It’s no secret that a good mood makes life better. But it may not always seem that simple to just flip your mood to the bright side when you’re feeling down. Bad moods are a part of life. They can be triggered by so many different things, from a case of the Mondays to a negative social media post to a flat tire on your way to work. It can be hard to pick your mood up again after something negative happens during your day, even if it’s just the fact that your donut shop didn’t have your favorite donut with the coconut shreds this morning.
It’s definitely okay to feel sad or frustrated once in a while. In fact, emodiversity is actually proven to be healthier than chronic high levels of one emotion (happiness included). The thing is, while a variety of emotions are encouraged, a good mood is the most beneficial for things like productivity and relapse prevention. If you can’t pick yourself up after something negative happens, your recovery will likely suffer.
So, how can you boost your mood when you’re unhappy?
Stop and Smell the Roses
I do realize how cliché it is to tell someone to stop and smell the roses. But flowers and foliage plants are actually proven to not only help boost positivity but also promote a variety of other positive physical and mental health effects. One study concluded that postoperative hospital patients who stayed in rooms with plants and flowers showed lower systolic blood pressure and heart rate, less pain, and lower levels of fatigue than those is bare rooms. They also needed fewer intakes of analgesics, which are a class of drugs for relieving pain, something that postop patients typically rely heavily on. On top of that, these patients also experienced less anxiety and exhibited more positivity about their treatment.
This study was performed in hospitals on postoperative patients, but these effects can still translate into our everyday lives. If flowers in a hospital room can show that much improvement on a patient’s health and mood, there’s no question that they can do the same if we place them around our homes.
Plants and flowers have two primary factors that affect our mood: color and scent. Have you ever heard of color therapy? It’s the theory behind your mother’s old Better Homes and Gardens magazine telling you to paint your bedroom blue. Colors make us feel certain emotions. For example, blue irises or hydrangeas can cause a person to feel calmer while a sunflower or daffodils can promote optimism.
And then there are scents.
Flower/Plant Scents that Affect Mood:
- Lavender – Lavender is typically associated with feelings of calmness. It can soothe nerves, relieve tension, and reduce feelings of depression.
- Jasmine – Jasmine has effects similar to lavender. It can calm nerves and stimulate feelings of confidence and optimism. Jasmine is sometimes used in holistic therapy practices as an antidepressant.
- Rosemary – A rosemary plant can help relieve mental fatigue. If you find yourself feeling mentally or emotionally exhausted, try growing a small rosemary plant somewhere around your house.
- Pine – I’ll admit growing a pine tree in your house isn’t exactly practical. But you might consider going for a walk under these trees when you’re feeling down because the scent of pine can actually alleviate stress and boost your mood. Kind of makes you reconsider your decision to go faux-tree for Christmas, right?
Let the Light In
Do you ever feel off or sad on gloomy days? Or maybe you’ve noticed that you’re not quite yourself when you’re stuck in a dark room. Most people pull the drapes back first thing in the morning when they wake up. There’s a reason behind that action that most people aren’t even aware of. Both light and darkness actually affect our mood.
Low light and darkness can both affect the amount of melatonin your body produces. Melatonin plays a vital role in our sleep and wake patterns. Melatonin levels are typically highest at night before we go to bed to help promote sleepiness. One of the ways our bodies know to produce more melatonin is by the level of darkness it perceives. Most of us sleep at night when it’s dark. So, your body learns to produce more melatonin to induce sleep when it’s darker. Lower light levels during the daytime, or when we want to be happy and productive, can actually be detrimental. They’ll cause your body to produce more melatonin, which will pull from your serotonin. Serotonin directly affects happiness. More serotonin essentially means more happiness. So, if your body is converting your serotonin into melatonin during the day because your light levels are too low, your mood will suffer.
Natural light is going to be the best for boosting mood because it tends to be softer and warmer. So, when you’re feeling a bit blue or out of sorts, try going for a walk or open more windows to let more light in. Those higher light levels will help balance out your mood and increase your serotonin levels. However, I would stay away from turning those office lights all the way up. Harsh white or blue light (as is typically used in offices) can actually have adverse affects on mood.
Listen to Sad Songs
People tend to want to listen to sad songs when they’re sad. Maybe Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” got you through your first breakup. Or perhaps you like to listen to Radiohead’s “Creep” when you’re just not feeling up to take on the day. Whatever your melancholic song of choice may be, there’s a reason we turn to our despondent playlists when we’re sad.
Ever heard the phrase “misery loves company?” It’s generally used to justify sad, mad, or pained people wanting others to share their mindset. No one likes to be alone in their misery. That phrase can actually lend some insight into why we gravitate towards sad songs when we ourselves are sad. The emotions that songs – as well as paintings, movies, poems, etc. – trigger are relational. We like certain songs because we relate to them on a personal, emotional level. So, when we’re sad, we listen to sad songs because we feel like we can relate to them. They also help us believe that the relation is mutual. We relate to the songs and the songs relate to us. If we feel those sad emotions from something outside of ourselves, as in a song, it essentially justifies our sadness. We don’t feel alone. And registering that empathy actually helps us feel better. The song itself may be sad, but listening to it can actually boost a person’s mood.
Lack of Perceived Harm
One study has actually proven that sad songs cause pleasant emotions. The study let participants listen to sad songs and compared the emotions they claimed to feel afterwards to those they felt after listening to a happy song. Researchers found that the emotions the participants perceived were sadder, but the emotions they felt, while more ambivalent, tended to lean more towards pleasantness. The researches attribute these feelings to a lack of perceived harm in the music. People understand music to be a harmless channel for emotion, unlike the activities and events they go through in their everyday lives. So, when we allow our emotions to be guided by music, we feel happier because those more negative emotions are expressed in a safer way.
End the Day with Gratitude
One of the easiest ways to boost your mood, especially in recovery, is to keep a gratitude journal. Writing down the things you’re thankful for everyday can actually increase self-esteem, improve your perspective on life, and allow a channel for appreciation, all of which play a role in boosting mood. Gratitude journals are particularly encouraged in recovery because they help keep us grounded while also constantly reminding us of the joys and benefits of a sober, healthy life.
Keeping track of the joys of your day is most effective right before you go to bed. It gives you a chance to reflect on the day and turn the more negative things around. Try writing down at least three things that went well each day before you go to sleep. It doesn’t matter how small those things may seem. If you got a promotion, great! Write that down. If you had a nice, chill dinner with your girlfriend, write that down too. Next, write down the role you played to make that event go well. For example, let’s look at having dinner with your girlfriend. Your role could have been making dinner, starting the conversation, or picking the Netflix movie to watch while you eat. Any of these things count as your role in causing that event to go well.
Doing this every night will consistently increase your awareness of your own role in your happiness. Showing yourself the things that made you happy that day will boost your mood in the short-term. But that increased awareness will boost your mood in the long-term. It will also help you to intuitively play an active role in making good things happen throughout your days moving forward.
It’s okay to allow yourself to feel sad once in a while.
It’s actually even encouraged. But it’s important for your recovery to learn ways to boost your mood and pick yourself back up in those situations. And it could be as easy as buffing up your sad songs playlist on your phone or buying yourself some flowers during your next trip to the grocery store. So, go ahead and feel sad. As long as you’re able to pick your mood back up and your sobriety isn’t suffering, you’re doing just fine.
But there’s also a difference between depression and feelings of sadness. Depression can fuel addiction, and vice versa. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or dual diagnosis, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Call our addiction staff at 855-737-7363 for a free and confidential assessment.