02/05/2016 11:40 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST

In A Bad Mood? Try These Techniques To Instantly Feel Better

Studio shot of boy (6-7) with smoke puffs coming out of ears
Jessica Peterson via Getty Images
Studio shot of boy (6-7) with smoke puffs coming out of ears

Ever wake up feeling flat, uninspired or a little grumpy?

Bad moods happen to all of us, and while it's normal to feel a range of emotions (we can't be happy all of the time) there are moves you can make and ways you can look after yourself to ensure you're emotionally well.

"Emotions are affected by a whole range of factors, including sleep, diet, hormones, the immune system, our physical environment, light, exercise, medications, alcohol and other drugs and experiences that impact us outside our awareness, under our conscious radar," Dr Lissa Johnson, Clinical Psychologist, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"For example, we may have been around someone else who was in a bad mood and it might have affected ours, without our realising. Or the balance in our work and leisure might have shifted slightly and worn us down over time."

If you find yourself feeling a little down or irritated, take a look at what's going on at that time.

"It may sound obvious but if there is an identifiable cause and you can do something about it (for example: hunger, overwork, noise, boredom), then do. Psychologists call this ‘problem-focussed coping’, and when it is possible, it is very effective," Johnson said.

No obvious cause? That's okay, too.

"If there is no obvious cause, ask yourself what you need. It might be company, solitude, rest, fun, activity, inactivity, something trivial, something meaningful. Whatever it is, look for a way to give it to yourself, even in the smallest of doses."

Johnson suggests trying the following:

  • If you are after a more generic mood booster, nature is a powerful source. Simply walking in green spaces reduces rumination and associated brain activity, lowers stress and improves mood. So take a stroll through a park, by the water or wherever you can find nature. Savour the sights, sounds and smells around you.
  • Helping others also lifts your mood. Look for opportunities to open a door, do a favour, be kind or thoughtful, or ask someone if they need help, whether stranger, acquaintance or friend. Helping people reduces the negative emotional effects of stress and enhances positive emotions and wellbeing.
  • Smiling while you’re at it, and being smiled at in return, will release additional feel-good chemicals in your brain, adding to the mood-boosting effect.
  • Another powerful influence on mood is music. Listen to something that you find uplifting, inspiring, energising or soothing. Let the music transport you to a different emotional place.

helping others

It's important to give yourself a break if you're feeling down, overwhelmed or anxious. Positive people often look after themselves first and foremost.

"I think that the most common thread [in optimistic people] is that they are good to themselves (and others). They tend to take a compassionate and kind stance towards themselves, cut themselves slack, make an effort to meet their own needs, and don’t expect themselves to be perfect," Johnson said.

"As a result, setbacks and disappointments become easier to navigate, their wellbeing is prioritised, and they trust themselves to cope with whatever may go wrong, knowing that they will be on their own side when it happens. Part of this whole mindset entails understanding what you need in order to manage your own stress and mood (which varies from person to person) and making a priority of providing it to yourself, be it exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, nutrition, reading, writing, socialising or whatever."

If your aim is to have a more positive outlook on life overall, planning ahead so you have something so look forward to can help boost mood. It's also very important to look after your physical health.

"Without minimising or invalidating your difficulties and struggles, take time to be grateful for the good things in your life. It is human to gloss over all that is going right, and to focus instead on the problems that need solving. But stopping to appreciate your health, your freedom, your food, the quality of the light, the breeze on your skin, your pet, your loved ones… can make a very big difference to how you feel day to day," Johnson said.

"Another good practice is to give yourself something to look forward to. Something small every day, whether a meal, a rest, a chat on the phone or whatever you might enjoy, and savour it. Then something bigger every week, such as an outing or a lazy afternoon in, and something more substantial every once in awhile, such as a weekend away."

"Most importantly, be a friend to yourself. Be kind, compassionate, encouraging and understanding. Whatever happens, you will have your own company to enjoy," Johnson said.

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