Self Care Sunday Wellness

“Snap Out of It!”: 12 Ways to Adjust a Bad Mood

While we can’t tell ourselves to just feel better, we are able to change the thoughts and behaviors that influence our mood. On this Self-care Sunday, let’s explore what those techniques entail and how they can be used to adjust our mood for the day.

Clinical assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, Ruth Ellingsen, has stated that the first step in turning your bad mood around is identifying what kind of mood you’re in. “Sounds simple, but [it] really involves being mindfully aware of our current state,” clarifies Ellingsen. Once you’re aware of how you’re feeling, you can figure out what to do about it and take steps to turn your mood around. Some potential strategies for doing so include:

Spending time outside.

The better the view, the better you’ll feel – making the outdoors a perfect reset button.

“Nature can be medicine if we use it that way, and getting outside and changing your perspective can sometimes shift your mood rather quickly,” states Sarah Sarkis, an executive coach and senior director of performance psychology at a corporate wellness company. In fact, nature is scientifically proven to improve health, happiness, and self-esteem, and reduce frustration and promote meditative stress with much less effort. Sarkis notes, that adding music to your time outside can be even more beneficial and can “interrupt the cognitive loop that gets set very quickly once we are ‘in a bad mood.’” Additionally, if the sun is out – you can get a one-two power punch for a good mood as a boost of Vitamin D from the sun can help keep the blues away (but make sure to still wear your sunscreen!)

Staying in the moment.

“Oftentimes when we’re in a bad mood, we are ruminating about something that happened in the past, or we’re worrying about something in the future,” says Ellingsen. Worrying is one of the major causes of unhappiness.  “Experts believe that about 90% of the things that we worry about never happen,” explains Gregory Sullivan, the program director of the positive coaching and athletic leadership master’s program at the University of Missouri, in a 2023 Huffpost. If it’s something you can deal with, then doing it should help end the worry. If it’s something you can’t deal with at that moment, then think of potential solutions and try to be optimistic about the outcome. We can only control so much – do not drive yourself mad worrying about a problem that is outside your realm of control.

The best way to re-center? “We can very intentionally do something behaviorally to bring ourselves to the present moment, whether that’s deep breathing or just tuning into our senses to really bring ourselves away from what [we’re] worrying about,” concludes Ellingsen. Practicing mindfulness, like breathing exercises and meditation, is great for moments when your patience is running thin, or your anxiety is running high.

Talking about what has put you in a mood.

Bottling it all up will only make your mood worse. “Try getting quiet and asking the cranky part of yourself what it’s upset about,” says Ashley Eder, a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO. Instead of fighting with your feelings, figure out what you need. “Let your mood be your messenger. Sometimes just honoring the impulse to have some alone time, get more sleep, ask for help with something, or take space in a relationship is what you need to feel more at peace,” says Eder. She also suggests that honoring your mood’s other impulses – like smashing eggs, breaking old dishes, ripping up paper, or punching pillows – in a safe way is another way to feel at peace.

If you can’t pinpoint why you’re in a bad mood, talk to a friend about it, if you can. Talking about what’s stressing you with someone will make you feel a million times better – as the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. There are many mental health advantages associated with venting your frustrations. Some of these include restoring equilibrium and alleviating tension and stress – making you feel lighter and helping you release negative and pestering feelings. Just be mindful not to vent for too long or to the wrong person, as it could have a reversed effect.

Working out.

By now, we know how good exercise is for our mental health; the same applies to its impact on helping you get out of a bad mood. When you’re not feeling your best, turn to a favorite fitness routine like running, yoga, tennis, or indoor cycling – do not put more pressure on yourself by doing a workout you don’t like.

If you don’t have a favorite fitness routine, to get regular exercise, try walking briskly: walk to run errands, go for a stroll, and take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator when possible. All you need is 20 minutes of exercise. “Move your body for 15-20 minutes, and you will get a shot of endorphins and adrenaline,” says Sarkis. This shot of hormones will help with quickly shifting your perspective and elevating your mood.

Eating healthy foods throughout the day.

