14 Ways to Break a Bad Mood

Everyone gets grumpy from time to time.

You know it when you experience it: a bad mood. But what exactly is it? “A ‘bad mood’ is a temporary emotional state that feels distressing or negative,” says Cortland Dahl, chief contemplative officer for Healthy Minds Innovations and a research scientist for the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A bad mood isn’t always a bad thing.

“Different people can mean different things when they say they’re in a ‘bad mood,'” adds Jay Fournier, director of the mood and anxiety program and co-director of the division of cognition and emotion at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “But the common thread is that these moods typically refer to some kind of negative emotional state.”

What causes bad moods?

“These temporary emotional states can be caused by a range of factors, from what we eat and how we sleep, to challenging experiences that we encounter in daily life, including the endless barrage of negative information that we take in through social media and the 24/7 news cycle,” Dahl explains.

You don’t have to stay stuck in a bad mood.

While bad moods are common, you don’t have to stay stuck in them long term. There are plenty of ways to shake it off and get into a more positive mental space.

1. Observe your feelings.

“There are a number of strategies that can help you improve your mood,” Fournier says. But the first step should be “noticing what you’re experiencing and asking yourself a few questions to try to figure out what might be contributing to the negative mood.”

2. Write it down.

In trying to work through a bad mood, especially initially, it can be helpful to write down thoughts or feelings.

3. Take a moment for mindfulness.

Dahl says practicing “a few moments of mindful awareness” can make a difference. He recommends “pausing for a few moments throughout the day and bringing awareness to the feelings of breathing. We can also practice active meditations while we’re doing other things like intentionally noticing things we appreciate when we are surrounded with other people.”

4. Practice gratitude.

When you’re feeling rotten, “find a comfortable place and notice the world around you as if you are a blind person seeing for the first time,” Goulston says. “Or listen to sounds around you as if you’re a deaf person hearing for the first time and allow yourself to feel the wonder of each.”

5. Harness the power of breathing.

“Bad moods, like stress, tend to affect our breathing and cause us to hold our breath,” Goulston says. “Replace this with box breathing, which is taking slow, deep and full breaths.”

6. Seek positive information.

“Another powerful way to shift out of a bad mood is to intentionally take in positive information,” Dahl says. “In other words, we can let go of doom scrolling and seek out uplifting stories and positive messages.”

7. Go for a walk.

Sometimes, just getting moving can go a long way toward dispelling a bad mood. “Many people find that exercise can help a great deal, even walking and getting some fresh air can help,” Fournier says.

8. Reach for a grounding item.

Goulston says that reaching for “an amulet to help anchor you” may help dispel a bad mood. “Select something that reminds you of something positive in your life. I wear a bracelet that says, #WMYST, which stands for What Made You Smile Today?” He says he also asks at least one person every day that same question. “Brightening someone else’s day can do wonders for helping a bad mood.”

9. Help someone else.

Helping others can be a powerful antidote to a bad mood, Fournier says. Though acting opposite to your feelings might seem unwieldy when you’re in the midst of a bad mood, “engaging in a small act of kindness or compassion towards someone can help to lift a negative mood.”

10. Visualize talking it through with a loved one.

When you’re feeling low, sometimes it can help to think of a loved one or someone who believes in you talking through what’s upsetting you with them in your mind. It doesn’t matter whether the person is living or dead, what matters is their love and support.

11. Reach out to a friend.

If visualizing talking it through doesn’t work, it might be time to reach out to a loved one for support.

12. Be patient with yourself.

Fournier notes that “it’s important to try to have some patience with yourself and remind yourself that these moods won’t last forever. You might ask yourself when you ate last and whether you’re getting enough sleep. You might also ask if there are any things that you typically enjoy doing but simply haven’t done or been able to do in a while.”

13. Contact a mental health professional.

There are loads of local and national resources for mental health available online, Goulston says. Among these is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

14. Create resources for next time.

“I’d encourage everyone to think about things that have helped them break out of negative moods in the past,” Fournier says. “It can be helpful to write those down and keep the list handy. It’s often easier to refer back to a written list of options when we’re in a negative mood than to try to come up with different strategies on the spot.”

Why you should try to abolish a bad mood.

Dahl says that while “negative thought patterns are both common and normal, especially given how much negative information we take in every day,” it’s worthwhile to take steps to move them along. That’s because “if these negative thought patterns become a habit, they can put us at risk for depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.”

When to seek help for a bad mood.

If you find that you’re frequently in a bad mood, and these moods are becoming disruptive to your everyday life, it might be time to talk to someone because there may be more than just a “bad mood” at play.

Take that first step.

“When we get stuck in a bad mood, the hardest thing can often be taking the first step,” Dahl says. “With that in mind, it can be helpful to start small and focus on doing something simple.”

Know that bad moods are normal.

Lastly, Goulston notes that “just because you don’t think you can get through this, doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t. And, by the way, you’re not sick, abnormal or bad for being in this mood.”

14 ways to break a bad mood:

Observe your feelings. Write it down. Take a moment for mindfulness. Practice gratitude. Harness the power of breathing. Seek positive information. Go for a walk. Reach for a grounding item. Help someone else. Visualize talking it through with a loved one. Reach out to a friend. Be patient with yourself. Contact a mental health professional. Create resources for next time.

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14 Ways to Break a Bad Mood originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 04/07/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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