Help me get rid of my bad mood.
May 8, 2007 5:01 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the ways you try and get out of a bad mood?

I don't get down too often, but sometimes my bad mood will persist for several days until I eventually sleep off whatever is bothering me. I do have a mild form of depression and I don't take drugs and it's not something I will consider doing again. My mood is more melancholy than depressed, there isn't something in particular thats bothering me but rather an overarching existential anxiety. Music helps sometimes but I get tired of my music. Im at about a 4/10 right now on a happiness scale and the worst part is that I know that I have no good reason to be feeling down. Cheer me up people!
posted by pwally to Human Relations (42 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
posted by caddis at 5:11 PM on May 8, 2007

It depends on what gives you energy. If you are extroverted then hang out with your friends. If you are introverted then do something creative by yourself. Whatever it is you're currently doing, switch it up and see if it has an affect on your attitude. This question is rather broad so that's all I got.
posted by quadog at 5:12 PM on May 8, 2007

Try some form of exercise. I always find that joint pain takes my mind off other things that makes me feel down.
posted by Workingtill85 at 5:12 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seeing as you asked ways to try to get out of a bad mood, I'm including both useful and unuseful.

Somewhat successful practices
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - thinking it through, counting blessings sort of thing
hot shower/bath
outdoors time (gardens, bushwalks etc)
time - just waiting for things to get better
action - cleaning stuff up or rearranging to feel better about my surroundings
hobbies - immersing myself in photography or watercolours or the like

Unsuccessful practices that I keep hoping will work
eating large quantities of carbs / chocolate
drinking alcohol
posted by b33j at 5:14 PM on May 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

posted by fire&wings at 5:15 PM on May 8, 2007

In no particular order:

* Sleep. Can't be over-emphasized. Everything is worse when sleep-deprived.
* Exercise. Physical motion + endorphines = :)
* Action. Find a way to do something about what is eating you. Make lists, prioritize.
* Let go. Some things you can't change.
* Go outside. Walk, hike, sit by a stream.
* Write. Stream-of-consciousness writing for 10 minutes, then burn it without reading.

Not that I have any experience with foul moods.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:15 PM on May 8, 2007

The same thing happens to me, and I have a mild form too. What I do is make sure not to listen to sappy soft music, such as iron and wine, but instead, listen to some really upbeat kick ass yelling shit-- try Les Savy Fav on for size-- and then I pump myself up by dancing and thinking about how awesome I am. Sounds rediculous, but it works-- just think about sometime you really kicked ass and boost confidence about yourself.
posted by stresstwig at 5:18 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's important to break up the routine and steer your mind away from wallowing. If time allows, take a long brisk walk or swim. Perhaps break out a camera and go on a photo-safari. In other words, try getting the endorphins firing, or at least, create your own distraction.

P.S. It's a bit of a different angle on the subject, but you might find inspiration in this thread: What is "happiness"?
posted by rob511 at 5:18 PM on May 8, 2007

Change of scenery. If I can get to a museum or neighborhood or park - anything but the office or my sofa - it usually gives me enough of a jolt to snap out of it.
posted by ersatzkat at 5:26 PM on May 8, 2007

Yeah exercise does it for me. It's a great release valve and you can't really exercise properly when thinking about other things (well at least I can't...)
posted by ob at 5:26 PM on May 8, 2007

Instead of a particular thing to do, I'll offer this bit of overall advice.

If you try enough things, eventually you'll run into something that helps. However, when you're feeling depressed, you might not feel like doing the thing that helped before. Do it anyway.

When you're in the doldrums, it may seem like exercise couldn't possibly help, even though it did last week. If you're sad and hungry, food might seem like too much trouble, even though getting something in your system worked before.