We are what we eat. Sugary junk foods or drinks can cause your blood sugar to rise and then crash, resulting in mood swings. Choosing foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and fiber-rich flax seeds, can promote a happy brain (literally!) So, step away from the unhappy meals, and try meals aimed at boosting your mood. Up the happiness factor by setting a nice place for yourself and lighting a candle or sharing it with another and making a moment of it.

Focusing on others instead of yourself.

One of the earliest contributors to positive psychology, Chris Peterson, stressed that shifting focus away from yourself can be a great way to lift your spirits. Peterson also noted the importance of other people when it comes to your mental health. Connect with a friend or someone who makes you laugh, and take some time to enjoy their company and the moment you’re sharing with that person.

Or do a random act of kindness – such as holding the door for someone, sending a quick love text to a partner or friend, or donating to an organization that needs support. All these options help defeat a bad mood, as being nice can help us feel nicer.

Changing the story in your head.

Sometimes when you’re in a bad mood, it’s tempting to continually run through the story in your mind to justify your bad mood. To try to stop this behavior, Lori Deschene, author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, recommends “visualizing yourself closing a book and taking a new one off the shelf. Then start telling yourself a different story – one where you’re not a victim, one where you’re not powerless, one where you’re accepting what happened and moving on, so you don’t lose any more time to that other book.”

Creating and protecting your mood.

A great way to set the tone for the day is to control your input. Turn off notifications. Try to keep your interactions with people who could put you in a bad mood to a minimum, as situations with these people can drain you and leave you in an even worse mood.

Try thinking of happy thoughts. Take yourself back to a time when you were happy, or dig out some old photographs of great times you’ve had. Reminiscing and replacing bad thoughts with good thoughts is a good way to shift your perspective.

Getting enough sleep.

Research consistently shows that not getting enough sleep can have a dramatic effect on your mood and ability to cope with stress. If you regularly sleep fewer than seven hours a night and are chronically feeling down, it’s likely that you may be suffering from not getting enough rest.

Being kind to yourself.

It’s not just how you treat other people – extend some of those same behaviors and intentions to yourself. In a 2020 Mayo Clinic post on kindness, licensed professional counselor, Steve Siegle stated: “People are good at verbally beating themselves up, and rarely does that work as a pep talk. Rather, negativity often causes you to unravel and may even create a vicious cycle of regularly getting down on yourself. You wouldn’t talk to your neighbor the way you sometimes talk to yourself… This is what I call the good neighbor policy, which can be helpful. If you would not say it to your good neighbor, do not say it about yourself.

Not discounting your unpleasant emotions.

Well-being doesn’t mean that we’re happy all the time. According to Sullivan, a key aspect of well-being is the ability to accept the full spectrum of human emotions – the positive and negative, from excitement and joy to pain and boredom. Learning how to accept these emotions can help stop them from taking over your day.


In uncertain times, it’s good to remind yourself of all the things you can control and accomplish. One of the best ways to do this is to make something with your hands. Getting crafty sparks joy, creativity, and inspiration. Numerous studies show that working with your hands improves mental health, increases your mood, and is a good stress reliever. It can also decrease feelings of anxiety and depression

“Working with your hands can be profoundly pleasurable,” states Nick Wignall, psychology writer for the Medium, “and there’s satisfaction in seeing the results of your labor in such a tangible way.”  So, when you’re in a bad mood, look for opportunities to make something, fix something, or clean something. Bake your favorite baked goods or clean up the area where your laundry may have stacked up or go outside and garden. Anything that you can do with your hands can bring you joy and an opportunity to promote mindfulness and a sense of personal accomplishment.

Completing the above techniques can sometimes take some trial and error, and some additional time. For those moments when you need a quick fix, try the below quick hacks.

1-Minute Fixes5-Minute Fixes
SmileBuy flowersDress upLaugh
Get happy-making endorphins from jumping around (e.g., jumping jacks, jump rope)Inhale the scent of orange or lavender, to help reduce anxiety and improve moodCuddles and kisses can release oxytocin, the feel-good hormoneAchieve a goal, a small success can have a huge impact on your mood
Visualize your best selfLight a candlePlay with your petGive yourself a massage
Chew gum to promote relaxationEat your favorite snackNotice small miraclesPractice gratitude

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