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Improve Your Mood Without Time, Money, or Medication

Updated on March 30, 2012

We all want to enjoy our lives. While I agree that a good bout of wallowing can be satisfying now and then, nobody really wants to spend day after day in a helpless funk. But many of us do exactly that. I should know, I live in Seattle - depression is practically our M.O.! According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 20 million people in the United States alone currently suffer from depression. That’s about 1 in every 15 people. And you don’t have to be clinically depressed to struggle with negative thinking patterns.

So what can you do about it? People come up with all sorts of answers in response to this question. But not everyone has the extra spending money to try every naturopathic remedy in the supplement aisle, or the extra hours to devote to fitness routines and meditation. Here I offer realistic suggestions for the modern person. Every single item below is a tool that I routinely apply to my own life, and thus I can honestly say that they make a difference.

A happy family, most likely not from Seattle ...
A happy family, most likely not from Seattle ... | Source

#1 Smile

That’s it, just smile. You may not feel like it, and it may seem pointless, but clinical research has proven time and again that the very act of smiling actually improves the mood of an individual. Your body notices the physical response (the muscles manipulated into a smile) and responds physiologically. The result: your feelings sync up with your actions. (Gluck, 2008)


#2 Step Outside

When exposed to sunlight, your skin produces vitamin D3, which has been found to change serotonin levels in the brain. (Denissen, 2008) Low serotonin levels, as you may well know, is believed to be a main contributor to depression, and is the main focus of many common antidepressants. So get out there, even if just for a few minutes.

This one never fails for me.
This one never fails for me.

#3 Listen to Music

We’ve all felt the elation when our favorite song comes on the radio. Music has known effects on mood, as demonstrated in various studies. Therapists have even gone so far as to practice “music therapy” on their clients.

But you don’t need to pay the experts for this one – you probably know what songs make you happy. The real challenge is overcoming your mood enough to actually push play and turn up that volume. Extra credit for dancing.


#4 Actually Sleep

If you're not getting the sleep you need, your brain releases less serotonin.(Roizen & Mehmet, 2005) As previously discussed, this “happy hormone” is important – the more the merrier, basically. But you don’t need a neurologist to tell you that. We all feel our best after a good night of sleep. So if you’re hitting the snooze button every morning and chugging coffee to keep awake during those meetings at work, it’s time to make a change.

Do you have troubles falling asleep in the first place? Try better preparing yourself – don’t drink caffeine past noon, and turn off electronic devices 30 minutes before bed. Still can’t sleep? Don’t watch TV, that’s counterproductive! Read a book, for crying out loud.

Don’t have enough time for sleep? I know I promised I wouldn't say this, but here it is – make time. On a list of priorities, this should be up there with taking the time to breathe.

#5 Use a Little Perspective

It’s all too easy to let a small disappointment seem like an important event that foretells the general negative direction of the rest of your life . . . but let’s get realistic, shall we? Unless you are actually dealing with a situation regarding life and death or true grief, chances are you’re fixating on the small things. Take a moment to acknowledge what it is that’s really bothering you. Now consider this problem in five years. Will it even be relevant?

Practice interpreting your mood whenever you notice it going south. The simple act of recognizing the cause can alert your body to the true nature of the “crisis”, potentially halting and reversing that stress response.

And just for good measure

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."

-Reinhold Niebuhr


Denissen, J. A., Butalid, L., Penke, L., & van Aken, M. G. (2008). The effects of weather on daily mood: A multilevel approach. Emotion, 8(5), 662-667. doi:10.1037/a0013497

Gluck, Mark A. Learning and Memory: From Brain to Behavior. New York: Worth Publishers, 2008.

Roizen, Michael F., M.D., and Oz, Mehmet C., M.D. You: The Owner’s Manual. New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

© By: Allison A. Green, All Rights Reserved


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    • SouthernHoney profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      I completely agree Bedbugabscond, I smile at everybody. People ask me why I'm so happy :)

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 

      6 years ago from United States

      It is incredible how contagious a smile can be. Occasionally someone will look at me funny when I smile at them, but for the most part people smile back. I love when people smile, so I try to remember to smile! Nice work, voted up!

    • SouthernHoney profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      I appreciate the feedback, thanks for taking the time! And good for you for working towards your Psy D – I can’t think of a more useful degree. What can be better than understanding our own species? Not to mention it’s endlessly interesting :)

    • nylarej profile image


      6 years ago from Ph

      Wow, great hub! Very professional. I have been always pro to professional help when it comes to psychological matters. I am your new follower as I am an aspiring Psy.D. :)

    • SouthernHoney profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      Well thank you! I appreciate you sharing your experience – It’s good to hear that these are tried and true for others as well. My biggest challenge is always remembering to use these methods.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      6 years ago from Tennesee

      While I don't ordinarily find professional tips very useful, I honestly feel these are all extremely helpful. Years ago I suffered from depression and got into the habit of doing all these things -plus a couple of other non-medicinal things- and my whole perspective changed for the better.

      Voted up and thanks for posting such a beneficial Hub!

    • SouthernHoney profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      Well thanks so much Thelma! I really appreciate the feedback, and look forward to exploring your hubs as well!

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      6 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Enjoyed your hub. Great advice. I also checked out your Etsy shop...beautiful pictures. Welcome to hubpages. I look forward to following you.


    • SouthernHoney profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      Thanks so much for your feedback Seeker7! I agree, starting with the simple changes should always be a first step. Many doctors are so willing to throw medicine at every problem, but that should be a last resort. Thanks for reading!

    • SouthernHoney profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Woodinville, WA

      Thank you for the comment Steve, I'm so glad to hear that my words could help. I truly hope you find a technique that works for you - I understand the struggle!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Excellent and interesting hub. I think you've hit the nail on the head! The simplest of remedies are often the best and well worth trying before forking out for expensive items that often don't do what they claim. It's also nice to know that if you don't have the money there are easy and free options to lift your mood.

      Voted up!

    • kuttingxedge profile image

      Steven P Kelly 

      6 years ago from Tampa, FL

      Just wanted to say thank you for this article. I always seem to have a perpetually furrowed brow. I have been told before that I seem unapproachable when I have certain expressions on my face. Truth is, the expression is a manifestation of a bad mood usually. I'm going to implement these into my routine and see what happens. Thanks again!!



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