Yesterday I woke up in a bad mood, or as I like to say, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” There was no particular reason for it. It was just one of those days and every little annoyance of life was even more annoying, whether it was the person that walked into me on a busy city sidewalk because they were texting instead of paying attention, the long line at Starbucks for some morning coffee, or that co-worker that just didn’t “get it” when I tried to explain what I needed her to accomplish that day. There are always going to be some days like this and rather than have the whole day ruined (although sometimes that is inevitable), I have found a few things that can help turn my mood around.
1. Exercise. Exercising is probably my number one way to boost my mood. If you Google “exercise” and “mood” over 47 million hits come up, so if Dr. Google says it then it must be true. Seriously, exercise releases endorphins in your body which are chemicals that reduce pain, enhance your mood and help you sleep better. Studies have found that not only do you get a short term benefit from exercise, but if you suffer from depression or anxiety, exercise can help with those conditions over the long term. I find that a good sweaty gym class or a yoga class give me the most benefit when I am struggling with my mood. But if my schedule doesn’t allow that, then even a simple walk can alleviate my mood and I feel so much better when I return.
2. Write It Out. I recently started a habit called “Morning Pages” which is discussed in a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This habit has come about because I have been participating in a couple of online courses for writing and creativity. The best way to explain Morning Pages is that you sit down first thing in the morning, before doing anything else (I always have to make my coffee first otherwise I’m a little too blurry for this) and you write in a notebook for three pages straight whatever comes to your mind. No stopping and no thinking, just longhand writing. As Julia Cameron explains, “Pages are meant to be, simply, the act of moving the hand across the page and writing down whatever comes to mind. Nothing is too petty, too silly, too stupid, too weird to be included.” The idea is to get rid of all of the “junk” in your head so you can be more creative and productive the rest of the day. “We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth…. Make this a rule: always remember that your Censor’s negative opinions are not the truth.”
Some mornings I feel that I have nothing to write about (and there are mornings I really do not), but I try to write something. I sometimes start with my to do list just to get started and I am always amazed with what I eventually write about. Yes, my pages are often whiny and messy. However, no one else is supposed to read them and depending on who and what you are writing, you may just want to shred them when you are done. In fact, you are not really supposed to go back and read them. These are not the things you journal about because you want to remember them. This is the annoying things that circulate in your brain. It is interesting because I find that I often write about the same complaints day after day after day. This tells me that I need to change the situation I am complaining about or if I cannot, then change my attitude about it. However, in any event I find that on the days I skip Morning Pages, my mood is bleaker, and lighter on the days that I have the time to do them.
3. Breathe and Meditate. This is a hard one for me to remember to do. Try and notice your breath the next time you are stressed on anxious. You will find that it is shallow and short. It is wonderful if you can block everything out for 15 or 20 minutes and just meditate, focusing on your breath. However, it is hard and if your mind is churning a million miles an hour it is difficult to turn it off. And depending on where you are, such as your desk at work, you know that you are not going to get that time without the phone ringing, an email coming in or someone otherwise interrupting you. When I am at my desk and notice I am feeling stressed, I just close my eyes for a moment and take five or six deep breaths, focusing only on the act of breathing in and out. This very short exercise immediately make me feel less anxious and able to focus easier on the task at hand.
4. Hang Out With a Friend. I was fortunate yesterday because May was coming to the city to meet up with me in the afternoon. I knew that this would help my mood. When I am in a bad mood, often I do not want to socialize with anyone. But being with a person whose company you enjoy is a great mood alleviator. We combined our time together with a very long walk in the city and we may have enjoyed a libation on top of a rooftop bar (having a drink can help your mood too but not the healthiest of choices), but more important to my mood was the company. It is wonderful to spend time with someone who you can vent to, discuss unimportant topics and laugh with.
5. Go Back To Bed. And when all else fails, just go back to bed. There is that old saying that “things always look better in the morning.” Sometimes this is true and all you really need to improve your mood, is a good night’s sleep. So go to bed early and wake up the next morning. Hopefully, things will look better and you will feel better.
Do you have any favorite ways to improve your mood? –June
We are as happy as we make up our minds to be. – Abraham Lincoln