A mood is an emotional state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, less intense, and less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event. Moods generally have either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people typically speak of being in a good mood or a bad mood.
Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits which are even longer lasting. Nevertheless, personality traits such as optimism and neuroticism predispose certain types of moods. Long term disturbances of mood such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder are considered mood disorders. Mood is an internal, subjective state but it often can be inferred from posture and other behaviors. “We can be sent into a mood by an unexpected event, from the happiness of seeing an old friend to the anger of discovering betrayal by a partner. We may also just fall into a mood.”
Research also shows that a person’s mood can influence how they process advertising.Further mood has been found to interact with gender to affect consumer processing of information.
We all get into bad moods—and, eventually, we snap out of them. The main reason we have trouble extracting ourselves from them more quickly is because we can’t shake a bad mood if we’re not aware of what’s causing it.
The next time you get into a funk, don’t just wait for the dark cloud to lift. There are steps you can take to improve your mood, and the first is to figure out what’s causing it.
Causes Of Mood Changings
Guilt. Feeling even mildly guilty can have a huge impact on our mood. Forgetting someone’s birthday can make you feel bad even if you apologize (but certainly if you don’t). The best way to resolve guilty feelings is to atone for your actions. If you still feel bad about the missed birthday, take a few minutes to send a cute and funny apology card, e-card, or small gift. They will appreciate the gesture and you will feel better as soon as you click send.
Small rejections. Rejections are an extremely common emotional injury, especially in the age of social media. When you post your vacation pictures on Facebook or Instagram and no one “Likes” them, it can sting. However, since you don’t know the circumstances, it’s important not to take things personally. People often check social media on the fly; while waiting for the elevator (or the doctor), stuck at a traffic light (or in a meeting), or while sitting on a bus (or on the can). If someone close hasn’t responded, you can assume they were too busy to do so, and send them a text or message asking them to take a look at your pics if you’re eager to share (or get the response you want).
Outstanding tasks. Our mental to-do lists can sit in the back of our mind, nag at us, and bring down our mood. But you don’t have to complete every outstanding task to improve your mood. Studies have found that just making a plan for tackling tasks is sufficient to eliminate the mental nagging and improve your mood. So decide when you’ll do the task, set a reminder on your phone or put up a post-it, and watch your mood lighten.
Brooding. Many of us can get stuck replaying upsetting scenes that occurred days, weeks, or even months ago. When an upsetting short film keeps playing in the back of your mind, use distraction techniques to reduce the intensity and frequency. Studies show that even a two-minute distraction (such as doing a crossword or playing Candy Crush or Sudoku) is sufficient to disrupt the distressing thought and restore your mood.
5. Having a low self esteem day. Like the proverbial bad hair day, sometimes we just wake up feeling bad about ourselves, for no apparent reason. Our self-esteem tends to fluctuate but it is also important to prop it up when it is low. Therefore, when your self-esteem is in a slump, do something to make you feel good about yourself. Work out and release some endorphins; wear something you feel good in; plan something you’ll look forward to doing; or call someone who truly appreciates you and makes you feel good about who you are.
6. Fearing failure. We can worry about an upcoming marathon, a presentation at work, or an important exam for days or even weeks beforehand. To get out of that fixation, focus on things that are within your control: Beefing up your road work, creating support among colleagues by being supportive and encouraging of their work (which will make them more likely to be supportive of yours), or making a detailed study schedule can help reduce fear of failure and the lousy moods that go with it.
7. Feeling disconnected. We can get so caught up in life we neglect our emotional and social needs and begin to feel disconnected from the people around us. To move past this feeling, give a loved one a call or take a break and play with your pet. Studies have also found that even brief social interactions with acquaintances can improve mood.
8. Getting caught up in small annoyances. As we go about our busy lives, small annoyances—incorrect charges on a phone bill, cable service on the fritz, the car stalling—can become exaggerated and ruin our mood. To restore it, get perspective and remind yourself of the big picture. Use the one year question: Is this something you will remember in a year? If not, it’s not worth getting annoyed about. To balance your mood further, do a quick gratitude exercise: Make a list of 5 things you’re grateful for that really matter—your kids are healthy, you have a good job, you have friends who care, etc.
