When we describe our feelings, we can be pretty specific. We use words like bored, irritated, content, calm, aggravated, restless, excited, and on and on. We can also usually attribute a feeling to something specific. I’m irritated because someone didn’t answer my email, or I’m content because I’m hanging out with my dog.
But when it comes to mood, we’re usually more general—that’s because moods are more like an affective state, meaning that unlike emotions or feelings, moods tend to be less intense but longer lasting. An emotion can last moments; a mood can last days.
So how do you begin to turn a bad mood around? Through lifestyle and nutrition.
I know what you’re thinking: how am I supposed to improve my lifestyle and nutrition when I’m stuck inside? I’m already so anxious.
But improving lifestyle and nutrition will also help with anxiety. So we’ve got a few tips that will regulate your mood and support your immune system, all from the comfort of your home. And they’re basic enough to start right now.
1. Drink water.
Hydration is one of the keys to good health, and it’s an integral factor in our moods. If you’re struggling to drink water, fill a reusable water bottle with water at night, put it by your bed, and drink it first thing when you wake up. Or, make it a rule that before you have a snack anytime during the day, you have to drink a few sips of water first. Need to make a better appeal to your taste buds? Fruit-infused water and/or carbonation are fair game. Remember, even though drinking water isn’t exactly fun for many of us, it can help us feel happier overall.
2. Schedule time to move.
Exercise has been shown countless times to help improve mood, but even when we’re not stuck inside, it can be hard to start a routine. To make it easier, put a reminder in your phone to move every hour. You can also take advantage of the time that you might have previously been commuting to school or work. If you’re just starting with an exercise routine, that movement can include walking around inside your home, doing jumping jacks, squats, or even skipping rope with an imaginary rope. If you’re a regular exerciser, it’s still important to be moving throughout the day, and not just while exercising. Make a reminder for yourself, too!
For extra motivation, many gyms and exercise classes are going online. Try something fun-focused like dancing, to get your blood moving.
3. Be smart about caffeine.
Caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep, and a lack of sleep can worsen depression. But quitting cold turkey is not the answer — if you stop consuming caffeine all at once, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Start by cutting off caffeine in the early afternoon, and over time, continue to reduce your intake.
4. Reduce your alcohol intake.
Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, affecting your mood, coordination, and focus. If you’re used to drinking a glass or two of alcohol each night, reduce your intake by switching out one or both drinks with a cup of tea, or even water with frozen fruit. A reduction in alcohol can help support your immune system, too, as drinking too much weakens it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, call your doctor or SAMHSA’s national helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357).
5. Limit social media.
Social media has been shown to make us feel depressed, anxious, and left out. We can also get lost in it, spending hours scrolling in bed, waiting for that final dopamine hit from a like or share. If you’re struggling to create boundaries with social media, there are many apps that can help you build your own boundaries.
6. Take sleep seriously.
Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, lack of focus, emotional reactivity, and feelings of depression. If you want to improve your mood, treat sleep like it’s one of the most important parts of your day — because it is! That means having established bedtime and morning routines that you try to stick to as often as possible. For the morning, set a regular alarm, and get out of bed when it goes off. For the evening, have a regular bedtime, and stop screen use at least an hour before bed. If you’re used to falling asleep scrolling or watching TV, try listening to a sleep meditation or a podcast with your phone’s sleep timer on. For more tips on falling asleep, Sanvello, the #1 app for stress and anxiety, has 7 tricks to help you fall asleep faster.
7. Pay attention to the food you’re eating.
There are piles of books on how nutrition affects our mood—the most important thing to know is that it does. Examine your eating routine. Does it include fruits and vegetables? Are you eating balanced meals? Are you eating out of boredom or hunger? Are you eating regularly throughout the day? If you find it easier to snack than to cook, you’re not alone. But try to snack smart, like eating an apple or carrots with hummus. Sure, it might not be as tasty as chocolate cake, but it can help improve your mood over time.
The benefits of meditation are robust. It has been shown to reduce stress, help us control our anxiety, improve our relationship with sleep, improve our relationships in general, and increase our compassion that we feel toward others and ourselves. Even just 10 minutes several times a week can make a difference. Set a daily reminder to help you build a meditation practice.
That’s a lot of lifestyle changes — we know. But tracking your health habits, along with your mood and feelings, can help you see what things help you feel better — and which don’t.We recommend tracking your habits and mood in the Sanvello app. It’s the #1 app for stress and anxiety and a trusted partner with L2.