Keeping your mood and wellness levels elevated is really important during this pandemic. Your mood and wellness levels have a direct impact on how well your body is working, on your immune system, heart health, and mental health.
I’m going to show you 21 of the best mood-boosting techniques to help you protect yourself and your loved ones this winter.
1. Look at happy faces
This one might seem a bit unusual at first but there is research that shows when we purposefully look at photos or videos of smiling people for 5–10 minutes a day it leads to lower levels of depression and higher levels of happiness.
This works due to the fact that we naturally mirror each other as humans. When someone we see is sad then we start to feel sad and when someone is happy and smiling we naturally feel like smiling too.
I first started using this technique 6 years ago and can personally testify that this has worked for me and others who have tried it. Getting yourself to look at photos or videos of people smiling definitely elevates mood both in the short term and the long term.
I suggest you keep a collection of smiling faces photos/videos either of strangers or of people you love such as family or friends. That way you can look at the photos/videos at a set time each day and it makes it easier to turn into a consistent practice.
Some people find photos of smiling strangers to be easier to practice with as then there’s no risk of memories or arguments impacting your practice. If you’ve had an argument with your best friend and their photo is in your smiling faces practice it’s going to impact it. So personally I’d suggest using photos of friendly strangers; people whose smiles make you feel happy to look at but who won’t impact your emotions negatively as they have no personal connection to you.
2. Routine & Planning
Having a routine keeps you doing the things that are good for you each day even when you don’t feel like it. Having a set time to do things every day stops you from procrastinating and feeling bad because you didn’t do the things you needed to do.
It also keeps you doing all the things that are good for you on this list like exercise and cooking healthy meals.
I suggest using either a calendar, diary, or tasks app to keep a daily schedule. Using notifications too if you’d find that helpful to keep your day running to plan.
There is an enormous amount of scientific research linking the food you eat to happiness and wellbeing levels.
Eating a healthy balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and wholegrains has been shown to improve wellbeing and also prevent illnesses.
Some specific foods that have been shown to boost mood include: Dark chocolate, bananas, oatmeal, berries, nuts, seeds, and fermented foods.
I highly recommend that you learn as much as you can about nutrition as it’s a key part of our wellbeing and can make the difference between you being happy and successful, or sad and ill.
When you’re creating often you enter what psychologists call the “flow” state. This flow state is intrinsically good for you and your mood as when you are in it time tends to feel like it’s flying, you forget your worries and fears and are in the present moment, and it also tends to be a state where you feel at your best: you get lots of creative work done that afterwards you feel good about.
This comes with finding a creative medium that you find rewarding and fun. It might be writing, it might be woodwork, it might be sewing, it might be dancing. Whatever it is that you enjoy to express yourself and create will naturally help you to enter the flow state; increasing your happiness and productivity level exponentially.
5. Social Connection
We’re social animals and we need each other to balance each other’s moods. In our modern world (especially more so in the west) there’s too much of a focus on individualism. The fact is that you can do all of the self-care activities you want during the day but if you have no social connections your mood and wellbeing can be very low.
Other people are a vital part of our wellbeing. They help us to process our emotions, they teach us things, they help us in our life tasks, and they add the joy of humour and happiness to our lives. Without others how many times a day would you laugh just by being on your own? The answer is way way less than when with another person.
People have a negativity bias, all of us naturally do. We evolved to react to the bad way quicker than the good as it meant the difference between life and death. If Billy caveman or Rachel cavewoman didn’t expect the sabre-toothed tigers to attack them then they would have quickly died and not passed on their genes. But the fact that our ancestors evolved to prioritise threats/negativity meant that they lived long enough to pass on their genes and the human race survived.
The problem with this is that modern life is nowhere near as dangerous as ancient life was. We eradicated most of our predators and spread across the globe. We developed technology to keep us safe and became the top of the food chain as a result. We basically conquered Earth.
That means our negativity bias probably isn’t too helpful anymore. It certainly doesn’t lead to happiness. To counter this we can consciously reframe our thinking so that it is more realistic.