9. Hunger. This one is pretty obvious but it’s amazing how often we forget to consider it. Being hungry impacts our mood far more than we tend to realize. If it’s been a while since you last ate…have a snack.
10. Exhaustion. This also falls in the obvious-but-often-neglected category. Children aren’t the only ones who get cranky when they’re tired. When we don’t get enough sleep it significantly impacts our thinking, creativity, and especially our general mood. If you can, take a 15-minute power nap. Even a brief nap can be sufficient to recharge your batteries and bump you out of the doldrums.
Ways to Boost Your Mood Naturally
Don’t blame yourself
This is the simplest and most important thing you can do to beat depression. The stigma of depression, plus feelings of guilt and inadequacy, can get in the way of recovery. Managing the symptoms of depression requires a practical, proactive approach—and patience with yourself.
Talk about it
It’s not easy, but telling people about your depression is better than keeping it a secret.
“Not everybody is going to understand and be supportive,” says Raskin. “If you have a broken arm, or back pain, or a headache, everybody can relate to those, for everyone has experienced them. Not so with mental illness.”
But even if they don’t entirely understand what you’re going through, friends, family, and other confidants can provide emotional support, help you seek out treatment options, and serve as sounding boards. “Don’t let yourself become isolated,” says Raskin. “To the degree that you can reach out, reach out.”
Get regular exercise
It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed, but going for a run or hitting the gym can actually make you feel better.
When done regularly, 30 minutes or more of vigorous exercise has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression. In one study, patients who worked out regularly on a treadmill or stationary bike for 12 weeks saw the severity of their symptoms reduced by nearly 50%.
Postpone major decisions
Depression can affect your perceptions and judgment, so it’s wise to put off big decisions about your relationships or career until you’re feeling better.
“One of the symptoms of depression is having a negative outlook on many things going on in your life,” says Raskin. “This alters your judgment on almost everything, and you might not be aware of it. So to the extent possible, important decisions should be delayed.”
If you absolutely must make a decision, don’t be impulsive. Before making the decision, Raskin suggests, consult people close to you whom you trust, such as your therapist, family, friends, or a clergy member.
Take care of your health
If you’re feeling depressed, it’s tempting to let your health slide. But failing to take care of your overall health can make depression symptoms worse.
The relationship between depression and health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease is a chicken-and-egg phenomenon. Research suggests that depression can exacerbate these conditions, but the opposite also appears to be true. People who experience diabetes-related complications are more likely to be depressed or instance, and there is also some evidence that the stresses of heart disease contribute to depression, especially following a heart attack.
Maintain a daily routine
Sticking to a regular routine as much as possible is important for people who are battling depression, according to Raskin.
“Whatever activities you decide to engage in, try to do them at the same time every day,” he says. “A routine—anything from jogging and shopping to doing the dishes—helps you avoid the stay-in-the-house-in-your-pajamas syndrome, which can make things worse; a routine demonstrates to you and to others that if you are capable of getting through the day, you are capable of recovery.”
Eat a healthy diet
What you eat affects your brain, not just your body, so if you’re feeling depressed it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein.
No food is a silver bullet for fighting depression, but some foods may affect your mood more than others. For example, carbohydrates and foods that contain vitamin D boost levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood (and the same one targeted by drugs such as Prozac).
And some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and fish-oil supplements, can help fight depression.
Avoid drugs and alcohol
Although it can be tempting to drink or use drugs, don’t do it.
Substance use and abuse can wreak havoc in people with depression. People who suffer from depression and anxiety often turn to alcohol and drugs to relieve their symptoms, but that strategy tends to be harmful in the long run.
Drinking and drug use affect brain chemistry, and they can cause problems in relationships, work, and other aspects of life. (They can also be dangerous when combined with some antidepressants.) Although the occasional glass of wine probably won’t hurt you, people with depression should limit their alcohol consumption, and, of course, say no to drugs.
