“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat- Zinn
Sometime after having my second child, I fell into an emotional well-being hole. I felt tired, resentful and found little enjoyment in life. For a time, I dealt with this by drinking more coffee and complaining a lot. This is probably not what you were expecting a qualified clinical psychologist to say, but it’s the truth.
When I look back at this time in my life, what I notice is that I had stopped doing the things I’d had in place which had previously helped me to maintain good emotional wellbeing. It’s easy to fall out of practicing wellness habits after major life events. Taking the first step to either start or get back into wellness habits is all it takes to get your mood and your life back on track again.
How to Lift Your Mood and Live Life to The Full
Below are my top ten tips to help you improve your mood.
1. Plan to do something pleasant or enjoyable in each day. These things can be small and inexpensive such as taking a bath, going for a walk in nature, exercising, having coffee with a friend.
2. Separate low mood or depression from who you are as a person. It is not your identity. Find a label for it “the depression” or “the disappointment” and when you notice those feelings create some distance by labelling them rather than swallowing it up whole.
3. Aim to complete tasks or master something. Congratulate yourself for completing tasks or mastering something that is difficult. Tick off a list of things you have done, your brain will reward you.
4. Exercise daily or at least 3 times a week. Exercise produces “feel good” endorphins and helps release dopamine. 7 minutes a day has been shown to be beneficial over the long term for depressive symptoms.
5. Work on improving your sleep routine. People who sleep well have better mood and less anxiety. It is worth investing some time in behavioural solutions to sleep rather than taking a quick fix of medication.
6. Get out in the sun. Sun exposure helps our bodies to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D in turn helps produce dopamine and serotonin (chemicals in the brain that promote stable mood) and promotes regular and restful sleep. Getting safe sun exposure (15-20mins per day and 2-3 hours per week in winter) is the best way to produce Vitamin D. Supplements are also available.
7. Mindfulness exercises help develop your ability to notice and observe your feelings and thoughts. We can learn to be less reactive to thoughts and feelings, which gives us more choice to respond. Mindfulness calms our brain and is related to positive changes in brain structures. When we are fully present life is often calmer and less stressful.
8. Be kind to yourself rather than self-critical wherever possible eg. “even though I am struggling with my work, I know that I usually do a good job”
9. Practise gratitude. Gratitude focuses the mind positively and helps support brain chemistry associated with better mood and less stress. Write down three things each day that you are grateful for.
10. Focus on your values. Values reflect how you would ideally choose to live and what matters to you such as being creative, adventuring, learning, being spiritual and being healthy. Living life according to your values can help you can increase your sense of meaning and purpose and help give you a sense of direction and get you through hard times or activities that aren’t rewarding in the moment but necessary.
“Make yourself so happy so that when others look at you they become happy too”― Yogi Bhajan
All of these tips help improve mood. My three favorite activities are planning pleasant things, exercise and mindfulness practice.
What are your favorites? If you’ve stopped practicing wellness habits or maybe you’ve never made the time for wellness habits, start today and keep going, one step at a time. You’re worth it.