mental health Mandy Kloppers

Simple ways to improve your mood instantly

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Your body and mind are inextricably linked. Your thoughts affect your physical body and the physical state of your body affects your mind. Without conscious awareness, the brain makes representations or associations that often shape our thoughts or actions. There are a few simple tricks that can instantly improve your mood. Often, simplicity is the best method. Every day there are so many detractors from staying happy and stress-free. I notice things like greed, poverty, injustice, war (etc) and it easily ruins my mood. That is why it is a good idea to check in with yourself regularly throughout the day.

If you rate your mood 6 or lower out of 10, try one of these mental health tips to boost your mood. When you are happy your quality of life improves and you will be more effective and healthier.

1.Improve your posture

Posture affects our brains immediately. Research carried out by Shweta Nair et al. concluded: Adopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and improve your mood compared to a slumped posture. Furthermore, sitting upright increases the rate of speech and reduces self-focus. Your body posture affects your emotions so sitting or standing upright instead of slouching can boost your mood. Shoulders back, make eye contact and you will feel even better and improve your confidence. It may seem simple but researchers have unanimously found this to be true.

This philosophy, known as embodied cognition, is the idea that the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also triggers our mind.

Your brain has an area that reflects confidence and it comes from just standing up straight … these things go both ways just like happiness leads to smiling, but also smiling leads to happiness.”

Try this pose for instant confidence and to improve your mood:

wonder woman pose

 

2. Smile

Put a pencil between your teeth and you’ll trick your brain into feeling happier. A pencil between your teeth forces a smile and this, in turn, fires off chemicals and lights up neural pathways in your brain signalling that you are happy. It doesn’t matter how that has been achieved – the same result will ensue. Go get that pencil!!

pencil between teeth

Psychologist, Daniel Kahneman asked attendees at the 2013 World Economic Forum in Davos to do the pencil smile experiment. Those who held the pencil horizontally forcing a smiling expression reported higher levels of happiness than those who held the pencil vertically forcing a frowning expression.

3.Think like an optimist

Optimism and pessimism – expecting a positive or negative future – are distinct modes of thinking. Our survival and wellness require a balance between optimism and pessimism. Some people, more than others, have a consistent tendency to think, feel and behave, regarding most aspects of their lives, in a way that is unbalanced and inclined toward one of the extremes on the optimism-pessimism continuum; we call them optimists and pessimists. Undue pessimism makes life miserable; however, excessive optimism can lead to dangerously risky behaviours. Neurophysiology research suggests that optimism and pessimism are associated with the two cerebral hemispheres.

Left hemisphere (LH): Associated with high self-esteem, a cheerful attitude and a positive filter on life.

Right hemisphere (RH): Associated with a gloomy outlook, low self-esteem and a lack of hope for the future. An emphasis is placed on what isn’t right and it’s emphasis is exaggerated. The RH is biologically designed to handle potential threats

Whether you are a pessimist or an optimist is based on what you focus on. Do you notice happy stories or do you consistently focus on what makes you mad and sad? Do you feel you have choices in life (optimist style) or do you feel helpless and fed up most of the time (pessimistic stance)? Repetition of the ways you think, whether they are empowering or disempowering will become more automatic over time. Finally, how do you interpret personal events? Do you believe that good things happen because you deserve them or is it just down to luck? Conversely, an optimist has what I call ‘mental buffers’ to protect their mood. For example – they will see a bad thing as bad luck, a one-off, whereas a pessimist will use this to reinforce how bad they are or how awful their lives are. We can all feel downtrodden at times but if the negativity persists, force yourself to focus on things that make you happy. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, watch funny films etc Your ‘mental diet’ is crucial in your quest for contentment so be aware of what you focus on.

Optimists view themselves as active agents, feel that they are the masters of their destinies (i.e. internal locus-of-control), and trust their ability to influence their environment as well as social relationships. Those who believe that events in their lives are controlled by outside forces (i.e. external locus-of-control) see themselves as relatively passive agents and are more pessimistic.

