5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat

We all have moments/days when we are feeling flat, so it is good to have a tool kit of simple and easy ways you can boost your own mood when you are feeling this way. We have curated five science-backed ways you can boost your mood. 

1. Take some action

 take action

Most of us get a great sense of satisfaction from ticking an item off our to-do list and there is a scientific explanation for why this is and it is centred around dopamine.

 

Dopamine helps nerve cells to send messages to each other. It’s produced by a group of nerve cells in the middle of the brain and sends out messages to other parts of the brain.

Dopamine is responsible for allowing you to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. When you feel good that you have achieved something, it’s because you have a surge of dopamine in the brain. {source}

 

When we tick off tasks on our to-do list, this action releases small amounts of dopamine. It makes us feel better in the moment and it also provides motivation to do more – we want to experience that feel-good feeling again.

Find a small task that you have wanted to complete for a little while, it might be decluttering your wardrobe, replying to outstanding emails, starting the new jigsaw puzzle you bought with the kids. The task itself doesn’t matter as long as it is something you have had on your to-do list and you haven’t completed it yet and it is something that won’t take more than 15 minutes. Set a timer for 15 minutes – we can do just about anything for 15 minutes – and focus solely on this task. Don’t take a call, don’t switch over to Instagram or do anything else that will distract you from completing the task.

Once you have finished, tick that item of your list and notice how good that feels! It is quite likely that now you have started on your to-do list, you will want to tackle another task and get another dopamine hit!

2. Walk barefoot on the grass

5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat - walk barefoot on the grass

This may sound a bit “woo woo” but there is science to explain why this is beneficial to your health and can boost your mood. Walking on a natural surface like soil, grass, or sand is often called “Earthing” or “Grounding”. A recent study on the effects of grounding found:

 

As a group, therapists experienced significant increases in physical function and energy and significant decreases in fatigue, depressed mood, tiredness and pain while grounded as compared to not being grounded. At one-month following the study, physical function was also increased and depressed mood and fatigue were decreased.

 

Our modern lifestyle means we have much less direct contact with the earth. Reconnecting with the earth by walking barefoot outside transfers the earth’s electrons from the ground into the body and can have significant positive health benefits like:

  • Reducing chronic inflammation.
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving vitality
  • Decreasing stress in the body. 

So if you are feeling a little stressed and want to boost your mood, take off your shoes and walk for 20 minutes on the grass or soil and see how much better you will feel.

3. Eat mood-boosting foods

 tryptophan foods

Studies have found that low brain serotonin levels are associated with poor memory and depressed mood. There are a number of ways you can increase serotonin levels and the food we eat is one of them.

 

Serotonin is a chemical nerve cells produce. It sends signals between your nerve cells. Serotonin is found mostly in the digestive system, although it’s also in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system.

Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must enter your body through your diet and is commonly found in foods such as nuts, cheese, and red meat. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower serotonin levels. {source}

 

Therefore eating foods that contain tryptophan can help boost your mood. Some foods that are high in tryptophan are:

  • Seeds and nuts
  • Cheese
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fish
  • Uncooked oat bran and oats
  • Beans and lentils
  • Eggs
  • Spirulina
  • Whey
  • Cocoa powder
  • Peanut butter 

You can see a detailed list of exactly how much tryptophan is in each food per 100 grams in this post here.

4. Move in a way you enjoy

5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat - movement

You have probably heard of or experienced the “runner’s high” – it is that super feel good feeling you get after you have exercised in some way – it is isn’t limited to running!

Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which is why if we are feeling stressed and then we do some exercise we feel better. Exercise also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. And as I have noted above these brain chemicals play an important part in regulating mood.

Regular exercise in any form can have a beneficial affect on your mood. It doesn’t have to be an hour long high intensity exercise session to get results. Findings from a recent study, show frequency is the key:

 

The mechanisms underlying the antidepressant effects of exercise remain in debate; however, the efficacy of exercise in decreasing symptoms of depression has been well established. Data regarding the positive mood effects of exercise involvement, independent of fitness gains, suggest that the focus should be on frequency of exercise rather than duration or intensity until the behavior has been well established. The addition of self-monitoring techniques may increase awareness of the proximal benefits of exercise involvement, which is generally reinforcing to the patient. {Source}

 

If you don’t already have a regular exercise routine, start one. Start small and with something that you can achieve. This will have a double mood boost benefit of ticking something off your list and from the exercise! It might look like 3 x 30 min sessions a week to start off with.

And with the COVID-19 pandemic taking everything online, there are no excuses about not being able to make it to a class! Here are some online exercise resources that could work for you:

  • Yoga with Kassandra – I adore this yoga Youtube channel. She has plenty of beginner classes to do and lots and lots of classes 30 minutes or less.
  • PE with Joe – in the first lockdown the youngest and I did this together daily. Joe is no longer doing these live daily, but you can go through the archive and start at any point. These would be good if you want to get the kids moving too as Joe makes it enganging and fun. Most of the workouts are broken up into 2 x 10 minutes blocks with a 2 minute break. The 10 minute blocks are tabata style so you work for 30 secs then rest 30 secs. Great for all ages and beginners.
  • Couch to 5k – this is a great app you can download. It has a plan of 3 runs a week, with a day of rest in between, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks. It starts with a mix of running and walking to gradually build up your fitness and stamina, so is perfect if you have never been into running or are returning to running.

5. Limit alcohol intake

 reduce alcohol intake

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time and a study by ANU shows that Australians have increased their alcohol consumption during this time:

 

The study found almost one-in-four women who drank at all (22.8 per cent) reported an increase in drinking during May 2020. Almost one-in-five men (17.9 per cent) reported an increase in the same period.

“For males, a strong predictor for increased drinking was because of a loss of job or decline in working hours. For females, a strong predictor for increased drinking was having a child-caring role,” Professor Biddle said.

The main reason given for an increase in drinking, for both males and females, was spending more time at home. For 67.3 per cent of males, this was the reason their drinking increased, while 63.7 per cent of females reported the same.

“Increased stress was the second biggest driver for females, with 41.9 per cent of females saying this was the cause of their increased drinking,” Professor Biddle said.{source}

 

These stats aren't meant to cause guilt, but they are noted to highlight that this is something that is common in particular amongst Australian mums at the moment. The thing about alcohol is that it tricks us into feeling better initially but as alcohol starts to wear off we start feeling its negative effects.

Studies have found that the specific effects of alcohol depend not just on how much someone drinks, but also on whether blood alcohol content (BAC) is rising or falling. When a person’s blood alcohol level is rising, alcohol has a stimulant effect, but when it is falling it has a depressant effect.

As BAC ascends, drinkers report increases in elation, excitement, and extroversion, with simultaneous decreases in fatigue, restlessness, depression, and tension. Conversely, a descending BAC corresponds to a decrease in vigor and an increase in fatigue, relaxation, confusion, and depression. None of these impacts are positive to our mood.

Add to this that alcohol also severely decreases the quality of sleep we experience and it can even more negatively impact your mood. While you may fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a short time after drinking alcohol in the evening, overall it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the sleep we need to wake up in the morning and feel refreshed. I don’t know too many mums who feel happy after a poor night’s sleep.

If you feel your alcohol intake has quietly crept up on you during COVID-19 restrictions, take steps to reduce your alcohol so you can give your mood a long term boost.

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health care professional.