Medically reviewed on March 8, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
When mood is low, even the simplest tasks can feel overwhelming. But regardless of what’s affecting mood—work, relationships, the general state of the world—you don’t have to accept feeling down forever.
Will taking steps to improve low mood sometimes feel like a challenge? Yes, they could. But in learning about actions that can improve mental and emotional well-being, you’re already making progress toward feeling better.
Fortunately, learning how to improve mood is easier than it sounds—and chances are, you’ll enjoy the other ways these tips can brighten up your life.
Keeping the body nourished can do a lot for mood. If the body is missing the nutrients it needs, the chances of feeling tired, irritable, grumpy, and depressed may increase . In fact, science tells us that some specific vitamins are especially important for mood, including:
You can talk with a healthcare provider—and consider taking an at-home health test (like the Folic Acid Test) to discover what your body’s vitamin levels are like. In general, however, choosing nourishing foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can help you maintain a healthy body and a happy mindset.
One study also found that eating a Mediterranean diet can help decrease depression and improve mental health . This diet includes foods such as:
- Fish and other seafood
- Beans and legumes
- Leafy greens and vegetables
- Olive oil
Among the study’s participants, those who stuck to this diet were 42% less likely to develop depression.
It’s probably not news to you that the body needs sleep to function. However, getting enough high-quality sleep can also improve mood. Let’s take a look at one study that tracked participants’ sleep quality and their mood the following day. Among those who slept well, the study found significant improvements in mood compared to those who slept poorly .
If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep or are waking up often during the night, there are steps to take to improve sleep quality.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends :
- Keeping a regular bedtime
- Waking up at the same time each day
- Reducing your screen time before bed
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before bed
- Exercising each day
Did you know that something as simple as water could affect mood? In fact, research has shown that being dehydrated can cause you to feel fatigued, have low energy, and have difficulty concentrating—all factors that can affect overall mental and emotional well-being .
In one study, people who normally drank low amounts of water, about 1 liter daily, were told to increase their water intake to about 2.5 liters each day. They discovered that the increased water intake significantly boosted participants’ moods.
Try keeping a bottle of water with you wherever you go and sipping on it throughout the day.
Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment—something that can, admittedly, be difficult when you’re feeling down. Yet, a study of the effects of mindfulness on mood showed that mindfulness is a mood-enhancing practice. Researchers found that participants who practiced mindfulness for 13 minutes a day over the course of eight weeks experienced a decrease in negative mood, as well as lower levels of anxiety and fatigue .
If you’re worried about not having experience with mindfulness or meditation, there is nothing to fear. The study focused mainly on those who were inexperienced with mindfulness, meaning that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy a mindful mood boost.
You can find plenty of mindfulness apps and guided meditations online. The NIH also recommends several small ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life . These include:
- Taking a few minutes each day to breathe deeply, counting to five as you inhale and again as you exhale.
- Going for a walk and paying attention to how the scenery affects your senses, focusing on what’s around you.
- Eating mindfully by taking your time to savor the textures, flavors, and aromas of food.
When mood is low, you might find it difficult to get moving. However, science has shown us that one of the benefits of physical activity and regular exercise is that it can help with numerous parts of mental health, including :
- Raising self-esteem
- Improving mood
- Reducing anxiety
- Lowering depression
The good news is that you don’t have to be a long-distance runner to benefit from physical activity. According to the same study, there are plenty of types of physical activity that can boost mood, such as:
We all know that plants need plenty of sun to survive. As it turns out, sunshine is also important to mood and mental health for humans. In fact, some researchers believe sunlight stimulates the brain’s production of serotonin, a chemical important in stabilizing mood and regulating emotions .
If you need an excuse to get outside, try taking a daily walk around the neighborhood, going for a bike ride, planting some flowers, or simply take a chair out to sunbathe with a good book.
In rough times, you might find it challenging to focus on the positive. However, the NIH notes that taking time to reflect on the good things in life can improve your mood and emotional well-being .
Try setting aside some time each day to think about or write down a few things you’re grateful for. Some examples are:
- The companionship of friends or family
- A good meal or cup of coffee you recently enjoyed
- A successful day at work
If this sounds too good to be true, stay with us. Multiple studies have shown that gratitude is connected to feelings of optimism and positivity and can impact your overall well-being .
There are plenty of studies that show music can improve mood. One review of studies focused on research in which participants listened to music and then recorded their moods . The researchers found improvements in several areas, including:
- Reduced anxiety
- Better mental well-being
- Improved sense of purpose
- Lower levels of depression
If you prefer a certain genre of music over another, you’ll be glad to know the studies showed improvements across a wide range of genres, including pop, rock, choral, and classical music. However, if you’re feeling stressed, you should note that one study found that classical music is the most relaxing choice.
Try listening to music while getting ready in the morning, while taking a break at work, or while in the car. If you enjoy singing along, that’s even better—several of the studies found that singing is a mood enhancer, too.
Reaching out to friends and family when you’re not feeling your best isn’t always easy. But according to the NIH, strengthening social connections can help improve your emotional wellness .
Try inviting a friend to participate in one of your mood-boosting activities. If you’re in need of more support outside of people you already know, try learning something new or adopting a hobby in a group setting, such as:
- Volunteering for a local animal shelter, library, nature preserve, or for a social cause
- Taking a class on something creative, like ceramics, painting, or crocheting
- Joining a hiking or nature walking group
- Attending lectures, workshops, and performances at a local community center or university
If you don’t already have a strong support system, talking to others about how you feel can seem intimidating. However, by participating in mood-boosting activities with others, you can accomplish two goals at once—improving mood and building a support system.
Exercising, sleeping well, and nourishing the body with good foods are all factors that can improve both mood and physical health. Sometimes however, there are health factors largely out of our control—such as the body’s balance of hormones and chemicals—that can also affect one’s mood.
Improving your mood can take practice, but doing so can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Even if it seems like a slow process at first, don’t give up. Being consistent with these steps can go a long way toward improving overall health and happiness.
Having access to the right tools and knowledge is also important for improving mood. Everlywell offers at-home tests that make health awareness easy—even when you don’t feel like leaving the house. Plus, with options like the Men’s Health Test and Women’s Health Test, you can learn about key hormones that can influence mood, potentially enabling you to take action sooner with your healthcare provider.
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