Prescriptions for Life

How to attain your goals, great and small, and create a life you love.

Eight Secrets for Outwitting a Bad Mood

8 ways to pull yourself out of a funky mood

happy & sad facesI write about depression frequently (and am fascinated by healthy ways to improve and protect your mood) because I suffered from depression and anxiety on and off throughout most of my life. Every since I started dancing and living a more authentic life (a journey which I detail in my new book, Live a Life You Love) I've rarely experienced "down" moods - when they happen, they're usually due to something upsetting that's happened, and only last a couple of hours or at most a day or two.

This happens to most of us now and then; you only get "officially" diagnosed with depression when you've had a consistently down mood for over two weeks, along with a host of other classic symptoms.
Still, most people do go through times, particularly in the dark days of winter, when they don't feel as good about life and themselves as they'd like to. Even if you're not officially depressed, it's still not a lot of fun to get blindsided with a funky mood that feels like it wants to stick around.

Here are some tips for lifting your mind and body out of a low mood and back into life. You can either use these to protect a positive mental state and prevent yourself from sliding into negative mood states, or use them to pull yourself out of a bad mood when you're already there.

1) Get moving.

Regular moderate to intense exercise has the potential to provide the same boosting effect on your mood as taking an antidepressant pill every day - and the side effects are much better! To get regular exercise, all you really have to do is walk briskly. Walk to work, walk to your errands, go out for a stroll by yourself, with a friend or your other half. You'll be amazed at how much it helps, even if it's the last thing you feel like doing. Just do it! You'll feel great once you're out there doing it.

2) Eat healthy foods regularly throughout the day.

Don't go too long without eating, as this will make you grumpy (in my case, I get downright mean or weepy) and stay away from sugary junk foods or drinks that shoot up your blood sugar and then make it crash, triggering mood swings.  Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and fibre-rich flax seeds, for a happy brain (literally).

3) Get enough sleep.

Research consistently shows that not getting enough sleep can have a dramatic effect on your mood and your ability to cope with stress. You might think you're depressed or chronically cranky - it could be that you just need some more sleep. If you regularly sleep less than 7 hours a night, I can virtually guarantee it.

4) Spend time with friends or people who make you laugh.

I remember a day that I had some dental work done, and was feeling sore and grumpy. I didn't want to do anything but lie on the couch on mope. Then, I turned the TV on and came across a stand-up comedy show. I called my husband over to watch it with me, and within minutes we were screaming with laughter (my husband is hysterically silly by nature, as is my dog - love them both!). Lots of times, a moody "I don't want to do anything" state that feels like it has permanently set up shop in your brain is only that - a temporary state that can change in an instant with the right input or stimulation.

5) Put on some music that you love.

It's pretty hard to stay down when high energy music that you love is playing in the background. I can go from moping to chorus line kicks (or pathetic attempts at hip hop) in 5 seconds if the right song is on. Pay attention to the music, friends, TV shows and activities that give you energy and make you feel fun and alive, and use them as your secret weapons when you're feeling down.

6) Sit up straight.

I learned this one from Tony Robbins, years ago. When we're feeling blue, we tend to slouch and shuffle around looking mopey. Stand up straight, walk tall and with purpose, remember to breathe, and most of all, smile, even if you don't feel like it. You'll feel better.

7) Avoid alcohol - it's a depressant.

Booze will make you feel good for a moment, but eventually your mood will start to slide downwards. Worse yet, it affects the depth of your sleep, making you feel worse the next day even if you slept a full eight hours.

8) Get out in the sun

I know, I know - wrinkles, skin cancer etc. Still, some experts are saying that our increasing rates of depression are a result of the ever-increasing amount of time we spend inside and the fact that we usually have sunscreen on when we go out, blocking the ability of the sun to form mood-protecting Vitamin D via our skin. Our brains need daylight, and sunlight, to keep producing those feel-good neurotransmitters. When the sun comes out, go out for a walk - between the sunlight and the act of walking, it's a one-two power punch for a good mood! I also take a Vitamin D supplement.

If you do all of these things, I guarantee you that you'll feel better, and be far less likely to get knocked down by a bad mood. An important note, though: if you've been feeling down for a while, and particularly if you've been having suicidal thoughts, you need to go get help or at least an opinion from a professional, in addition to following these tips.

Now forget that funk - put that funky music on, and dance!



Susan Biali, M.D., researches health and happiness. She is also a professional flamenco dancer and author.


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