Try to sleep well
Depression and a lack of sleep often go hand in hand. Sleep problems such as insomnia are common in depression, and for many people a lack of sleep depresses mood.
This isn’t true for everybody, however; though the effect tends to be short-lived, sleep deprivation actually boosts mood in some people with depression. It can also trigger mania in people with bipolar disorder.
Much remains unknown about the connection between depression and sleep, and everyone has different sleep needs, but experts recommend that depressed people get enough sleep and maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed is a common trigger for depression symptoms. If you’re struggling with depression, it’s important not to overschedule your time and take on more than you can manage. If you have complicated tasks to perform at work or at home, break them up into manageable pieces.
And remember: It’s OK to slow down a bit. “Maybe you can’t work at 100% capacity,” Raskin says. “Maybe you can work at only 75% capacity. Still, that’s an accomplishment.” But, he adds, “if you really can’t function, you have to be compassionate with yourself. You deserve a break; take a sick day, whatever you need.”
Foods That Boost Your Mood
Since the clocks fell back, and the sun started going down right after lunch, a lot of people have been complaining about SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s one of those conditions that comes with an acronym so perfect, you wonder if it’s even real. But doctors insist it is—and that it can even run in families.
SAD is a type of depression that sets in from fall to winter, and can make you feel like you’re trapped in the beginning of a Nicholas Sparks novel. The reduced level of sunlight we get after Daylight Savings Time creates a drop in the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin and an imbalance in melatonin, another brain chemical regulating sleep and mood.
1. Best Get-Happy Vegetable Swap
Red Bell Peppers
3 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0.1 g protein, 0.5 g sugar
Green Bell Pepper
3 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0.1 g protein, 0.4 g sugar
Why red? Aren’t all peppers the same? In fact, red bell peppers—which have been allowed to ripen on the vine and not picked when still green—have considerably higher nutrient scores than their underdeveloped brethren—more than double the vitamin C and up to 8 times as much vitamin A. In a recent survey of nutrient density, researchers at William Patterson University ranked red peppers as second only to leafy greens as the most potent of vegetables. The higher concentration of vitamins helps to not only improve your mood directly, but to also boost your immune system and lessen cold symptoms. Stir-fry or roast them if you’re not down with nibbling them raw to get the most of their vitamins and nutrients. (And find out why color also matters when choosing the (Best fruits for fat loss.)
2. Best Get-Happy Condiment Swap
0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 0 g sugar
90 calories, 10 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 0 g sugar
Swap omega-6-heavy mayo for omega-3-loaded mustard and get an instant mental health boost. While essential, omega-6s are also inflammatory, and are linked to obesity, diabetes and depression. Mayonnaise, made from grain and seed oils, provides a whopping 11,359 mg of omega-6 per ounce. The humble yellow mustard, on the other hand, is among the top dozen or so sources of omega-3 acids, with nearly half as much, ounce per ounce, as canned tuna. A 2013 study in theJournal of Nutrition found that higher levels of omega-3s relative to omega-6s were linked to lower risks of depression.
3. Best Get-Happy Snack Swap
142 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, .3 g sugar
Chex Mix Bold Party Blend
120 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 1.8 g sugar
Pumpkin seeds are like crunchy little nuggets of Prozac Helper. They’re one of the best food sources of an amino acid known as tryptophan, which helps the production of serotonin in your brain. Antidepressants help the brain to circulate serotonin, so if you’re taking them now, these little pumpkin pick-me-ups may make them even more effective. Spice them up and swap them in now for Chex Mix, which is made from wheat, corn, and vegetable oil, all of which are high in omega-6 fatty acids. A study found that those with the highest intake of omega-6 fatty acids have twice the risk of becoming depressed.
