A bad mood can hit anyone unexpectedly, and the results will vary greatly from one person to the next. For some, it means you’re a little slower getting out of bed in the morning. For others with severe mood disorders, it can mean being physically unable to get out of bed at all. The best defense against these sorts of problems is prevention. There’s a lot we can do to improve our moods and reduce the significance of “having a bad day.” However, we’re going to feel down once in a while, no matter how hard we try not to. When those bad days do strike, we’re not as helpless as we might be feeling. There are ways to turn your day around, but it takes some effort.
So if you’re struggling right now, stand up, get your blood flowing and try these options.
The problem with picking a healthy diet is that it can be really difficult telling the difference between healthy food choices and unhealthy ones. Plenty of foods are marketed as being healthy (like Vitamin Water or certain snack bars), but they’re really loaded with added sugar and are incredibly unhealthy. Even health experts can’t come to a consensus on which foods you should be eating. Part of the reason is there’s more research coming out all the time. It can be really tough to keep up.
All I can speak to is my personal experience, which is that I’ve found I’m much less productive on days I eat an excess of carbohydrates. By contrast, on days when I consume more protein, healthy fats and moderate amounts of complex carbs, I’m in a better mood and much more productive. Not only that, but it’s easier to make that happen.
I’m not the only one. Processed foods containing added sugar and refined carbs raise blood sugar levels in the body. This causes inflammation and uses up stored vitamin B, which helps stabilize our moods. Of course, being gluttons for punishment, eating more sugar also causes us to crave more sugar in the future. It’s a difficult habit to break. So it’s important to get our carbohydrate needs from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Staying clear of added sugar really can turn your life around.
Because of our near-constant access to the resources of the internet, we’ve all become over-stimulated. It’s part of the reason our attention spans have gotten so much shorter. We’re not willing to wait very long for the information we need. The problem is that some answers and tasks can’t be learned or figured out in a matter of minutes. That’s why I find it important to make a list of priorities for the day and check off tasks as I complete them.
Why? Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When I start cleaning the kitchen, I remember that I forgot to scoop the litter box or cut the grass in the backyard. I remember the dirty plate I didn’t get in the other room, and on my way to get it, I remember I need to do laundry, too. The list goes on and on, and the more I get distracted from doing the first task, the less likely anything is to get done. That’s why it’s important to focus on one thing at a time, mark it off the list and feel good about getting something all the way done.
Dr. Elaine Aron, author of “The Highly Sensitive Person,” says that 15-20 percent of the population is highly sensitive to the world around them. Being highly sensitive means you can be more easily overwhelmed but also more aware of your surroundings. As a result, you’re more affected by the appearance of the world around you. That’s why it can be important to organize, clean and order your life.
She thinks “clutter is a reminder of things that should get done, but aren’t.” Even small changes in your surroundings can help. In fact, “just the illusion of order is enough to ease the mind.”
Because we’ve been showering before a long day at school or work for so many years, our bodies know that when we hop in the shower, it’s time to wake up and get ready for the day ahead. But it can also be great for relaxing our mind and distracting us from our worries. The added benefit to a warm shower is the release of dopamine, a chemical linked with the pleasure centers of the brain. Although too much dopamine can breed addiction, too little makes us listless and fosters depression. So it’s important to find a balance between the two.
The human body didn’t evolve by sitting in front of a screen all day long. We made our way hunting and gathering outside in the sun. That’s why it’s important to spend at least 10 minutes outside every day. No amount of artificial light can make up for a lack of natural sunlight. It’s just another way to stabilize and balance the natural order our body craves. (Remember, if you’re planning on being outside for longer than 10 minutes, stay hydrated and use SPF 15 or higher.)
There’s a difference between having a bad moment or bad day and suffering from a serious mental illness. Everyone gets frustrated and down from time to time, but when you’ve been down for weeks or months at a time, you need to get help. Don’t try to fix your problems all on your own. Consult with a therapist to receive the help you deserve.
Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at [email protected] with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.