The important thing to do here is to trust your happier self, even if you think he's a Pollyanna idiot who has no idea what you're going through.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 5:42 PM on May 8, 2007 [11 favorites]

A long hike in the woods with my dog.
Focusing on someone elses needs- I have been somewhat seriously ill for 6 weeks and was starting to feel a bit bad for myself. My 2 best girlfriends each had a crisis and I felt best when I was helping them and not just in bed focusing on well, why I was in bed.
Don't have a friend with a crisis? Hit a soup kitchen?
Or offer to walk the dogs at the pound.
posted by beccaj at 5:45 PM on May 8, 2007

This New York Times article about depression and antidepressants describes some recent research on things that increase serotonin levels. Exercise, sleep, and diet can all affect the amount of serotonin in your brain.
posted by medusa at 5:47 PM on May 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

I never understood the curt "meditation" answer. Meditation, at least for me, is the last thing I do when I feel down. Being alone and quiet like that only adds to my depression.

As goofy as it sounds the quickest fix for me is just smiling. Forcing myself to smile for like 15+ seconds just makes me feel a little better. Supposedly theres research that backs this up. Then I like to put things in perspective 'this job is much better than my last," "I dont have cancer," "I am over reacting," "compared to my relatives abroad Im living the life of a king," etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:47 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cold showers do it for me. I also generally feel better after taking care of some simple task, like doing the dishes. And then there's the old standby of listening to the theme from Shaft. I am not kidding.
posted by teleskiving at 5:53 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I distract myself. What is absolutely lethal is being alone with my gloomy thoughts, and pondering why I'm so grumpy.

Some things I do:

*Watch stupid, engrossing TV/movies. Comedies are good for this, as are action movies. Avoid anything artistic. You don't want artistic, you want to stop thinking.
*Listen to music while reading (No putting "Everybody Hurts" on repeat, no reading depressing novels about wars.)
*Take a bath while reading (I have this theory that it helps to engage several senses at once.)
*Take a short afternoon nap.
*Bake cookies
*Go for a brisk walk
*Go for a drive
*Take a trip halfway across town for some small item I need to buy. I think it's the change of location and distraction. I can need to buy stamps, and it'll still work.
*Do not talk about my low mood if at all possible. It doesn't help me. Stop focusing on it immediately.
*Find someone with a dog (or a cat, if you swing that way) and hang out with it.
*Remember that my grumpiness will pass, and the less I dwell on it, the faster that will happen.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:58 PM on May 8, 2007

If you feel broody, don't fight it. Don't try to distract yourself with books or the computer or the TV. Get it out of your system. Have a good hard brood. But since cleaning the house takes no brains at all, clean the house while brooding. If you feel you want to drink and smoke and brood, just drink and smoke and clean and brood. With loud music.

Then you are off your ass, off the computer, and your house gets clean. An orderly environment has a huge positive effect on a person's mood. And if you are, like me, somewhat disorganized as a rule, in cleaning you will find things you had lost or forgotten about -- like getting a bunch of more stuff for free!
posted by Methylviolet at 6:00 PM on May 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

nthing the exercise suggestion. I find it's one of the fastest ways to improve my mood. Likewise the change of scenery. And depending on how amenable you are to getting outside, it's often possible to do both at the same time.
posted by thivaia at 6:06 PM on May 8, 2007

I write. Well actually I type on LJ and set the entry on private. My hand would cramp up something awful if I was trying to handwrite what I was free flow thinking.
posted by spec80 at 6:28 PM on May 8, 2007

Do you drink? Even if you drink only occasionally, it can affect your moods. For instance, if I go out on a Friday, I can count on beeing slightly depressed by Monday. That includes being a more irritable, a little more angry, and definitely feel a vague sense of melancholy. It wears off over the course of several days and disappears entirely after a few weeks. Anyway, something to think about -- it seems like some people are more sensitive that way than others.
posted by ryanhealy at 6:38 PM on May 8, 2007

I play computer games.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:59 PM on May 8, 2007

Sleep. Wait.
posted by flabdablet at 7:13 PM on May 8, 2007

Go for a walk, ride a bike.