Optimistic and pessimistic attitudes can also be induced by manipulating the brain through body movement.  Participants were given a task requiring them to turn their heads and eyes rightward or leftward. Both groups estimated the likelihood of several specific positive and negative events happening to them and to other people in the near future. The results indicated that those who adopted the pose enhanced neural activation in certain areas in the left hemisphere had a greater optimism bias.

pessimism vs optimism

Studies that investigated the correlation between optimism and health suggest that optimists generally have better physical health , less cardiovascular diseases and improved immunological functioning. Furthermore, optimists and their romantic partners indicated greater satisfaction in their relationships.

Start a gratitude diary

When you focus on what is good in your life, and it could be as simple as getting a lie-in or a sunny day, you instantly improve your mood. You will also strengthen those ways of thinking in your brain if you write in your gratitude journal EVERY day.

Give yourself credit for a job well done and show yourself compassion for the mistakes you have made. You wouldn’t be human if you had never made a mistake so give yourself a break. Did you know that self-criticism activates your threat response? Yep – your nervous system doesn’t like it when you are hard on yourself.

Instead of : I am useless, try this: I may not get everything right but I am not useless as I have done many useful things in my life too. I am human like everyone else. Mistakes help me learn.

A far better way of talking to yourself. Yeah !!!

4.Try mindfulness to get ‘out of your head’

Our brains trick us into believing all sorts of catastrophes are about to befall us. Remember though, that thoughts aren’t facts – just because you think them doesn’t mean they are facts or that they are accurate. We view the world through a personal filter laced with our fears and insecurities. If the thoughts are ‘sticky’ and won’t leave you alone, try mindfulness. First take long and slow deep breaths to turn of your threat response (this is when your nervous system detects threat of some kind (and there are often false alarms – like catastrophizing thoughts) and then focus on what’s around you. Be in the moment rather than buying in to your intrusive thoughts. What can you see? What can you hear? That is real, the thoughts in your head aren’t necessarily going to happen – they are mere possibilities. Learn to acknowledge the thoughts and then focus back on the world around you.

Positive imagery

We all have overactive brains and learning to manage this is a great way to feel more content. When you are mindful, focus on nature or what’s in the room around you. Turn off the news and fill your mind with soothing images. You can even create/visualise a safe place to go to – mine is a bench on a deserted beach. I can hear the waves crashing and there are humming birds around me…aaaaaah.

Change your focus to something more uplifting and you will feel an instant mood boost.

5.Have a quick jig

Stand up and dance for a few minutes. Dance and music are powerful ways to improve your mood. Try it and see for yourself! Dancing can improve your mood while you learn, move, and perform. In fact, many people take dance classes because they put them in a good mood. Ease depression and anxiety. Dance is an effective type of exercise that raises your heart rate and works your muscles.

6. Connect socially

This can be tough if you feel anxious around others or have social anxiety but it is a fool-proof way to feel connected with others. Researcher William Fleeson and his colleagues tracked a group of people, every three hours for two weeks, recording how they’d been acting and feeling during each chunk of time. They found that those who’d acted “talkative” and “assertive”—even if they were introverts—were more likely to report feeling positive emotions such as excitement and enthusiasm.

Even a meaningful conversation with someone can be a mood booster and with today’s online society, connecting with a like-minded individual inline can do the trick.

Summary:

Moving your body can change your brain chemistry and induce immediate feelings of contentment. Monitor what you focus on regularly – is it helpful and inspiring or does it make you feel worse about yourself, your life or the world? If it’s unhelpful, make a change by including happy activities – that could be a hobby that gets you in the ‘flow zone’ where time passes magically or watch a comedy, exercise, listen to happy music or do whatever it is that inspires you. (I love spending time with animals or being in nature).

Finally, make an effort to connect with others. We are naturally social creatures and feeling connected to someone else raises our levels of the feel-good hormone Oxytocin.

If none of the above work or you can barely bring yourself to get out of bed or brush your teeth, you might need a little more help to get you going. Consider therapy to help uncover what is holding you back. It might just be the start of many happy days to follow!

Mandy X

 

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

 

 

Sources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25222091/#:~:text=Conclusions%3A%20Adopting%20an%20upright%20seated,speech%20and%20reduces%20self%2Dfocus.

https://www.fastcompany.com/3041438/how-smiling-changes-your-brain

https://www.melissahughes.rocks/post/put-a-pencil-in-your-mouth-seriously#:~:text=Psychologist%2C%20Daniel%20Kahneman%20asked%20attendees,vertically%20forcing%20a%20frowning%20expression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3807005/

Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.

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