Symptoms of general low mood may include feeling sad, anxious, or panicky. You may be more tired than usual or unable to sleep. You may also feel angry or frustrated and low on confidence or self-esteem.
Most people feel low sometimes. It’s normal to have good days and bad days, ups and downs. We don’t need to be permanently in a good mood. One of the things we learn through mindfulness is not to get too hung up on being happy all the time. Ironically, when you release yourself from this pressure and direct your focus elsewhere, you often feel happier overall.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve your mood. There are lots of simple things you can do, and who doesn’t want to feel good?!
There are lots of small, everyday things you can do to improve your mood and keep it lifted throughout the week. You’re probably doing some of them already. Things like going for a walk, staying hydrated, eating well and getting enough rest.
Doing activities you’re good at can also be beneficial. This might be sport, cooking, crafting – anything that gives you a sense of achievement. Making time to do things you enjoy is also good for your emotional wellbeing. Grabbing coffee with a friend, watching your favourite TV show or popping a face mask on while you soak in the bath. Try to avoid things that seem enjoyable at the time but can leave you feeling low afterwards, such as drinking too much alcohol.
Some activities are enjoyable at the time, so their mood boosting qualities are obvious. We can call these ‘pleasurable activities’. Other things are less fun while you’re doing them. They might even be downright boring and unpleasant, but afterwards your mood is improved.
Perhaps you hate taking your makeup off, but you always feel good when it’s done. Or maybe you dread your daily workouts but love how you feel afterwards. We can call these ‘routine activities’. Here’s another example to help you distinguish between the two – making your bed is routine, climbing into bed to read a book is pleasurable. Both types of activity can be useful if you want to improve your mood.
Another powerful mood boosting tip is to follow the plan not the mood. You might not feel like going out for a walk, but if that’s what you’ve planned to do that day, stick to it regardless and see how you feel afterwards.
If you really don’t feel like doing something, try the five-minute challenge. Do it for five minutes and see how you feel. You might find you want to carry on for longer once you get started, but if not then no worries. Stop there and feel good about the five minutes you managed.
Did you know the way you do something can determine whether it improves your mood? For example, doing something mindfully can help make it a more pleasant experience.
Let’s take washing the dishes. Pausing to notice the warm water or the soft feel of the bubbles can make it more enjoyable than washing everything quickly while thinking about all the other things you need to do. If you’re not sure how to do something ‘mindfully’, simply try slowing down. We’re so used to rushing all the time! You can learn more in my Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness.
There are probably a million blog posts out there listing ideas and activities to lift your mood. I could have simply added another one to the pile, but instead I want to encourage you to figure out what lifts YOUR mood.
Everyone is different, so what works for one person won’t have the same impact for another. What makes you feel good? Is there anything that makes you feel noticeably happier? Make a list of the mood boosting activities that work for you and start scheduling them in.
A low mood usually gets better after a few days or weeks. If your symptoms last two weeks or more, it could be a sign of depression. Other symptoms of depression may include not getting any enjoyment out of life, feeling hopeless and not being able to concentrate on everyday things. Some people experience suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming themselves. If you think you might be depressed, see your GP as soon as you can.