Shake it while you listen to your music.

Watch a funny show/movie or funny book.

Volunteer. What else can make you feel better than helping out society? Especially helping people who are disabled, ill, abused and/or underprivleged. Not only are you making them feel better, but it also puts things into perspective.
posted by deinemutti at 7:34 PM on May 8, 2007

Borrow someone's dog and go play with it in the park. A dog's smile and seemingly unconditional love always make me feel better.
posted by hooray at 7:48 PM on May 8, 2007

nthing doing the dishes, or cleaning the house. Dishes are easier and with a well-defined end-point.

Watching funny stuff does it for me, either TV or online. Google "Yacht Rock" and enjoy.
posted by chowflap at 7:54 PM on May 8, 2007

Excercise and masterbate...there i said it.
posted by mmascolino at 7:56 PM on May 8, 2007

Lots of good suggestions... lately I am having a hard time dealing with my many-hours-of-overtime job and I find that this, this, and this help a little.

I guess if you don't like cats you are out of luck here though. ;]

Moving around works for me, but as said above, this is when I most don't feel like moving around. But if I can get off my ass and do it it always works.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:00 PM on May 8, 2007

Shopping for a luxury (can't do that with any frequency, anymore).

Catching the eye of, and smiling to a pretty girl (which sometimes leads to greater melancholy, and it can be hard to raise a genuine smile, sometimes).

Try a new and ambitious recipe, pull it off with gusto and timing, then consume it.

Map out a cloning strategy for something really offbeat (3 mammalian promoters of the same plasmid), then pull it off.

... wait, I guess getting out of melancholy may have something to do with succeeding - albeit, in the face of challenge.

It's interesting that the optimal dopaminergic* firing response is to *slightly* unexpected rewards; getting something [good] that occurs 75% of the time, oddly, provokes a stronger response than getting something that only occurs 25% of the time).

Try something challenging, then succeed in it. Hobbies provide lots of avenues, as does 2/4 player sport (ie., Tennis, Squash, Racquetball, Badminton, Fencing, Beach Volleyball, &c).

*dopamine is not a 'hedonistic' or 'reward' neurotransmitter - it really has a lot more to do with learning and anticipation; it is, though tied with depression: unexpected failure to garner reward...
posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on May 8, 2007

Go somewhere that reminds you have small you are. Art museum, large public library, gigantic building (a la Union Station in nyc) or any equivalent place that reminds you have small you are.

Pretend you are bigger than the universe: melodrama, on purpose for a controlled, short amount of time. (E.g., for the next five minutes I will let myself think all these absurd thoughts of how horrible my life is, after which point I shall laugh/cry/shrug and move on.)

Gratitude & grace. Write thank-you notes that you haven't. Think through the times the world saved your __ when it really shouldn't have. Return that favor if you can.

Stress. (Not recommended.)
posted by ejaned8 at 9:15 PM on May 8, 2007

And then there's the old standby of listening to the theme from Shaft.

I'd add Sugarhill Gang's "Apache" to that playlist. It's musical Prozac. And get yourself some Parliament. Hell, just go over to the AskMe thread about music for breakdancing and fire up your favorite p2p program.

Do you keep a journal? I find that helps immensely.
posted by Vervain at 11:03 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well,this works for me in the short term but for the long term good food exercise and new sights/scenes
posted by Iron Rat at 11:54 PM on May 8, 2007

I read. Generally, something I've read before (so I don't get unpleasant surprises or get worried about what's going to happen to a character) and that makes me laugh, and that I can get involved in. Good Omens is good; so is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. And Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, the Dirk Gently books (Douglas Adams), anything by Terry Pratchett. Another Fine Myth.