Say for example you had a really bad past relationship, you’re single now and you want to find a much better partner someone who you’ll be happy with, but at the same time your brain is telling you:
“The next guy/woman is just going to be another disaster, what if they cheat on me like my ex did? I suck at relationships…”
We can reframe these thoughts to make them more realistic:
“The next guy/woman is going to be better because I’m going to put more conscious effort into choosing a better partner, I’m scared of getting another bad one because of my terrible ex but I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen. If they do turn out to be not as good as I deserve then I’ll keep trying until I find a better partner.”
Over time when we do this we can train our minds to become better at being more compassionate, resourceful, and realistic. That in turn influences our choices and leads to a boost in happiness and wellbeing.
We all need time to rest in order to feel at our best. Burnout is one of the most detrimental states that makes our mood plummet. The main way to prevent that and to stay healthy is to enforce your times of rest.
Rest helps us recharge and bounce back from work and from our life stresses and from our fun times too.
Sleep is a key part of resting, it’s when the body repairs itself and also processes information from the previous day. It’s also a key part of learning surprisingly as it helps commit the things we’ve learnt to memory. We need for an average person between 6 hours 45 minutes and 8 hours sleep in order to function well.
One important way to help with sleep is to use blue light filters on your phones (most modern ones have this setting) to limit blue light. Blue light naturally makes the body stay alert as it’s the light we have during the day in sunlight and this is the last thing we need when we want to get to sleep. It’s the reason why street lights use warm tones as if they used blue ones it would affect all our sleep. The same goes for all our screens. When you see the blue light filter mode that warms up the colour tones of your screen please use it.
Other things that help you to get a good night sleep include staying hydrated and having eaten enough food during the day, having clean bed linen, bathing before bed, sex, and sticking to a bedtime routine so going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time. Research has also shown that taking a walk for 15–30mins in the morning to get natural sunlight also helps increase sleep quality as it affects our body chemistry and helps our internal body clocks.
Exercise is one of the most studied areas of research and like food there is a huge amount of evidence that shows that exercise each week can help mood your wellbeing and happiness levels.
The exercise you decide to do during your week doesn’t even have to be vigorous to positively affect your mood, even deciding to move more during your day will help!
The key part is that you get your body moving and this will help boost you in many ways.
One of the most important parts of this is to find a form of exercise you love, everyone is different and different people gel with different forms of exercise. I hate the gym as a form of exercise but many people love it. If I had only the choice of a gym as a form of exercise I know I wouldn’t exercise at all. But I do love yoga and I do love walking, so I do both as part of my exercises during the week and you’ll never see me setting foot into a gym.
Try out a variety of exercise forms and see what sticks with you as being something you find rewarding. Whether it’s gardening, running, swimming, or the dreaded gym, find what works for you and stick to it.
9. Meditation & Yoga
Again there is extensive research that’s shown that meditation has a big impact on mood levels and yoga too. Meditation and yoga have been shown to help relieve and heal pain, trauma, and illnesses as well as boost happiness levels and reduce stress.
There are a number of free and paid apps that can help teach you to meditate such as Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace. I personally use Insight Timer as it offers thousands of free guided mediations as well as a really great timer that tracks your meditation sessions over time so you can see how many minutes you did per day/week/month etc.
Nature is our natural form of stress relief and happiness. Going out into nature makes us feel calmer, happier, and can even help prevent illnesses. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day around nature.
You might also want to bring nature to you. Having plants and flowers indoors will also give you some of the benefits of being outdoors while not having to leave your home: You get the best of both worlds.
Everyone should have a few plants at the least. If you’re notorious for forgetting to water them then there are plenty of plants that don’t need much water and will survive any kind of forgetfulness.
What would life be like without play and fun and laughter? It’d be depressing! Really really depressing!
The one area I know many of us neglect is play and fun. It can be the first thing to go when we’re under pressure but often it’s the very thing we need the most.
Take the time each day to do what you find fun. Make silly faces and chase your kids, have that half an hour playing the game you find fun, take that hour and a half to watch the comedy movie with your partner and laugh your heads off. Whatever it is that brings you enjoyment and/or laughter make sure you include it in every day you can.
12. Doing things you love
Your life might be really fantastic but if you’re not doing things that you love then you’re in trouble. Doing things that we love keeps us feeling good about life and makes us happy. I highly recommend that you identify the things that really bring you happiness or peace during your day and try to fit as many of them in as possible.
