When your mood is getting in the way of your life

Feeling lonely, gloomy and uncertain? Everyone has low mood at one stage or another.

Here are some suggestions to help you manage your mood:

Manage your sleep: Too little ( =<6 hours) or too much (>=8.5) is not so good. Hamilton et. al (2007) found that optimal sleepers (between 6 & 8.5 hrs) reported fewer symptoms of depression, and anxiety, and reported higher levels of environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations with others, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. Check out our sleep tip sheet.

Get some light: Light helps your body and brain function better, particularly first thing in the morning. Open the curtains and get some fresh air and light. Better still, go outdoors and get some sunshine. Light treatment has been shown to have an effect for people who are depressed 1.

Physical Exercise: Be physically active. Go for a walk for 30 minutes, run, or ride a bicycle. Physical exercise gets the blood flowing, and transports more oxygen throughout the body, helping you feel mentally alert and active. There is evidence that exercise has a moderate effect in changing the mood of people with depression 2

Doing things: Research supports that mood can be changed by doing things 3. Choose to engage in activities that are fun, relaxing, exciting, pleasurable or rewarding. Engage in activities that have previously lifted your mood, or made you laugh or made you feel refreshed and energised (e.g, reading a comic book, watching funny YouTube videos, talking to friends). Or you can explore new leisure activities or plan for new adventures, do things you have not tried before (e.g., mindfulness, joining a meet up).

Practice Positive Psychology: Research has also shown that practicing positive psychology can help you improve your mood. Connect with your hopes, write gratitude letters, practice optimistic thinking and genuine self-acceptance, replay positive experiences in your mind identify and build on your strengths, show kindness to others. It might feel like hard work at the start but doing several of these activities and making an effort to continue with the practice has been shown to have an effect. ( Sin & Lyubomirsky 2009. )

Food: Helen Hendy from Penn state University (2011) 4 found that the more calories, saturated fat, and sodium consumed by the students, the more negative mood they reported 2 days later. Similarly, Bonnie White and her colleagues at the University of Otago 5 found that on days when young adults experienced greater positive affect, they reported eating more servings of fruit and vegetables. Maintaining your blood sugar levels will also be important as your brain uses 20% of your total energy 6

Music: There is some evidence that music helps with mood 7 and there is also some evidence that the more bass in the music the more it will increase your sense of power ( Hsu et al. 2015 )

Relaxation: Relaxation techniques have been shown to be more effective at reducing self-rated depressive symptoms than no or minimal treatments 8.

Caffeine: The British Nutrition Foundation’s review of the benefits and risks of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration in 2008 concluded that that the range of caffeine intake that appeared to maximise benefit and minimise risk is between 1 to 8 cups of tea per day, or 0.3to 4 cups of brewed coffee per day (equivalent to 38 to 400 mg per day).

Because tea and coffee can be brewed to different strengths is may be advantages to investigate the strength or limit the amount you use. In addition, the psychostimulant action of caffeine includes increased self-rated alertness 9 this may be important to consider in the context of sleep and the effects of lack of sleep on mood.

Connect with others: Hamid Roohafza (2014) found that perceived social support was one of a number of factors that were protective factors against depression and anxiety. Similarly, others (Stice et. al. 2004) have found that family and in particular support from parents can be very helpful.

Professional Help: If none of the above strategies works for you, or if you r mood is down for two weeks or more you may need to seek professional assistance. You can either speak to a counsellor, social worker, psychologist, medical practitioner or a psychiatrist. Help is available.


1 http://www.cochrane.org/CD004050/DEPRESSN_light-treatment-for-non-seasonal-depression

2 http://www.cochrane.org/CD004366/DEPRESSN_exercise-for-depression

3 http://www.cochrane.org/CD008696/DEPRESSN_behavioural-therapies-versus-other-psychological-therapies-for-depression

4 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019566631100643X#

5 onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjhp.12021/abstractBoi

6 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=thinking-hard-calories

7 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2/full

8 http://www.cochrane.org/CD007142/DEPRESSN_relaxation-for-depression

9 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9586865

Hamilton, N. A., Nelson, C. A., Stevens, N., & Kitzman, H. (2007). Sleep and psychological well-being. Social Indicators Research, 82(1), 147-163. doi: 10.1007/s11205-006-9030-1

Hendy, H. M. (2012). Which comes first in food–mood relationships, foods or moods? Appetite, 58(2), 771-775. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2011.11.014

Hsu, D. Y., Huang, L., Nordgren, L. F., Rucker, D. D., & Galinsky, A. D. (2015). The Music of Power: Perceptual and Behavioral Consequences of Powerful Music. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(1), 75-83. doi: 10.1177/1948550614542345

Roohafza, H. R., Afshar, H., Keshteli, A. H., Mohammadi, N., Feizi, A., Taslimi, M., & Adibi, P. (2014). What’s the role of perceived social support and coping styles in depression and anxiety? Journal of Research in Medical Sciences : The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 19(10), 944–949.

Ruxton, C. H. S. (2008). The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks. Nutrition Bulletin, 33(1), 15-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x

Sin, N.L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 467-487.

Stice, E.; Ragan, J; & Randall, P. (2004) Prospective relations between social support and depression: Differential direction of effects for parent and peer support?. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113 (1), 155–159.