Fast Mood Fixes.
Updated: Jul 10, 2019
Things to try when you are feeling low.
If we have a tendency to depression or mood swings it can be alarming to find ourselves suddenly plummeting into the kind of miserable space that keeps us wanting to stay in bed with the covers pulled over our head. I believe that for many of us it's possible to prevent full blown mental health crises by paying attention and getting to know the enemy, so to speak.
It's far easier to shift course before we are completely overwhelmed, than to climb back out of an especially deep pit once we've fallen in to it. It does take commitment and practice to get really good at mood management but I believe that self observation is key here. If you find yourself beginning to feel a familiar sense of flatness, lack of interest and enjoyment in day to day activities, tearfulness and a cycle of negative thoughts about yourself then it's time to take action.
*Please note, that if you have suffered a recent bereavement, a life changing situation such as illness, job loss or the end of a relationship then there are clear reasons for feeling the way that you do and you will need time and possibly extra support to help you through. The ideas that I'm writing about here may still be helpful in these kinds of situations, but getting extra support from your doctor or signing up for some counselling are probably a good idea.
Try any or all of these methods of reversing the downward direction.
Remind yourself that much of the time it's our thoughts about what is happening rather than the actual facts of our situation that cause the problem. I particularly like Byron Katie's approach to changing the way we think. She teaches that we can turn things around by a process of investigation and asking ourselves just 4 questions. So for example, if you find yourself repeatedly having thoughts along the line of, 'I'm a hopeless failure, and I'll never succeed at anything.' Ask yourself these four questions.
1. Is it true?
2. Can I absolutely know for sure that this is true?
3. How does thinking that thought make me feel and act?
4. How would I feel/act if I didn't have that thought/belief?
Sometimes just considering these questions can be enough to interrupt a cycle of repetitive and damaging negative thinking because it helps us see the difference between reality and our thoughts about reality. If you'd like to read further you can find more information here on Katie's books and programme she calls The Work.
Change the self talk
Constantly beating ourselves up does nothing to alleviate pain, in fact it just reinforces our feelings of sadness and powerlessness. Begin to notice the many ways in which you are hard on yourself and get good at catching the thoughts. Ask yourself if you would talk to a small child in such a harsh way. If there was a small child in front of you who was upset and having a hard time, what do you think he would need? What would you do for that child? Now imagine that you are that child. Can you think of a kinder way to talk to that small hurting part of yourself? What do you need right now? What would help you feel better? Do one kind thing for yourself right now.
Get moving. Raising our heart rate and metabolism is an almost instant mood lifter; even though it takes effort the results are well worth it. Even if you have to drag yourself out while clinging to the sofa for dear life, put your shoes on and leave the house. Walk as fast as you can - even if you can only manage 10 minutes - you will notice a shift. Try and do this every day, increasing to longer walks of up to 30 minutes if you are able. Anything that gets you breathing a little harder and makes you feel warm is doing the job.
Warm up.There's been an interesting study published recently which confirmed something I'd already discovered for myself. Raising our body temperature lifts mood and reduces depression. A 30 minute hot bath taken in the afternoon, and then wrapping up and staying warm for a further 20 minutes or so has been shown to reset our circadian rhythms - leading to better sleep, and also increases serotonin production which will improve mood. The study, published by The New Scientist and quoted in the Guardian demonstrated that hot baths are as effective as exercise in improving depression.
Let there be light!I have already written about the benefits of bright light therapy for seasonal affective disorder. Getting outdoors in the morning on a sunny day will have a positive effect on mood. If it's cold and rainy and the sun is too weak to be of benefit, then consider buying a specially designed mood light which you can set up beside your lap top and use for 30 minutes each day while you sit and read your email.
Talk to someone. One of the worst aspects of depression is the way it makes us isolate ourselves from other people. Tell somebody that you trust how you are feeling. Asking for a bit of help or support does not make us weak or a burden. Humans are social animals and not designed to live in isolation. We need meaningful contact with one another, and often when we tell someone else that we are having a hard time, the chances are we will discover that others have also struggled and that far from being thought of as weird or inadequate, we are in fact completely normal.
A good friend can provide positive feedback, social interaction and general support at anytime. A doctor can help you with diagnosis, signposting to appropriate professional services and medication if necessary. A counsellor can provide a protected space for you over a period of weeks or months to help you explore why you are feeling the way you do and what you need to feel better
Do something for someone else. I hate to say this, but depression makes us very self centred. This self focus is NOT because we are mean and uncaring people, but simply because we often feel cut off inside ourselves with only our own negative and repetitive thoughts for company. When we do a small, kind act for someone else it not only brightens their day, but shifts our focus away from our negative feelings about ourselves and brings more meaning and purpose to our lives. It means we have power to create positive change and being appreciated is of course, a bonus. Read more here.
Consider supplements. Some health supplements can be as effective as prescribed antidepressants for improving mood . St John's Wort, Rhodiola Rosea and vitamin D3 have all been proven to have a positive effect on mood. If you are interested in further reading and research on the subject of mental health and supplements, there is a wealth of information on the website of Dr Peter Smith - Balancing Brain Chemistry.
Know that nothing stays the same. Life is about continuous change and just because we are feeling low one day doesn't follow that we will be feeling the same tomorrow or next week. When we are feeling sad there is a tendency to catastrophise and tell ourselves that we will always feel terrible. One bad day does not have to mean a downward spiral into full blown, debilitating depression. Moods come and go; they fluctuate like the weather. Make an effort to remember all of the really good days you've had. It sounds like a cliche but; this too shall pass. Meanwhile, acknowledge how you are feeling and know that you are allowed to feel the way you do. Treat yourself with kindness and patience and move towards what brings you joy and away from the things, people and situations that bring you down.