13. Clean & tidy space
We naturally work more efficiently when our living and work spaces are clean and tidy. Seeing a bunch of dirty dishes doesn’t make you happy right!?! Neither does having to navigate through piles of stuff to get to things you need and spending 40 frustrated mins trying to find something because your space is a mess.
A clean and tidy space is efficient and also feels good to be in. It feels good to do your bed and see your bedroom looking orderly. It feels and looks good to have a clean freshly vacuumed or swept floor. It’s also a good form of exercise and keeps you moving.
Beauty is naturally a mood booster. Watching a beautiful sunset, having a beautiful room to work in, and experiencing beautiful art all help to elevate your mood. Try to surround yourself with beauty for at least part of your day.
Boundaries stop us from overextending ourselves both physically and emotionally. A big reason why people’s wellbeing and mood are impacted is that their boundaries are slack. They aren’t spending enough time being able to rest and do things to keep themselves happy because they are giving too much time to work, other causes, friends, or family members.
The key here is learning to say no to the things that are taking too much physical or emotional energy, and learning to say yes to the things that help you to raise your energy and wellbeing. For example saying no to going out after work with friends, and yes to taking a long bath and watching a movie in bed.
Let’s face it having a routine every day can be boring. To stay excited about life we have to add variety, we have to try making a new meal or watch a new movie or try a new sexual position.
We all feel that creeping feeling of boredom in certain areas of our lives when we’ve been doing the same thing over and over again. It might be you always cook the same type of meals and you feel apathy and annoyance when you eat, so you decide to check out some new recipes online and make a new one every day of the week.
Try to keep adding to your life in new and different ways, that way you keep your excitement and zest for life alive; which has a dramatic impact on your happiness.
Learning keeps us growing and stops us from stagnating. A lot of the time people are unhappy because they are plateauing and stopping from changing. They reach a point and then forget to keep learning regularly.
The antidote to this is to make learning part of your weekly routine.
Learning helps you to form new ideas, it gives you motivation as learning naturally makes you want to try the new ideas you’ve learnt about or developed as a result of what you’ve learnt.
There can be no change and no wellbeing without learning.
18. Celebrate accomplishments
Celebrating our accomplishments is an often overlooked but important part of wellbeing. When we celebrate we naturally turn routines into good habits. For example when we celebrate exercising 3 times a week we are more likely to stick to that routine and for it to become a habit for us.
How you celebrate is completely individualised and you will find some forms more effective for you than others. You might like to fist bump after achieving something, or you might like to binge watch a new tv show that you’ve been wanting to watch.
The key part is that the celebration feels good to you and authentic to who you are. If you’re not the fist-bumping “hell yeah!” type of person and are more reserved then you might want to go for that tv show binge or buy yourself some new bath salts or something: Whatever it is that floats your boat.
19. Hygge/Being cosy
The Danish have a word called hygge for something that they value in their culture which is getting cosy. Being cosy encompasses many things that boost your mood.
It’s wearing cosy clothing pjs, onesies, or woollen clothing that is soft and keeps you warm. Being under warm blankets. Being in front of a fire or in bed. Having a warm drink like hot chocolate, tea, or coffee. Having good comforting food to eat. Having hugs with people you love. Having cosy lighting such as mood lights or candles.
We all naturally want to feel warm, safe, and cosy. Doing all you can to reach this state through your environment will have a huge impact on your wellbeing and happiness.
Sex releases all kinds of mood boosting hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins. Whether you’re having sex with a partner or are enjoying your own company having orgasms are a great way to boost your mood, relax you, and a good workout for your body too.
21. Meaningful work & activities
I think we can all agree that when we do work and activities that mean something to us they naturally make us feel happy, a sense of accomplishment, and good about ourselves. Yet when we do work and activities that mean little to us we feel uninspired, quickly worn out, and depleted of our happiness.
Many people unfortunately are doing unmeaningful work out of necessity as we all need to earn an income. If this is the case for you, you can try to find meaning in activities outside of work such as hobbies, or worthy causes such as charity work or helping volunteer with a local craft or sports club etc.
When you make self-care a priority in your life it’s going to boost your happiness, your health, and help keep you protected from getting ill. Please feel free to share any other self-care tips that have helped you in the comments and let me know how you’ve gotten on with some of the ones I’ve talked about in this article. I always love hearing your feedback. Good luck with your self-care and remember that you can start now and make changes that have a lasting impact both for you and your loved ones.