In this article, I’m going to show you some quick techniques for putting yourself in a good mood quickly.
As a psychologist, these are the techniques I use with my clients every day to help them improve their moods. They’re also the ones I personally use when I need a quick mood boost.
Let’s jump right in!
1. Stop snoozing.
You know the feeling: It’s 6:00 AM, your obnoxious alarm is going off, and all you want is another 15 minutes of sleep before you have to get out of bed.
So you do what most of us do—hit snooze, roll over, and fall back asleep for another 10 minutes ‘till your alarm goes off again. At which point, you probably repeat the cycle at least once or twice more.
Here’s the problem:
While spending an extra 20 minutes or half-hour in bed feels good physically, it’s a set up for feeling bad emotionally.
Snoozing is breaking a promise with yourself. When you set that alarm for 6:00 AM, you were committing to getting up then. By snoozing, you broke the commitment, which means your self-esteem is going to take a hit. Not a great way to start your day off—breaking promises and ignoring commitments to yourself.
On the other hand, when you actually get out of bed when your alarm goes off, you’re giving yourself a hit of mood-boosting self-efficacy—you’re proving to yourself that you’re the kind of person who does what they say they will. And that feels good!
Snoozing feels good physically, but it saps your self-esteem. Start your day with confidence by getting out of bed when you say you will and you set yourself up for a good mood all day.
2. Get a (very) quick morning workout in.
At some point or another, most of us dream of being that guy or girl who wakes up religiously at 5:00 AM and goes for a run before the rest of the world is even awake.
If you’re the kind of person who can actually make this happen (I’m certainly not!) more power to you. But for the rest of us, it’s still possible to get the mood-boosting effects of morning exercise without going to that level of extreme.
Spending even a small amount of time and effort each morning in physical exercise will do wonders for your mood.
There are two main reasons for this:
- Even a little morning exercise shakes off grogginess and sleepiness. It’s normal to feel groggy in the mornings (which often goes along with a little bit of crankiness). Often, just a little exercise can completely eliminate your morning grogginess and get your engine going.
- Morning exercise builds self-esteem. Exercise is a powerful way to get yourself into a good mood because it gives you a sense of accomplishment and healthy pride in yourself.
But here’s the really good news:
You don’t have to do a major morning exercise to get the mood benefits—even a tiny amount of exercise first thing in the morning can really improve your mood.
Try to commit to one of the following tiny morning exercises every day for a couple of weeks:
- Do as many pushups as you can in 3 minutes.
- Go for a brisk 10-minute walk around your neighborhood.
- Alternate pushups and sit-ups for 2 minutes.
- Do a couple sets of lunges.
- Try a wall sit.
Better yet, pick a few quick exercises and mix and match them on different days of the week.
Exercising first thing in the morning improves your mood by boosting self-esteem and confidence. And even a small amount of exercise can give you a healthy mood boost.
3. Ask your barista how their day is going.
Human beings are social creatures. We’re wired for connection and relationship. Even the most extreme introverts still crave and benefit from good relationships and positive social interaction.
Which is why we can all leverage our biology to improve our mood by creating small moments of positive social interaction throughout our days. And often, all it takes is a quick smile or a few kind words of banter about the weather or the local sports team.
Of course, we’re all so busy with so many big important things to do each day that it’s easy to miss these simple opportunities for quality social interaction. Which is a little bit tragic, since we deprive both ourselves and other people of the simple pleasure and joy of connecting with each other.
So, the next time you’re in line at Starbucks waiting for your coffee, put down your phone and look up:
- Ask the guy in front of you what he thinks of the new furniture layout.
- Smile compassionately at the new mom trying to wrangle three young kids out the door and into the minivan.
- Ask your barista how her day is going with genuine interest.
Of course, harnessing the power of small positive social interactions to get yourself in a better mood isn’t confined to your local coffee shop. You can do it with the clerk at the grocery store, your secretary or assistant at the office, your bank teller, the telemarketer on the phone, or the homeless guy on your evening commute.
We humans are social to our core. You can leverage this fact of biology to improve your mood by taking a little time to make a small positive connection with another human being throughout your day.
4. Do a walking lunch.
We talked earlier about the mood-boosting benefits of exercise in the mornings, but they’re just as good during the day. Which means injecting your day with a little bit of physical activity is a quick and easy way to get into a good mood.
