“No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” – Gabriel García Márquez
I don’t like the term happiness, as it has a black and white quality to it that doesn’t fit my needs. I much prefer to use “contentment” to get at the same thing. You choose what works best for you.
My contentment boils down to appreciating what I have and enjoying the “haves” vs. gaining more of the things that I “want.”
It’s not always easy to know what will make you feel “better.” This is especially true if you are facing chronic unhappiness. What follows here are some ways to help shift your mood when periods of dissatisfaction creep in. If you do have chronic issues, make sure that you are seeking appropriate medical care as needed.
1. Make sure your basic needs are met
Your mood is directly affected by factors like sleep and food. To give your brain the foundation it needs to feel happy, you need to be fed and well-rested.
If your mood is low, start with the basics
- How is sleep?
- What has nutrition been like recently?
- How much water are you consuming?
Many times, mood is affected by fatigue, hunger or thirst. In which case, you may feel better by eating, napping, or having a glass of water.
2. Get creative
When did you last take time out of your day to do something just for fun?
You can use art to express and process your emotions or as a fun hobby that simply brings you pleasure. Creative activities may even help soothe symptoms of depression. In addition, doing something creative can bring you a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem. Keep in mind that your creative output doesn’t have to be “good,” just satisfying for you.
3. Start a gratitude practice
Taking time to reflect on happy moments, good things that happened in your day, or people you appreciate in your life can be a welcome mood boost. One way to do this is to write down things for which you are grateful.
Researchers in a 2019 clinical trial of 1,337 participants found that writing a daily gratitude list for 14 days might increase positive emotions and boost feelings of satisfaction. Consider getting into the habit of reflecting on your gratitude – even for five minutes.
4. Try journaling
Journaling is a way to boost your mood using just pen and paper. According to a 2018 study, expressive writing can have both emotional and physical health benefits.
Journaling can help you process your emotions, express your feelings, and think through difficult situations. It can also promote self-awareness and allow you to express and work out what’s important to you.
5. Spend some time in nature
Spending time in nature can increase feelings of happiness and decrease stress.
Researchers in a 2022 study found that rates of depression and anxiety were higher during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with pre-pandemic times. But people who spent more time in green space had much lower anxiety and depression scores than those who spent less time in nature. While at least 120 minutes a week is recommended, even just a few minutes daily can help.
6. Get Vitamin D through supplements and/or sunshine
Sunlight is associated with a number of benefits, both mental and physical. It plays a role in regulating the circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to sleep and when to wake up and regulates moods. Vitamin D is produced through sunlight stimulation, however some people still don’t get enough from sunshine, so supplementation might be needed. Before you supplement, check your levels, which can be done with a simple blood test.
7. Listen to music that makes you happy
Listening to music can have stress-relieving effects. It doesn’t have to be upbeat, or any particular kind of music. Any music can help to shift your mood.
8. Move your body
Research shows over and over again that exercise can benefit your mental health. Physical activity can stimulate the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. It doesn’t even have to be formal “work-outs”, you might simply make it a goal to move more. Take your dog for a walk, do jumping jacks while you wait for the coffee to brew, dance to your favorite soundtrack. Find something that you enjoy to stay motivated to continue.
There’s a reason why meditation has such a positive reputation.
During a 2021 study conducted in Hong Kong, researchers found that people who practiced mindfulness were “more likely to notice positive life experiences and be grateful for them.” This included feeling joy when looking forward to things, remembering happy moments, and making the most of good times.
If you’ve tried meditation and found it challenging, you might find a different type of meditation to be more enjoyable or talk to someone who has a regular practice to gain some guidance.
10. Join a support group or like-minded community of people
Support groups can bring like-minded people together, whether online or in person. You can find support groups through searching on-line, through social media, or by asking a local church, community center, or even your doctor’s office.