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January 22, 2021 • read
Nine ways to improve your mood
COVID-19 hasn’t only impacted our physical health — it’s caused lots of mental health challenges too. 50% of Canadians report a decline in their mental health since the pandemic began. People report feeling anxious about their health and money, and feeling lonely because of social distancing. While we wait for the pandemic to end, a mood-boosting routine helps greatly when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
We all know it feels good to laugh. The therapeutic benefits of laughter are well-documented, . Laughter has positive effects on our mental health and our immune systems. It decreases your production of stress hormones, like cortisol, epinephrine, and human growth hormone. The less stress hormones your body is producing, the more relaxed you feel.
Looking for ways to laugh? Watch some funny cat videos, or a stand-up comedy special. Or, you could phone call a funny friend to shoot the breeze.
Exercise helps increase the production of serotonin in your body, leaving you feeling mentally lighter. Serotonin is a hormone that plays a major role in regulating your mood. It enhances your feelings of wellbeing and helps regulate your sleeping and eating patterns. Both of these play an important role in maintaining happy, stable moods.
Take a relaxing walk or do an at-home workout routine to get the benefits of a serotonin boost.
3. Deep breathing
Have you ever noticed the way you’re breathing when you feel stressed out? Chances are your breaths are quick and shallow. It’s common for people who are anxious to breathe this way. Short breaths are a signal to your body that it’s time to panic. This can result in muscle tension, lightheadedness, and developing a rapid heartbeat.
You can ease all those physical reactions by practicing deep breathing from your diaphragm. Slow breaths tell your mind and body there’s no danger, helping you relax.
4. Practice gratitude
People who express their gratitude are often happier than people who don’t. Practicing gratitude can be done in different ways. You might choose to tell someone you appreciate something they did for you, or quietly reflect on all the good things in your life. Regularly showing gratitude has been linked to improved mood, healthier eating habits, and lower stress.
When it feels like everything is going wrong, try writing a list of all the things you’re grateful for. A reminder of positive things in your life can help shift your focus away from things that are stressful.
5. Get dressed up
It’s easy to stay in your pyjamas all day when you’re working from home. However, getting dressed as if you were heading to the office is good for clearing your mind. It’s called a boundary-crossing task, marking the end of your morning routine and the beginning of your focused workday.
Even if you have no meetings, try getting dressed in the morning. Rituals like brushing your hair or choosing an outfit that makes you feel good are small acts of self-care.
6. Head outdoors
Getting out into nature has lots of health benefits. A practice called forest bathing reduces production of cortisol, a hormone your body produces in high amounts when you’re stressed out. It’s the simple practice of walking through the woods without any set destination. Try not to look at your phone while you explore. Distractions will prevent you from fully experiencing the calming effect of being outside.
The next time you need a break, make a trip to a local forest trail. City dwellers can head to the nearest urban park to be among the trees.
Napping is a great way to hit the reset button on a stressful day. Benefits of napping include:
- Less fatigue
- Improved mood
- Improved emotional regulation
To ensure napping won’t prevent you from sleeping soundly at night, keep your naps under 30 minutes and avoid napping after 3pm.
Plan a 15 minute nap break into your workday for a week. It might just help you sleep off some stress.
8. Eat mood-boosting foods
It feels good to eat junk food in a stressful moment, but doing so inevitably leads to a crash. Foods like candy and chips are high in carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar. This feels like a temporary high in your mood. However, once the sugar rush is over, you might feel worse than before. That’s because your blood sugar levels eventually crash, causing anxiety and irritability.
Foods that help regulate your blood sugar are great for keeping your mood on an even keel. Dark chocolate, almonds, salmon, and avocado are all foods that can help you keep your blood sugar and emotions stable.
9. Get therapy
Talking to a therapist will truly help you feel better long-term, not just in the moment. Regular therapy sessions are a useful addition to any mental health routine. The more you explore the reasons you’re feeling down, the more you’ll discover about yourself. You’ll gain healthy coping skills for processing the sources of your stress.
With a little creativity, it’s possible to beat the blues. Oftentimes we can effectively boost our own moods with simple but powerful techniques. Being compassionate towards ourselves and being mindful of our whole-body health is key.
If you’re finding it tough to cope, our doctors can help. Get connected over your phone, tablet or computer any time you need support.