Some days it seems like everything is going wrong. On these days the world looks gray, bleak and barren.
Other days, maybe everything is going right. But you’re still miserable.
You don’t always have to understand why you’re in a bad mood in order to change it. These seven strategies can help.
1. Get outside.
Being in nature can help to lift your mood and even lull your nervous system. For instance, this 2010 study found that “forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”
So when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, try visiting a park or body of water, suggests Darlene Mininni, Ph.D, MPH, author of The Emotional Toolkit. Or bring nature indoors by surrounding yourself with plants and flowers, getting a water fountain for your desk or getting a fish tank.
2. Listen to music.
“Get out your absolute favorite grouchy, wallowy music and relish in tunes that match your mood for as long as it feels good,” suggests Ashley Eder, LPC, a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO. Then when you start feeling better, adjust your music to fit your brighter feelings, she said.
The opposite can also help. According to Mininni, if you’re upset, try listening to uplifting music. If you’re anxious or worried about something, try listening to soothing music, she said.
This study found that listening to classical music for just 10 minutes minimized participants’ negative moods. Other research found that listening to music lowered blood pressure, heart rate and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (This study found these effects in 54 nurses who listened to soothing music for 30 minutes.)
Combining calming tunes with slow breathing also might help. This research found that participants with high blood pressure who listened to 30 minutes of classic, Celtic or Indian music while performing breathing exercises had significantly lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.
3. Embody your bad mood.
“Ask your bad mood how it wants to move and honor its impulses in safe — but sometimes messy — ways like smashing eggs, breaking old dishes, ripping up paper, or punching pillows,” Eder said.
4. Tune into your murky mood.
“Try getting quiet and asking the cranky part of yourself what it’s upset about,” said Eder. In other words, instead of fighting with your feelings, figure out what you need.
Let your mood be your messenger, she said. “Sometimes just honoring the impulse to have some alone-time, get more sleep, ask for help with something, or take space in a relationship is what you need to feel more at peace,” Eder said.
5. Assume control.
People who feel like they have some control over their lives are happier than people who feel powerless, Mininni said. If there’s a particular situation that’s bothering you, identify the elements you can control, she said. For instance, if your partner is sick, learn more about their condition, she said. But even the smallest things count. Sometimes the only thing you might be able to control is your wakeup time, and that’s important, too, she said.
6. Engage in activities that honor your natural temperament.
If you’re an introvert, Eder suggested carving out alone time. If you’re an extrovert, she suggested talking to a friend or being anywhere with people like a coffee shop. A bit of both? “Schedule a time-limited activity with a person who consistently feels nourishing, followed by uninterrupted downtime,” she said.
7. Ride out your bad mood.
Some days no matter the tactics you try, you still feel bad. If that’s the case, “Acknowledge it, befriend it, and wait,” Eder said. “Give yourself permission to make yourself comfortable, whether that means watching old episodes of Gossip Girl, playing Angry Birds, or by taking a nap,” she said.
Remember that “It’s OK to have a bad day, and it’ll pass,” Eder said.
Check out Mininni’s podcast, where she reveals 10 ways to get out of a bad mood.