Between too-early mornings, heavy traffic, annoying office mates, a heavy workload and other office stressors, and a whole bunch of mishaps that can occur in and around those things, it’s very easy to fall into a general level of grouchiness. But that only serves to darken your day (most emotional thunderclouds are self-brewing, after all), and may even affect the people around you, whether or not they’re the reason for your scowls. Plus, frankly, living life with a constant case of the grumps will wear you down, make little annoyances seem like huge frustrations, and may even cost you the relationships you value most.
So why not make the effort to turn that frown upside down? Now, we understand that there are just some days when that’s way easier said than done. But on your average kind of day, you might just find it’s exactly just as easily said as done! So here are a few ways you can ramp up your mood meter with near-instant results.
1. Fake it ’til you make it: give us a smile!
Studies have shown that adopting negative expressions like frowns can have negative effects on your mood. And when you go the other way and adopt a more positive expression, this can lift your mood too. So smile at people, and not just a tight-lipped close-mouthed smile, either. Let your smile spread across your face so you feel it around your eyes. Sure, at first you might be thinking it feels awkward and fake, but make a habit of it, and you might just find it’s suddenly not something you have to “fake” anymore.
2. Turn on your happiness jam.
You probably have songs that instantly make you want to bop your head to the music and maybe shake your booty a little—or even a lot!—no matter what mood you’re in. Keep these on-hand in your music player, phone, tablet, whatever, and play them to yourself whenever you feel that grouchiness taking over. Plus points if they’re upbeat and you can sing along, but even if you’re at work, why not make like you’re a contestant on Lip Synch Battle? As long as you’re not in the middle of the meeting, people probably won’t notice. You might be surprised that three minutes of Tay-tay or Katy are enough to lift your spirits. Music therapy is actually a thing, guys! Our recommendations include Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Sara Bareilles’ “Brave,” Pharell’s “Happy,” One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” and just about any song on our girl power anthem playlist!
3. Have a happy snack.
And no, we’re not just talking about indulgence food here. A bad mood does not equal free rein to eat everything unhealthy that happens to be in sight (or on the shelf of the nearest convenience store). Munch on foods that offer boosts in your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate our moods. It’s thought that a deficit in serotonin can be a contributing factor for depression. Boost your seratonin levels with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts and salmon. Carbs help too, but instead of going for oil-drenched fries or salt-packed chips, try for some light popcorn (i.e., hold the butter and reduce the salt!) or carby fruits like bananas instead.
4. Walk (or dance) off that bad mood.
As the unforgettable Elle Woods put it in Legally Blond, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” And to paraphrase, happy people are less likely to murder their bosses/boyfriends/whatever. So get some exercise. On your break, instead of heading out for a smoke or that designer cup of java, why not take a brisk walk around the block? Or maybe go up and down a couple of flights of stairs. If you can, do a few jumping jacks or dance to that happy jam we were talking about. And if you have lots of time, go ahead and hit the gym, have a session of yoga, go for a jog—anything to get your blood pumping and those endorphins going.
5. Keep a happiness talisman on hand.
No, we’re not saying you should go to your local fortune teller and have an anting-anting made up to make you happier. But happy moods are boosted by happy thoughts, and happy thoughts are inspired by happy memories. So try and carry around a memento of a happy time in your life or just anything that fills you with joy and gratitude and love. That could be a key chain from your latest adventure trip, a token your boyfriend gave you for your anniversary, a photo of your kids—something you can take out, look at, and touch when you’re feeling down to remind you that there are still reasons to smile in your life. There’s a reason why teddy bears exist, and that’s to give tactile comfort to someone in need. While you can get a fuzzy bear, something smaller may be more practical for day-to-day use.
6. Drink water.
Wait, what? Yeah, that was our reaction too when we learned about this easy-peasy mood booster! A study recently found that when you go from a low intake of water to a high one (from about four or five glasses to eight or 10 or more), you tend to be less fatigued and sleepy, plus your mental faculties work better and you are more able to stay calm in stressful situations. When you go from drinking a lot of water to too little, the reverse happens: you get tired and cranky and stressed out. So, yes, drink water. Hydration isn’t just healthy—it’s happy too!
7. Go out into the sunshine.
Dread heading out when the sun is shining because of the possibility of sun burn and skin damage? Well think of all the good a few minutes basking in the heat of the sun can do for your mood. Sunlight boosts serotonin in the body, so if you’ve been spending too much time indoors (especially if you’re a night owl), take a few minutes each morning to get your dose of vitamin D!
8. Dial a friend.
When you need it and when you can, get a hug from a loved one. But that’s not convenient when you’re at work or in the middle of a commute, so why not cast out a helpline and text or call a friend, family member, or your significant other and tell them that you’re in need of cheering up. You’ll be surprised at the lengths they’ll go to to bring a smile on your face, even over the phone where they can’t see it happen.
Got a few happiness tips we haven’t listed? We’re sure there’s a world of other suggestions out there, and we’d love to hear yours, so do leave a comment.
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Liana Smith Bautista is an article writer, web content manager, manuscript copy editor, and blogger—and she thinks it's awesome that she earns her living marketing on her love for the written word.