9 Quick and Dirty Bad Mood Busters
We've all had one of those days- we're ready to scream or cry (maybe both) and a dose of Cute Overload or silly tv show just doesn't cut it. Here are some quick ways to lighten your mood when you don't have the time or energy for a gym session or a heart-to-heart with your BFF (especially if your BFF is the problem). Try one-or two- I'm betting you won't need more than three to start smiling.
1. Dark chocolate for dark days
Ok, this might already be your go-to when times are dark. But dark chocolate not only has psychological benefits, thanks to the cocoa polyphnols in just one ounce of dark chocolate (though you may as well have two...just in case), you will feel calmer and happier. According to an article in Prevention magazine, you may live longer, too.
- 5 Strange Ways Chocolate Keeps You Healthy
Chocolate can boost heart health, brainpower, and more! Learn how the right amount of dark chocolate can provide big health benefits to your diet
If baking improves your mood, try this indulgent recipe. It's not only delicious but healthy as well.
Salted Dark Chocolate Truffle Cookies
This recipe from How Sweet it Is is not only amazingly easy but incredibly delicious.
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- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, I like 60% or less
- 2 cups dark chocolate chips
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons dark chocolate/Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
- additional dark chocolate, for dipping
- In a large bowl, melt butter, bittersweet chocolate and 1 cup of chocolate chips. I do this in the microwave, beginning with 30 second increments and stirring until totally melted. Set aside and let cool completely.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, add sugar and eggs, beating on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and melted chocolate/butter, beating for another 1-2 minutes until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk or beater attachment, then remove it and stir in the dry ingredients with a large spatula until thoroughly dispersed by just combined. Fold in remaining chocolate chips. Cover the cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 4 hours (or even overnight!).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper (or a silpat!) on an ungreased baking sheet. Wet your hands with water then begin to roll the dough into 1-inch balls, placing them about 2 inches apart. Do this quickly and if you are doing the cookies in batches, refrigerate the dough in between rounds. Sprinkle a bit of salt on top of each dough ball, then bake for 9-10 minutes. Remove, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt again, and let cool for at least 10 minutes on the baking sheet. The should be completely cool before removing them! Once removed, place on wax or parchment paper to cool completely. Once totally cooled, if desired you can dip half of each cookie in melted chocolate then cover in sprinkles. These store pretty well but are fairly fragile.
2.Try some yogurt.
If the cookies didn't work, try a cup of Greek yogurt. A 2015 study from the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity found that eating foods full of probiotics will cause you to think less negatively. Even though more research needs to be done, it's worth a try -and your stomach will thank you.
- A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity
Brain Behav Immun. 2015 Aug;48:258-64. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2015.04.003. Epub 2015 Apr 7. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Though you may not be feeling as though you have a lot, sharing what you have with others is a sure mood lightener. Does giving really make you happier? According to a survey and study by researchers Dunn, Akin, Aknin and Norton, it will.
In other studies involving technology, researchers have found that our brains are "hardwired" for giving. The midbrain area of the brain lights up when people do something that gives them pleasure such as eating something enjoyable (truffle cookies!), having sex, and...giving to charity.
Researchers have also found that it doesn't matter how much you give; it's the act of giving that makes people feel good. So whether it's a cup of coffee for a friend, a small donated item to a charity, or an anonymous payment at a parking meter or a laundromat, giving to others will help you feel happier.
- Hard-Wired for Giving - WSJ
Contrary to conventional wisdom that humans are essentially selfish, scientists are finding that the brain is built for generosity.
4. Be Thankful
Psychology researchers aren’t necessarily Thanksgiving experts—they may not know how to make fluffy stuffing, say, or beat the traffic to your in-laws’ house—but they have become a fount of wisdom on thanksgiving (with a small “t”).
Psychology experts have found that people derive social, physical and health benefits from giving thanks and one of the simplest ways to do this is to keep a gratitude journal. Popularized by Oprah over 15 years ago, a gratitude journal involves people writing daily about five things they are grateful for. There are ready made journals, digital versions, and even apps to start and continue this practice.
And not only writing about these things, but writing to people to thank them also has major benefits for your mood and ongoing happiness. The Journal of Happiness Studies reports that writing a thank you note (or email) weekly increases both happiness and life satisfaction levels.
- Gratitude Journal App | Gratitude Journal iPhone app
Write down 5 things you're grateful for each day, and you will rewire your brain, changing your life forever. As seen on USA Today, Forbes, Oprah, and NPR. Created with love by Carla White, author of Idea to iPhone and lover of life.
- Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal | Greater Good
Here's a way to be thankful all year long.
5. Jump to it.
It might sound silly, but just the act of jumping can make you feel better. Perhaps because it's silly it works. Just getting yourself moving will energize you and elevate your mood. Using a small trampoline, a jump rope or just skipping down the street will get your heart going and your mood lifting. And don't worry if there are people around; doing this in public might make you feel even better. Invent your own silly walk and get people to smile with you.
6. Make some furry friends
The success of Internet sites such as cute overload and icanhascheezburger.com points out the popularity of using animals to boost our moods. A University of Missouri-Columbia study shows that spending 15 minutes petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol and allows the realease of serotonin, oxytocin, and prolactin, hormones which make people feel happier. If you're not a dog person, don't despair- other studies have shown that spending time with a cat also provides the same type of boost to your mood and health.
If you don't own a pet or know anyone who has a dog you can borrow for a walk or a cat you can visit, consider volunteering at a local shelter, which usually needs volunteers to spend time playing with, walking, or helping to socialize the animals up for adoption. For a longer commitment, you could consider fostering a pet up for adoption.
7. Fake It
Just the act of smiling or laughing, whether you feel happy or not, makes you feel better. In a study carried out by Clark University researchers found that just the act of smiling stimulates the brain's happiness center. Participants in Laughter Yoga sessions find that inducing laughter and emphasizing playfulness often leads to genuine laughter, adds oxygen to the body and brain, and may improve cardiovascular health and lessen chronic pain.
It seems that if you can convince the body you are happy, it will return the favor by helping your brain believe it.
8. Release your inner artist
You don't have to be a skilled artist to benefit from the act of creating. Subjects in a study done by Boston College found they were happier when they used art to release their negative feelings. Focusing on artistic activities can also act as a distraction and take your mind off your problems for a while, giving you a more positive outlook. Journal writing can also provide similar effects.
In a recent Parade magazine article, the author describes how the simple act of coloring lifts her mood and relieves stress. In an interview in the article, psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston, says “It engages both sides of your brain in that it’s both creative and tactical,” She adds,“It’s impossible to worry about dinner or the laundry or anything else when your mind is completely engaged.”
- 50 Shades of Happy: The New Joy of Coloring
It’s 8 p.m., and I’m in the zone. I’ve been here for about an hour now. The world and its cares have dropped away. Work stress, money worries, health concerns and arguments with my 9-year-old son have all faded. That nattering voice in my head that u
9. Enjoy human contact. Ask for - or give - a hug.
Although it may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are in a bad mood, try to have some physical contact with another person. A simple human touch can lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as letting out endorphins such as serotonin, according to a study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Simply giving someone a foot massage or receiving a hug will raise your spirits -as well as those of the person you are with.
Next time you're down, try these steps-maybe not in a row, maybe not all of them, but try some and see what happens. If you practice some of these all the time, you may find that you are happier, longer, more often. Jump. Laugh. Pet a dog or stroke a cat. Give. Be thankful. Ask for - and give- hugs. Often. Oh, and the chocolate? That you can do every day.