But there’s one form of mid-day physical activity that I’ve found especially helpful: The walking lunch.
Most of us spend the majority of our working days sitting at a desk inside an office filled with things and people reminding us of work we need to do— often stressful, mood-deflating work.
In other words, our work environment is full of cues for stress: a reminder about that uncomfortable email you have to send to your direct report, walking by your boss’s office, even just hearing your phone ring for the twelfth time in an hour. All these little cues add up and can take a toll on your mood.
But you can give yourself a major break from all these negative cues and allow your mood to rise by taking your lunch to go and going for a walk for 15 or 30 minutes. Not only does it get you moving, but you get exposed to all sorts of novel, non-work related environmental cues which can positively impact your mood.
Sometimes low mood is simply the result of too much time in a stressful environment. If you can break out of that environment, even briefly, your mood will lift as a result.
5. Take a mindful music break.
One of the best ways to boost your mood is to relax—to temporarily unplug from the stress of daily life and throw your whole mind and body into something you enjoy simply for its own sake.
And one of the best ways to relax is to become more mindful of the present moment rather than darting back and forth between future worries and past mistakes.
Thankfully, you don’t need scented candles, new-age mantras, or yoga pants to be become more mindful—to find a sense of inner calm and peace of mind throughout your days.
What if I told you that you could become more mindful—more aware of the present moment instead of worried about the future or ruminating on the past—simply by spending a few minutes every afternoon listening to your favorite music?
I call this strategy, the mindful music break, and it goes like this:
- Take a 15-minute break. Close your office door, tell the kids to go play outside, or do whatever it is you need to do to get a little quiet space.
- Cue up two or three of your favorite songs on your phone or computer. Any music will work as long as you love it—classical, heavy metal, emo, polka, whatever.
- Put on some nice headphones. Any headphones will do, but this exercise is dramatically more effective with nice headphones. So if you don’t own any yet, consider investing in some high-quality headphones.
- Close your eyes and start the music. Just sit there with your eyes closed and let the music wash over you.
- Hold your attention on the sound of the music. The idea is simply to enjoy the sound of your favorite songs. If you find your attention wandering to that upcoming meeting or what you need to pick up at the grocery store, gently shift your focus back to the sound of the songs.
If you can carve out 10 minutes a day to deliberately relax with some mindful music, you’ll be shocked at how much it can reduce your stress and quite possibly shift you into a good mood.
Single-tasking is the ultimate form of relaxation. If you want to feel genuinely relaxed and calm, give your mind break and do just one thing… like listening to good music.
6. Text someone you love for no reason
We tend to feel better when we get outside our own heads and do something for others. But being kind and generous to other people doesn’t have to be a monumental act of charity and self-sacrifice. It can be quite small and still meaningful.
- Make a list of 5-10 people whom you love and care about.
- Set a recurring daily reminder on your phone for any time you like.
- When the reminder goes off each day, take 30 seconds and text the first person on your list. Could be anything from a heartfelt message of love or admiration to a silly gif.
- Work your way down the list, texting a new person on the list each day.
Random acts of kindness are a great way to improve not only the quality of your relationships but also your own mood and emotional life.
In 30 seconds, with almost zero effort, you can improve your mood and make someone else’s day.
Often the best way to feel better is to get out of your own head. And putting something nice into someone else’ head is a great way to do it.
7. Jot down tomorrow’s top 3
Chronic worry and anxiety is a common source of low mood. And while there are many reasons why we worry, there’s one big one that almost no one thinks about: Worry is a memory aid.
See, when your mind doesn’t trust that you’ll remember things, it throws those thoughts into your mind as a way to keep them ‘online’—like when you can’t write down a phone number and have to say it over and over again in your head in order to remember it.
If you want your mind to stop resorting to worry as a memory aid, you need to convince your mind that you’ve got a consistent and reliable method for remembering and doing important things.
While there are countless organizational and task management systems out there, my favorite is a very simple but very powerful technique I call Tomorrow’s Top 3.
Tomorrow’s top 3 is a little habit for staying focused on and taking care of the most important things—and as a result, drastically cutting down on the amount of worry-as-memory-aid your mind needs to perform. It goes like this:
- At the end of your workday, set aside 5 minutes after you’ve finished up work but before you leave.
