There is nothing worse than being caught in a bad mood, especially when it seemingly comes out of nowhere. It can be caused by one thing, one off comment, a snide look, or an empty coffee cup, and the negativity overwhelms us and throws us into a bad mood.
But now that you find yourself in one, it’s pointless to continue to stay there. Being in a bad mood is okay for a short time, but you don’t have to stay in a bad mood. It isn’t productive or conducive to you being happy and living your best life.
What Causes a Bad Mood?
Some psychologists believe a bad mood originates due to ego depletion. Researcher Roy Baumeister((Psychology Today: Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource?)) suggests when people use up their willpower to avoid temptation, they drain cognitive resources.
Think of yourself as having a stress-threshold. When you pass the line, you get in a bad mood, which might manifest itself as anger, irritability, or cynicism. All of these cause your blood pressure to fluctuate and increase your level of the stress hormone cortisol.
There are so many causes that can put us in a bad mood, and they are all completely personal to you and your situation. While the causes are varied, there are some common strategies that tend to help those who have fallen into a bad mood.
5 Ways to Get out of a Bad Mood
This list is more like a pick and choose for whichever one will work for you. Some will work for some bad moods, but keep in mind that if your bad mood is caused by a strong feeling you are having, you should face that feeling and deal with the situation. The most effective way to get out of a bad mood is to face your problems and resolve them.
Gratitude is the power to switch your mindset from lack and negativity to abundance and positivity((Harvard Health Publishing: Giving thanks can make you happier)). It is easy to get sucked into the a negative headspace with the society we live in, the media, and our culture.
However, by practicing gratitude you literally change the molecular structure of the brain. It keeps the gray matter functioning and makes you feel healthier and happier((Psychiatry: Gratitude and Well Being))
The power of gratitude is extensive and has been backed by scientists over and over again. By practicing gratitude, you activate your hypothalamus and the other parts of the brain’s reward pathways to improve your mood. Your brain is an incredible asset and can be used to generate positive or negative emotions, and it’s ultimately your choice.
Practice gratitude as a way to disperse your bad mood. You don’t have to start off big. Start small by appreciating the little things in life: the smell of coffee, the kindness of a stranger, the sound of your baby laughing. Gratitude can be just as addictive as a bad mood.
Now gratitude is a wonderful asset, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Sometimes you are just in such a bad mood that you can’t even get into that state to express gratitude. This is when you can try exercise. There is so much evidence backing exercise as a mood booster that it is overwhelming((American Psychological Association: The exercise effect)).
The most notable shift that exercise creates is the release of four notable chemicals into your brain: serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and norepinephrine((Cathe: 5 Brain-Boosting Chemicals Released During Exercise)). These chemicals are released into your body and are designed to make you feel happy; in fact, they are called the happiness chemicals! If you’ve gotten stuck in a bad mood, try an exercise class or go on a long walk or run. You’ll be surprised how much it helps!
Try these morning exercises to get your day started on a good note!
Next, let’s talk about a deeper way to deal with a bad mood: meditation. The world is extremely overwhelming, and sometimes exercise and gratitude just don’t cut it. Sometimes you just need to stop for a moment and breathe.
It is so easy to get caught up in those negative thoughts that are floating around your head, so take a moment to sit in them and face them.
When you are stressed or in a bad mood, your medial prefrontal cortex becomes hyperactive and you become depressed. Meditation has been found to change certain brain regions that are specifically linked with depression. Dr. John W. Denniger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, explains:
“Meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious.”((Harvard Health Publishing: How meditation helps with depression))
Meditation is another way to use your amazing body to work with you to help you boost your way out of a bad mood. It makes you stop and face those feelings and relax the tension that they are causing. There are even options to do specific mood-boosting guided meditations to help you if you are new to meditation.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out this guide to get started.
Meditation, gratitude and exercise are all well and good, but if you are exhausted, they won’t be much help. We are all just human beings, and at the end of the day, we live, breathe, eat, and get tired. When a bad mood comes, it may just be that you are tired and rundown.
Sometimes you just need to rest, something that is frowned upon in our culture. We live in a “get everything done now” kind of world, and if you rest, you are perceived as lazy, and it is draining and exhausting.
Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood((Sleep: Cumulative Sleepiness, Mood Disturbance, and Psychomotor Vigilance Performance Decrements During a Week of Sleep Restricted to 4-5 Hours Per Night))
Try resting, and I don’t just mean sleeping more or having a nap. I mean disconnect from your constant need to go, go, go and sit and take a day to do nothing and recharge. If you are feeling emotionally drained, you will struggle to lift a bad mood.
5. Connect With Your Support System
This one is incredibly important and often underrated. When we feel low, we feel disconnected and unvalued by those around us. Reaching out and talking out your bad mood to a trusted friend in your support network really helps you get out of a bad mood. It helps us to process our feelings, put them into perspective, and obtain advice and support.
A new brain imaging study by psychologists suggests that verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger, and pain less intense.((University of California: Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain))
When we talk about our feelings, they become less intense, and we can relax a little. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It isn’t always easy, but talking it can really help you move forward.
Sometimes it feels like we just keep all of this noise in our head, and it gets too loud and we just get overwhelmed. Spending time expressing how you feel in a safe space can be very therapeutic and mood-boosting when you receive support and reassurance.
Being in a bad mood sucks, but you are overall responsible for your mood and actions. Someone or something can trigger a bad mood, but you are in charge of how you feel and what you do moving forward.
You can choose to do these activities to boost your mood and take responsibility for how you feel, giving you back power and control over your mood.
Nothing lasts forever, not even a bad mood. Look to the future and gain some perspective. One day, you won’t even remember this moment.
More Tips on Curing a Bad Mood
9 Things to Remember When You’re Having a Bad Day
Had a Bad Day? 6 Ways to Rebound from It
How to Think Happy Thoughts and Train Your Brain to Be Happy