of the work won’t seem so scary.
So if you have a long paper due, write the first paragraph.
If you need to clean your house, start with just one area in one room. Of course, you can keep going if you feel up to it, but begin with just the idea of taking a small step. Give yourself a reward, such as a cup of tea or an episode of your favorite Netflix show, when you finish.
3. Engage in Constructive Distractions
An unstructured weekend or slow day at work can give you too much time to obsess over what’s bothering you.
If you find yourself brooding over a past event or worrying about the future, try to ground yourself in the present with a constructive distraction.
A constructive distraction is anything that takes your mind off your problems without causing harm to yourself or others. Some distractions people turn to when they’re upset, such as binge drinking or going on a shopping spree, might momentarily make you feel better but are likely to have consequences and make you feel worse in the long run.
A game of solitaire, a quick set of stretches, 10 minutes of adult coloring – these are all examples of constructive distractions.
The more focus the distraction requires, the more it will engage your mind and prevent your thoughts from racing with anxiety.
4. Dress for the Way You Want to Feel
When you wake up feeling bad, it’s normal to reach for a pair of sweatpants and that ratty yet oh-so-comfortable T-shirt you’ve had forever. Comfort clothes can be like comfort food: a balm to soothe our stressed brains.
However, wearing clothes that are easy to slouch in can encourage you to, well, slouch. What you need when you’re feeling down is to hold your head up high and walk proudly down the street.
So, even though you may feel like spending the day on the couch, dress like it’s the best day of your life.
Put on your favorite dress or smartest blazer, shine your shoes, take time with your hair. Have you heard the saying, “dress for the job you want, not the one you have?” The same thing goes for moods.
Dress for happiness and you’ll feel happier.
5. Phone a Friend
We’re surrounded by the illusion of connection – our hundreds of Facebook friends and perpetually full email inbox.
While there are more options for communication now than ever before, the fact that most of them involve typing onto a screen can easily lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Sometimes what you really need is face-to-face interaction, or at least to hear a familiar voice on the phone.
When you wake up in a funk, try reaching out to a friend or loved one. Arrange a lunch date or happy hour drink, or just indulge in a long phone conversation.
Talking through your feelings and listening to your friend describe his or her life will make you feel less alone and stuck in your own head.
6. Commit an Act of Charity
Feeling useful and needed is a good way to cure the blues, and the world is full of people, places, and animals that need your help.
If you don’t know where to start, begin with your passions.
If you love animals, contact your local shelter about walking dogs or feeding cats.
If your heart breaks at the thought of children in need, become a big brother or sister, or donate books to an elementary school with a meager library.
Get involved providing aid for one of the many conflicts and natural disasters currently affecting the world. For example, people all over the world are saddened by the devastation of recent earthquakes in Nepal. You may find it uplifting to donate, either individually or through your workplace, to relief efforts in Nepal and other parts of the world in need of aid.
Whether through the donation of money or your time and energy, helping others can give your life a fulfilling sense of purpose.
7. Practice Gratitude
Our days often consist of familiar routines and repetitive tasks. This makes it easy to lose perspective and perceive minor annoyances as major events.
We go home and complain to our families about the little things that went wrong in our day, further increasing our negative feelings. To break this cycle, try cognitive restructuring.
Instead of focusing on what went wrong – the coffee you spilled on your freshly dry-cleaned pants, the driver who cut you off in traffic, your boss’s failure to praise a job well done – think about what you’re grateful for.
An easy way to practice gratitude is to make it a daily ritual with family or friends. You can do this with whomever you live with, family or roommates, or with your best friend on Skype.
At the end of each day, list one or two things you’re grateful for from the day. It can be as simple as good weather or as profound as meeting your soulmate.
Once you shift your attention from bad luck to good, you’ll feel happier, and suddenly your perceptions of life will seem more optimistic.
8. Take Care of Basic Physical Needs
They can seem so basic we overlook them as causes of our bad moods, but physical discomforts like hunger and fatigue can negatively affect us.
Sleep alone is very important to cognitive function, physical well-being, and mood. Try to get seven to eight hours a night and establish regularity with when you go to sleep and wake up each day.
When you can’t get enough sleep at night, try to fit in a power nap during the day. Even just closing your eyes for five minutes during your lunch break could help you feel more rested for the remainder of the day.
Likewise, your food intake is important to keep your body functioning well. An empty stomach can lead to low blood sugar, which makes you feel weak and unable to concentrate. Aim for healthier foods like vegetables and whole grains that will make you feel better than eating junk food.
Taking care of yourself may sometimes seem like a luxury, but you’d never skip an oil change for your car or neglect to fill the tank. The same goes for your body. Fuel it for peak performance.
Among its many other physical benefits, regular exercise boosts your mental health and emotional wellness. If you already have a favorite workout but have been skipping it lately due to limited time, make it a priority to get moving again.
If just the word “exercise” makes you cringe, try to find ways to make regular movement part of your other daily tasks.
For example, take the stairs at work instead of the elevator. Replace one short car trip with walking. Play a dance or sports video game that involves interactive movements.
Increasing your heart rate even a little bit will send endorphins to your brain and improve your mood.
10. Include Yourself in Your Compassion
When all else fails to lift your spirits, don’t feel bad about yourself for feeling bad.
Practice self-compassion instead and accept yourself in all of your suffering. Imagine that you were talking to a friend who felt like you do. Would you berate that friend for not being smarter and stronger, for not being able to snap out of it?
Talk to yourself the way you would a friend. Tell yourself it’s all right; everyone has bad days. Chances are tomorrow will be better.
Just sitting with yourself in your sadness and embracing your feelings, knowing they will pass, can lead to feelings of strength and empowerment.
Take These Tools with You
Now that you’ve learned about different coping strategies for identifying and dissolving a bad mood, carry them with you wherever you go.
The next time you wake up unhappy, you’ll have a toolbox full of ways to make yourself feel better.
Experiment with different strategies until you figure out which ones work best for you. Let these become your go-to methods. Eventually it will become a habit to write about your feelings in a journal or sweat out a bad mood with a challenging run.
Best of all, you’ll be free to enjoy the world around you again.
How do you cope with a bad mood? What works best to lift your spirits again? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.
How Productive Are You?
Take our Productivity Quiz to find out. Learn the tactics and techniques that will work for you.