YMMV, but it should be something you really like and can get involved in (although if you find that when you reread books you tend to... skim? not think about them as much as when you read them the first time? not get pulled in as much? then maybe you'll want to read something new. Nonfiction, even, if it's a subject that's interesting to you), and not a downer.
posted by Many bubbles at 12:00 AM on May 9, 2007

Oh, and seconding pictures of cats/other cute animals. Baaaaabyanimals, Cute Overload, Kitten Break, Puppy Break--all good for a quick little pick-me-up. (And for those first two, could I advise just looking at the pictures and not going into the entries to read the comments? Sometimes people are dicks in the comments.)
posted by Many bubbles at 12:05 AM on May 9, 2007

I buy used books. If you like used books you will like this suggestion.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:43 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

damn dirty ape: I never understood the curt "meditation" answer. Meditation, at least for me, is the last thing I do when I feel down. Being alone and quiet like that only adds to my depression.

I can't speak for caddis's "curtness" but you can look at the "meditation" recommendations that come up in threads like this one much as you would the exercise ones. A one-off session of sitting cross-legged on the floor when you're unhappy -- without any guidance what to do -- is probably not going to help (any more than a depressed out-of-shape person trying to take a single run for a few miles on a bad day would).

But getting a few tips from a teacher you trust and working meditation practice into your daily routine (yes, very much like exercise) has worked wonders in many people's lives.
posted by aught at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2007

I find that just smiling, thinking `hell yeah!' and just acting happy can snap me into a better mood.

Also, getting something done, like cleaning a room or even reorganising my sock drawer can make me feel better. I installed some blinds in a bathroom as I had been intending to do for a year, and it made me happier for a week. Little achievements go a long way in making me feel good.
posted by tomble at 6:02 AM on May 9, 2007

I actually keep a list for myself, so I can pull it out if I start feeling down. I almost never feel like doing any of these things when my mood drops, but I've learned to trust that they'll work if I do them.

Take a daily multivitamin
Sit in the sunshine
Get plenty of sleep
Clean house (it's amazing how much a cluttered environment stresses me out on a subconscious level)
Drink lots of water
Listen to happy/silly music (Make a goofy playlist when you're in a good mood to pull out next time you're not. The Mah-nah Mah-nah song starts mine.)
Force yourself to smile
Get a hug
Call a friend to do something distracting
Hang out in nature - look for shapes in clouds, watch bugs, hike, canoe, see the stars
Read some inspiring authors, but still in small doses (Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, and Abbey for me)
Take a hot bath
Do something luxurious for yourself
Cry until you can't anymore. Think of everything sad you possibly can. Get it all out of your system.
Sing loud songs, especially while driving on the highway
Eat healthy food, lots of whole grains and veggies
Stop watching TV, especially dramas on dvd
Have a citrus fruit
Get off the internet!
posted by vytae at 7:48 AM on May 9, 2007 [6 favorites]

I can't speak for caddis's "curtness" but you can look at the "meditation" recommendations that come up in threads like this one much as you would the exercise ones. A one-off session of sitting cross-legged on the floor when you're unhappy -- without any guidance what to do -- is probably not going to help (any more than a depressed out-of-shape person trying to take a single run for a few miles on a bad day would).

well, pwally speaks of existential anxiety. There are a couple of ways in which I like to meditate. One is the blank mind trance kind of like TM. This is great for just finding calm and peace and is the easiest. The other is a deeper state which sort of starts out blank but then allows the mind to wander freely, almost like dreaming, but about the deeper issues of life and existence. (The other day people were trashing TM for not being this, but it really does embrace this concept as well.) I think if you don't ever face existential anxiety you are failing to really think about life and existence. When it becomes uncomfortable I find that meditation provides the proper calm and allows deep reflection of this issue. As for how to do it, it is absurdly easy to learn yet fiendishly difficult to master. Just google it up and you can learn how to enter the calm state necessary to let the mind float, but it takes practice to do it well. As for a run, that is a perfect time to practice meditation as long as there is not too much traffic or other dangers to distract you. (OK, that was a lot of words. I still prefer my first answer - meditation - just do it)
posted by caddis at 8:53 AM on May 9, 2007

I have yet to figure out a good strategy for this. The most trustworthy cure is time, but when melancholy is recurrent and irrational I don't want to wait.