4. Best Get-Happy Candy Swap
Lindt 85% Cocoa Bar
230 calories, 18 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 5 g protein, 5 g sugar
One serving (4 squares)
Hershey’s Special Dark
190 calories, 12 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 21 g sugar
One serving (one bar)
Dark chocolate perks up your brain in four different ways; it boosts serotonin and endorphins, the feel-good hormones; it’s rich in B vitamins and magnesium, which are noted cognitive boosters; it contains small amounts of caffeine, which helps with short-term concentration; and it contains theobromine, a stimulant that delivers a different sort of buzz, minus the espresso shakes.
The catch: most treats labeled “dark chocolate” have had the healthy nutrients processed out of them. A product like Hershey’s Special Dark is made with alkalized, or “Dutch” chocolate, which destroys up to 75% of the healthy ingredients in the chocolate. Look for a bar that’s labeled “72% cacao” or above, even if the calorie count is a bit higher.
5. Best Get-Happy Drink Swap
2 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 0 g sugar
1 cup (8 oz)
0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 0 g sugar
1 cup (8 oz)
In summer, your body clock is like Dr. Dre—perfect beats. Once winter hits, the music gets all discombobulated. Your circadian rhythm is thrown off by the decrease of (natural) light, making it harder to sleep at night and to stay on top of your game during the day. Research shows that chamomile tea not only brings on better sleep, but actually improves your cognitive functioning during the day. Meanwhile, a study last year linked soft drinks to depression, particularly the diet variety—those who drank more than four cans a day were 30% more likely to have had depression, due partly to the artificial sweetener aspartame.
6. Best Get-Happy Juice Swap
R.W. Knudsen Just Blueberry Juice
100 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 18 g sugar
1 cup (8 oz)
V8 Splash Berry Blend
70 calories, 0g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g protein, 18g sugar
1 cup (8 oz)
Darkly-colored berries lead to weight loss, decreasing the formation of fat cells by up to 73%—that alone will improve your mood. But berries also carry heavy doses of vitamin C. Too little C—a possibility when you’re hunkering down on comfort foods and no longer enjoying a summer bounty of tomatoes, peppers and fruit salads—can lead to fatigue, depression, low motivation, and the general feeling that you’re sloshing around in wet snowboots 24/7. Avoid the imposter “juices”—V8 Splash is a pathetic 10 percent juice—and power up with R.W. Knudsen Just Blueberry.
7. Best Get-Happy Appetizer Swap
Outback Steakhouse Crab and Avocado Stack
547 calories, 31 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 17 g protein, 6 g sugar
Outback Steakhouse Bloomin’ Onion
1,959 calories, 161 g fat, 48 g saturated fat, 18 g protein, 28 g sugar
One platter of the Bloomin’ Onion has 113 grams of downer-inducing omega-6s. You could rename the appetizer the Wiltin’ Onion for its—no kidding—2 ½ shot glasses worth of vegetable oils. The Crab and Avocado Stack, on the other hand, provides mood-boosting omega-3s from the crab and cravings-crushing monounsaturated fats from the avocado. A study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward.
8. Best Get-Happy Salad Swap
Romaine salad with Vinaigrette
45 calories, 4.1 g fat, .6 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 1 g sugar
Traditional Romaine Ceasar salad
184 calories, 15.3 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 5g protein, 1.3 g sugar
Kale gets all the green-market glory, and everyone knows what spinach has done for Popeye, but humble Romaine lettuce tops them both in nutrient density, according to William Patterson University researchers. One of the main nutrients in Romaine and other leafy greens is the B vitamin folate. Recent Finnish research showed that low folate levels were found in depressed members of the population.
Unfortunately, proud Romaine is often downgraded to a veritable junk food when it’s paired up with commercial Caesar salad dressing, an oil-based bastardization of the traditional Italian recipe that’s one of the foods highest in depression-causing omega-6 acids. Lift your spirits by topping your salad with an olive oil vinaigrette, which boasts both heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and mood-boosting mustard seed.
Fortunately, Eat This, Not That! has uncovered a handful of food swaps that hack your brain’s chemicals and reset your mood from foul to fair. In fact, just making a handful of tweaks to your diet as the days grow shorter can put a spring in your step long before spring is in the air.
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