What do you do to get out of a mental funk and improve your mood?
The following simple tips can help if you’re feeling down or anxious – or if you’re ‘just’ feeling tired.
These are not the usual tips about meditating or lying in a warm bath – although those things can certainly help. They’re also not based on any formal knowledge of psychology on my part; instead they’re just simple things that I’ve found helpful personally.
I hope they help improve your mood too, when you’re feeling down.
In a world that demands achievement, success and a positive frame of mind, it’s easy to feel that we’ve failed in some way when we’re feeling low. However, feeling down is natural – especially in these strange new times. It’s very human and completely understandable. It’s not something to deny or necessarily avoid.
However, feeling down is not always a pleasant feeling, and so it’s also good to have a toolkit of ways we can start to climb back up, if and when we want to. These are not designed to numb any pain, nor trivialise the degree of pain you may be feeling right now. They can however lighten things a little when you need that – just enough for new thoughts to come in.
Our five senses – touch, hearing, taste, sight, smell – are really powerful in this respect, and so the first five tips here focus on those.
1) Eat a raw lemon
OK, I know this sounds weird, but I’ve done this at times when I’ve been feeling low and when I couldn’t see ahead. Give it a go. Cut a fresh lemon into four wedges, and off you go. The sharp physical sensation (to put it mildly) can jolt you out of the rut your thoughts are in – even if just temporarily.
2) Find a wonderful aroma that you love
Some of the aromas I love include cacao powder, coffee, freshly cut grass and vanilla essence. So find one where you are right now, close your eyes and breeeeathe in that aroma. Let it take you to the memory it evokes and then, in your mind, paint a picture of the best thing about that memory.
3) Stand under the shower
Stand under a hot shower and just feel the water pouring over your head. Just stand there and feel the water carrying away your worries. Imagine that wonderful refreshing energy coursing through your whole body. You could also do this under a cold shower – and that would certainly get your heart rate up, your blood flowing and the endorphins buzzing.
4) Look into the distance
Find a window with a reasonable view and look at the very furthest point you can see. This is particularly good if you sit at a computer all day, as it also gives your eyes a bit of exercise. As you gaze into the distance, remember that there’s a beautiful world out there just waiting for you. If the furthest point you can see is somewhere you’ve never been before, maybe make a mental note to go there at the next opportunity you have. (Making plans can be a good mood-lifter.)
5) Stand in the rain
If it’s raining, but not too cold, go out in the rain without an umbrella or hat – and just get wet. It’s the physical sensation that can help – and drying off/warming up again indoors afterwards with a hot drink is a lovely feeling.
6) Search some old photos
Flick through or search through some old photos. Choose three that you love and put them up on the wall. If the photos are of someone you haven’t seen in a while, why not get in touch or give them a call. Hearing a different voice and hearing about someone else’s life can help take you out of your own world for a while.
7) Grab a pair of headphones
Grab some headphones and listen to your favourite piece of music for five wonderful, intense and undisturbed minutes. Turn the volume up loud (within the limits of safety) and get completely lost in the music.
8) Run on the spot
If you’re able to, run on the spot really, really, really fast for just one or two minutes. Get your arms moving really fast too, and use your own voice to encourage you – as if you’re your own coach cheering yourself on. Getting oxygen into your system can really help. Then when you’ve finished immediately splash your face with very cold water.
9) Remember the difference you make in the world
Remember always: There no one – not one single person anywhere else in the world – who is exactly like you. No one else has your thoughts, your insights and your ideas, because no one else has your life experience – the experience you bring to all of those things. No one else – anywhere – has your same potential.
The world needs you to be you, because without your energy, presence, talents, wisdom and influence the world be so much poorer. You can also find out here the difference your work really makes.
One of my favourite speakers and authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, talks here about the whole range of human emotions, including loneliness and fear, and how to turn difficult feelings around. It’s a TED talk recorded online in April 2020: It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. Here’s what to do next.
What kind of things do you do when you’re feeling low – to help you feel better? I’d love to hear – we can all learn from each other.