I agree with everyone who mentioned exercise, although I have not found it as helpful as some. At best, it provides relief. Not a more positive outlook, not any more optimism, but just sort of a distance -- yes, this bad thing may happen but I can't muster the energy/interest to worry about it right now. It's a brief escape.

If you are really melancholy, the beautiful great outdoors may make things worse. My mood predictably deteriorates in spring because I feel more dissonant with nature than I do in wet gray winter. I feel like the daffodils and the azaleas should cheer me up, that I *should* be happy -- but I'm not. And that makes me feel hopeless, like nothing can touch me, and then I even guilty for being sad. Watching young children provokes a similar reaction -- why aren't I young? why aren't I happy? sort of thing. Looking at old pictures of better, happier times usually also makes things worse.

You need to be careful, when you are reminding yourself of all the good in your life, that you do not start blaming yourself for being unappreciative, ungrateful, or emotionally dead. It is very, very easy to make yourself feel worse when you are trying to feel better.

Things that generally ARE helpful in shaking off bad moods:

- Doing nice things for people. Sending random cards to your friends in different cities, spoonfeeding someone in a nursing home, buying little "this reminded me of you" or "i thought you would like this" gifts for loved ones, friends, co-workers or whatever, can be really uplifting. Unfortunately, this isn't always easy to do and requires some effort.

- Animals can help, sometimes.

- Accomplishing little goals, like scoring in a soccer game, or playing a piano piece without messing up.

- Reading people who can write well about depression, numbness, emptiness (I suggest Philip Larkin) is not often consoling, but it is cathartic and may help you move on. Sad music is also useful for this too. I liked ejaned8's suggestion that you wallow for a bit. Indulging your melancholy for a while will probably help you get over it. It is kind of boring to be melancholy, really.

Of course, you may not have a soccer game, a nursing home, a cute puppy, or a piano to whip out whenever you feel down. It has been my experience that the things that work are not things you can just keep in stock. So maybe a good indulgent wallow is the best technique if the easy stuff (cheery music, exercise, housecleaning, masturbation, and carbohydrates ) does not help you out.
posted by bluenausea at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2007

caddis: (OK, that was a lot of words. I still prefer my first answer - meditation - just do it)

Well, sure. As someone who also meditates and considers it a crucial antidote to existential anxiety, I understood perfectly what you meant, but I think to a lot of folks who haven't learned the first thing about meditating (that is, the bare basics you need to start), meditating (whether deep breathing, TM, visualization, qi gung, or something 'religious') seems frustrating and off-putting -- which I feared might be counter-productive to escaping a black mood.
posted by aught at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2007

I have depression and anxiety, and these things work pretty well to calm me, although they may be echoing things already said. I think it helps to take yourself out of the situation/rut, and follow a little 'cheer up' ritual during times like this.

-Writing down whatever's on my mind, to get it out of there, and make it manageable
-Putting on peppy music (often 80s stuff, making sure it's about happy subjects instead of heartache or whatever), really loud
-Getting up and moving around...including dancing to above music
-Sitting in the sun
-Taking a break to read or have a long bath (or both)
-Cleaning or doing simple tidying, as that's sometimes what's getting me down
-Eating a single square of dark chocolate and taking the time to savor it
-Watching familiar, funny films (familiar because I don't want to pay that close attention to it, but it's a good background filler while I'm working)
-Sitting quietly and breathing deeply (in through the nose, out through the mouth...meditation lite, pretty much)
-I also use Lush's Flying Fox temple balm which is supposedly an aromatherapy solution for lifting a bad mood. I just like the scent though (mm...jasmine), and it's all about pampering myself and making myself feel good.

I try to not go to sleep until bedtime, as then I'd just feel bad about wasting time, but sometimes that does help too.
posted by lhall at 4:33 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

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