Down in the Dumps: My Go-To Mood Boosters When I'm Feeling Low
We all have those days, right? Maybe you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or maybe a lot of little things didn't go quite right, and now you're feeling sad, frustrated, or a tiny bit off. Either way, it's not the worst you've ever felt, but it's definitely not the best!
Luckily, we don't have to be a victim to those low moods. Sure, there are some days when the only option is to run a bath and watch reruns of Parks and Rec, but if you're looking for a quick pick-me-up that will turn the rest of your day around, read on.
1. Take a deep breath.
No, I'm not telling you to close your eyes and count to 10 (but hey, if it works, it works!), but turning your focus to your breath does have its benefits. Not only do deep breathing exercises work to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety on the body and mind, it promotes positive emotions, boosts your immune system, and actually changes the physical makeup of your brain.
There are all sorts of types of meditation out there - Yoga Nidra, transcendental meditation, chanting - but what's always worked best for me is one of the simplest breath exercises out there: triangular breathing. It's a three step process (inhale, hold, exhale), and all you have to do is make sure your inhalations, holds, and exhalations are of equal length. Sounds easy enough, right?
Plus, by focusing your mind on breathing and counting, you shift your attention from all the "monkey chatter" in your brain, allowing yourself to relax and recenter.
How to start: find a comfortable seated position, rest your hands palms up on the knees, and close your eyes. Inhale deep into your belly. Start by counting to four, but as you practice triangular breathing more often, work to get to five, six, or even seven counts. Hold your breath with ease - don't tense up! - and count to four, then exhale for four more beats. Repeat for at least two minutes, or until you feel a gentle return to your center.
2. Move your body.
There's a reason exercise is one of the top ways to beat anxiety and depression. Exercise releases endorphins, those happy little chemicals that relieve pain, reduce stress, and promote healthy sleep. All too often, when I'm feeling low, all I want to do is curl up under a cozy blanket, watch Pride and Prejudice, and feel sorry for myself, but when I do, I end up feeling worse.
On the other hand, when I roll out my yoga mat and move, even if it's just for ten minutes, I immediately feel uplifted, centered, and - this may be the inversions talking - ready to look at a problem from a different angle.
One of my favorite yoga instructors, Adriene from Yoga with Adriene, has a beautiful Movement Medicine Calming Practice that I go back to time and time again. It's sweet and gentle, and perfect for yogis of any level. But if yoga's not your thing, or you're just not in the mood (because, trust me, it happens, and we'll talk more about that later), going for a walk or a jog, hitting the gym, or just turning on your favorite songs and dancing around in your room will do the trick, too. It doesn't matter what it looks like, just get moving!
3. Give someone a hug.
Seriously. It's so simple and so easy. Most of us probably give or receive a half dozen hugs in a day's time! Hugging someone you love is more than a way to show affection, though. It relaxes your muscles, reduces stress, boosts your immune system, reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation, and fights anxiety. Plus, you can't beat the look on a loved one's face when they're the recipient of an unexpected hug.
Don't phone it in, though. I'm not talking about side hugs! I mean a full on, two arms, rib-squeezing bear hug. Try it; you'll be amazed how it can completely turn a low mood around.
What do you do when you're feeling low? Do you have any tried and true tactics to beat the blues? Let me know in the comment section below!