After celebrating the holidays, having weeks off from school, and an abundance of the gloriousness that is spare time, the first few weeks back to the grind can be unusually tough. Not to mention the chilly winter air may leave you feeling that the only option for the day is to stay snuggled under the covers. If you wake up tired, feeling sluggish, or maybe just in a bad mood, stop yourself from spending the day procrastinating in bed or lounging on the couch. There is hope for those bad days!
Dr. David Leibow, a member of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of When College Is Not the Best Time of Your Life, suggests that the first step to fixing a down mood, is figuring out the cause.
“Try to figure out when the ‘blah’ mood began and see if you can remember what was going on, or what you were thinking about, when your mood dipped,” Leibow said. “Very often it will be something you’ve recognized to be a trigger in the past.”
Leibow explains that there are two kinds of triggers: major, and minor. A minor trigger could be something such as having binged on junk food or gained some weight. A moderate trigger might be having had a fight with your mother or boyfriend or been snubbed by a friend. A major trigger might be having procrastinated too long doing your school work or failing to turn in an assignment.
“Once you’ve identified the trigger, you’re in a better position to improve your low mood,” Leibow said.
Whatever the cause of your down mood, here are 5 ways to get back on the bright side.
1. Do 20 Jumping Jacks
We’ve had the importance of being active drilled into our heads, and for good reason. Elle Woods in Legally Blonde gave us the explanation for it: “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy.” She’s right. According to a study by Dr. Kenneth Fox, an Exercise and Health Science professor at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, exercise can reduce anxiety and improve physical self-perceptions and self-esteem. From the findings of the study, Fox even suggests that exercise be used as a way to treat depression and anxiety.
So whether you’re clicking through the channels on TV, or your friends’ month-old Facebook pictures that you’ve looked at a thousand times, get up! Take a quick walk, or hit the gym, even if it’s only for 15 -20 min. If you’re crunched on time, or aren’t up for a real sweat, try doing a few jumping jacks, anything to get your heart pumping. Check out this article on tips for getting to the gym more often. Not only will for feel better after exercising, you’ll also have done something healthy for your body! How’s that for making you happy?
2. Whip Up Some Eggs
It may seem crazy, but eating certain foods can actually put you in a better mood. A few of those foods include: milk, caffeine, eggs, cinnamon, and fish. To read more about these foods and why they work, read this article on 5 foods to boost your mood this winter. Now you just have to decide: fried or scrambled?
3. Think Happy Thoughts:
Remember how thinking happy thoughts helped Peter Pan fly? It can work for you too. Well, kind of. According to a study by Shelley Taylor, of the University of California, and Jonathon Brown, of Southern Methodist University, positive thoughts are tied to happiness. The study found that people with high self-esteem, self-confidence, and who believe the future will bring them happiness, are more likely to be happy than people who think otherwise.
Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project says sometimes even pretending she’s cheerful eventually makes her feel that way. “Feelings follow actions,” she says.
Instead of dwelling on your sluggish mood, think about what you like about yourself, what you’re proud of, what you’ve accomplished, and what you’re looking forward to that week, or even that year. Try jotting it down in a quick list, and posting it above your desk. Who knew you were your own best mood-booster?
4. Call Your BFF
Spending time alone can certainly be a relief from a long day, but on an afternoon when you’re feeling particularly down, spending time with your friends may be just what the doctor ordered. According to a study in the Journal of Happiness Studies, being alone had the lowest levels of happiness, while being with a friend had the highest. Any social activity, either active or passive had above average ratings.
If you’re sitting alone in your apartment, or dorm room, and feeling gloomy, head to a friend’s place, or invite a few friends over. Even if you’re all just sitting on the couch chatting, you’ll most likely feel happier during their visit, and after they leave, than before. Invite friends over to make dinner or go to the gym with you (two mood-boosters in one!). If you’re swamped with work, call over someone from your class and study together.
5. Put on Chris Brown
You know that feeling you get when your new favorite song comes up on shuffle or the radio? Well, it can work the same magic on a down mood. According to a study in The Journal of Marketing, music can be a powerful stimulus for mood. The study says, “music acts on the nervous system like a key on a lock, activating brain processes with corresponding emotional reactions.” Disregarding lyrics, and other elements to a song, fast music was tied to happier feelings than slower music. Songs in higher keys also related to feelings of happiness.
Turning up the volume on an upbeat song like Chris Brown’s “Love More” or Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” to brighten your mood? What a way to pass the time.
Try testing out a few of these tips next time you’re feeling sluggish and see if you don’t end the day with a smile on your face.
Want more inspiration? Here are some collegiettes’ favorite ways to boost their mood:
- “The Royal Tenenbaums is my mood savior. I could be bawling my eyes out but if I lay down and pop in that movie it’s like putting a baby in a vibrating chair: I’m instantly calmed.” – Rebekah Meiser, Ohio University
- “I make something sweet! I’m currently snowed in and I’m planning on making hot chocolate or blueberry muffins later today.” – Hannah Orenstein, NYU
- “I go buy myself a new magazine and curl up in my bed and read it. That’s a great way for me to shut out the world and escape for a while!” – Valentina Palladino, Syracuse University
- “I like to read a good book. Good books make everything better!” – Danai Kadzere, Harvard University
- “I wash and blow dry my hair, put on makeup and a fierce outfit (heels, of course), and leave my house to do nothing in particular. I pound the sidewalks like a supermodel and instantly I feel better. It always helps to have something to focus on instead of whatever’s keeping me down!” – Elyssa Goodman, Carnegie Mellon University
- “I blast the music and jam out. It’s a cure that never fails!” – Kaitlyn Schnell, University of Wisconsin – Madison
- “I love putting on a face mask when I feel down or tired. It’s an inexpensive and easy way to pamper myself, always wakes me up, and nothing makes me feel prettier than having clear, luminous skin!” – Nikki Fig, Emerson College
- “I like to either wear really cute underwear or a fuzzy pair of socks—or both!” – Stephanie Kaplan, Co-Founder, CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus
- “ I love to just soak in a warm bubble bath! Not only is it refreshing, it is very relaxing and soothing.” – Jaimee Swift, Temple University
- “Once I get out of class on a sad, depressed day, I listen to “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross on my iPod REALLY loud.” – Evangeline Spracklin, University of Washington
- “I text my friends! Sounds simple but hearing about my friend’s day which could be better than mine usually perks me up!” – Kristie Demers, North Carolina State University
- “I do aromatherapy with things that are lavender-scented. I’ll watch re-runs of Gilmore Girls. Maybe have a glass of wine. I’ll pamper myself with a pedicure or do other things to beautify myself that I may have been neglecting.” – Ally Karsyn, Dordt College
- “Nothing helps me feel more put together than painting my nails. There’s just something about a fresh coat that gives me that extra polish and confidence. Plus, there’s so many colors to choose from, and that makes it a lot of fun.” – Sarah Ramirez, Fordham University
What’s your own never-fail way to boost your mood? Leave a comment!