- Take out an index card or sticky note and put it front and center on your desk, workspace, or wherever you begin your workday.
- Next, write down the three most important things you’d like to get done the following day.
Not only will you start your next day knowing exactly what the most important things to work on are (which is a great way to outsmart procrastination, btw), but you’ll go into your evening with fewer worries. And fewer worries means a lighter, better mood.
Worry is often your mind’s way of making sure you don’t forget important things. If you want to stop worrying, prove to your mind that you can be trusted to manage your own to-dos.
8. Do a quiet commute
If you ever struggle to leave the stress of work at work instead of bringing it home with you, this one’s for you.
Bad moods are especially common in the evenings because we’re usually exhausted after a long day. And when we’re exhausted, our ability to regulate our emotions well is compromised.
But on top of pure fatigue, it’s hard to maintain a good mood in the evenings because more often than we’d like, we carry the stress of the day and work home with us.
One of the best ways to avoid having work stress spill over into your evenings at home is to create more of a transition between work and home.
In order to transition into a more restful evening mode, it can be helpful to have a period of time in between when you give your mind a break.
Commutes to and from work are natural transitions, but more often than not we keep our minds revved up listening to talk radio or podcasts or on phone calls. But, if you commit to silence on your way home from work, you can give your mind a much needed period of rest and respite from the constant barrage of mental stimuli it gets all day.
While it often feels strange at first to sit in silence for 30 or more minutes driving home from work, many people find that it quickly becomes a source or genuine calm and restoration that helps them go into their evenings with more peace of mind and a better mood.
Give yourself the luxury of a genuine transition between work and home. Talk radio can wait.
9. Cut the news and read a story
I’m always a little bewildered when people tell me about how stressed and irritable they often feel in the evenings, and in almost the same breath, explain that they typically watch an hour or two of the news each evening…
Why wouldn’t you be stressed irritable and generally in a bad mood!
The news is full of terrible, tragic, and outrage-inducing stories. It only makes sense that we’d feel stressed, anxious, irritable, and generally find ourselves in less than a good mood after even just a little dose of your average cable news program.
A simple way to improve your mood in the evenings is to drastically cut down your news consumption and replace it with something that fills your spirit rather than drains it. And fiction is often a very good alternative.
So, try a little experiment: For the next week or two, don’t watch any news in the evenings, and instead, dust off a couple of your favorite novels and read them instead.
If you want to be overwhelmed with tragedy, anger, and despair over the state of the world, by all means, keep watching the news in the evening. Or you could read something uplifting instead.
10. Do an evening review
An evening review means you take a few minutes to pause and reflect on your day. This can take whatever form you like—journaling, meditation, prayer, etc.
But a simple version of it that I like has two brief steps:
- As you look back on your day, identify one thing you could do 1% better tomorrow. For example: Be 1% more patient with my kids before bed; be 1% more friendly with my annoying coworker; increase my workout time by 1%. I like the 1% rule because it’s small enough to seem doable but, when compounded over years, small bits of 1% improvement add up to major changes.
- Identify one thing you’re grateful for. For example: Your manager’s kind words about your presentation to the team; the beautiful weather where you live; that fact that you’re healthy enough to still play tennis at 75. Quick tip: when it comes to gratitude, the more specific the better!
Getting into the habit of a brief evening review can be a powerful yet easy way to improve your mood at the end of the day because it puts things in perspective: Yes, some things went not so great today, but there’s plenty of room for improvement tomorrow and there are still a lot of wonderful things in my life that I’m grateful for.
And besides the immediate good mood benefits, an evening review has other knock-on benefits like calming your mind before sleep.
Reviewing your day gives your perspective on your day. And when we have perspective on our days, we have perspective on our lives.
Cultivating the habits of good mood
Of course, we can’t always be in a good mood. Bad moods strike, often for perfectly valid reasons. And it would be a mistake to insist on always feeling upbeat and in a good mood. Still…
Most of us have more control over our moods than we think.
While you can’t simply turn up the happiness dial or crank down the sadness lever, you can build-in small mood-boosting habits throughout your day. Consequently, you’ll increase your odds of being in a good mood and improve your ability to manage and shake off bad moods.
So pick out one or two of these techniques and try them out. Of course, customize them to fit the specifics of your life and circumstance. But commit to making them a habit, and I think you’ll find some small but meaningful improvements to your mood will follow.