23 Instant Mood Boosts You’ll Want to Make a Habit

When you’re down in the dumps, give yourself a dose of happiness.

Break out of your routine


Get out of a rut by adding variety to your usual routine. Go to a nice restaurant on a random Tuesday, drive a different route to work, or pick an outfit unlike what you typically wear.

Just get out and walk


It sounds obvious, but grab your dog, best friend, or your significant other and head out on a brisk walk. Just a little bit of exercise can boost your mood and give you a fresh perspective on problems that have been bothering you. Think walks are boring? Try walking to a place where you can accomplish an errand or treat yourself to something fun. Take a trip to the mall and walk a few laps around this season’s sales, or even walk to get some frozen yogurt. Make it a fun trip and you’ll surely make it part of your routine. Here's how to make your daily walk even happier.

Have an outdoor adventure


Exercising and spending time in nature have both been shown to have mood-boosting effects. Sub out your usual walk around the neighborhood to go biking, hiking, or even kayaking. They’re vigorous exercise but are so fun that you won’t feel like you’re working out.

Content continues below ad

Eat more fruits and veggies

iStock/Pamela Moore

A healthy diet won’t just benefit your body in the long term—you’ll quickly find yourself with a happier disposition. Australian adults who increased their fruit and vegetable intake also had a boost in life satisfaction, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers looked at food diaries from 2007, 2009, and 2013, and found that those who started eating eight more servings of produce every day had happiness boosts equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment. Keep your produce fresh longer with these tips. These are 10 of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.

Bang a drum (or whatever you have on hand)


Drumming could help relax your whole body. One study found that people in a retirement community felt less depressed six weeks after a drumming class than before they started it. A drum circle could have the added bonus of camaraderie, but if that’s not your thing, try rhythmically pounding any object sitting on your desk.

Give it a rest


DVR late-night television and head to bed earlier. Increasing your amount of sleep can reduce your stress level and leave you feeling energized to tackle your day when you wake up. Don't miss these natural ways to sleep better.

Content continues below ad

Force yourself to smile


The act of smiling actually makes you feel happier, even if you weren’t feeling cheery in the first place. If cheesing it up for no reason sounds, well, cheesy, give yourself a reason to grin. Watch a funny YouTube video, read the comics, or get a joke sent to your email every day. Start by checking out these hilarious restaurant sign fails.

Thank someone


Acknowledge something that someone has done for you and send a note or a small bouquet of flowers. You’ll put a smile on their face and yours. This is the key to writing a truly heartfelt thank-you note.

Play with a dog


Non-pet owners’ levels of mood-boosting chemicals serotonin and oxytocin rose after they played with a dog for just a few minutes, found a University of Missouri study. If you don’t already own a dog, ask to play with a neighbor’s or volunteer at a local animal shelter. Here are more science-backed reasons to spend time with pets.

Content continues below ad

Compliment a stranger


Love her hair color? Dying to know where he got that awesome hat? Tell someone that you like something that they have and you’re guaranteed to brighten their day. Seeing good things in others will help you start to see good things in yourself. Who knows, you may get an unexpected compliment.

Make a date with a friend


The support of a large social network could do wonders for your well-being. A British study found that adults who had more than six friends whom they met with on a regular basis were happier than those who had fewer friends. Call or text a friend you haven’t seen in a while or plan a night out you can look forward to. These are 24 little ways to be a true friend.

Snack on carbs

iStock/Rick Grant

You read that right: Carbohydrate-rich foods encourage the amino acid tryptophan to flood your brain, boosting your serotonin levels. Keep the effect going by picking a slow-burning whole grain bread slice or English muffin rather than one made with white flour, which could wear off after just an hour. Check out these science-backed reasons to eat more bread.

Content continues below ad

Plan a vacation


Getting bogged down with our daily routines can send us into a rut, causing us to look at things negatively. Booking a trip near or far away will give you something to look forward to, and the break from your normal routine will help you to see your life a little more clearly.

Buy something silly


After all, laughter is the best medicine. Pick up something that makes you laugh, like a funny picture, book, magazine, or a DVD of your favorite stand-up. You could even plan a date night out to a comedy club. Giving yourself time to laugh boosts feel-good endorphins. Don't miss these habits of optimistic people.

Soak up the sun

iStock/Goran Bogicevic

Especially in the winter, when you’re less likely to spend much time outside, it’s important to get in the sun a few times a week. Sunlight raises serotonin, and physical activity releases mood-boosting hormones and chemicals too, so head outside for your daily dose of sunshine. These are signs you might not be getting enough vitamin D.

Content continues below ad

Get a chair massage


Researchers say a massage could raise mood-boosting serotonin and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Even just 10 minutes of relaxation can do wonders. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, take a walk to the local nail salon for a short chair massage. Your neck and back will thank you, and you’ll feel relaxed the rest of the day. Here are easy ways to give yourself a massage.

Take a deep breath


Most people with mild depression take shallow breaths because their stomach and chest are tight. Stretch out your rib cage and do some deep breathing. Lie face up on your bed, with your head hanging over the edge. Hold a five- or 10-pound dumbbell with both hands behind your head, letting your arms drop toward the floor. Take 10 deep breaths, then put the weight down and adjust your body so your head rests on the bed. Take another 10 deep breaths, and repeat the process three more times.

Wear your favorite color


Have a passion for red? Love cool blues? Wear your favorite color, the one that brings out your beautiful eyes, and you’ll walk a little taller and smile throughout the day. This is what your outfit color says about you.

Content continues below ad

Sip a cup of coffee


Regular, modest amounts of caffeine could reduce the risk of depression. Have a cup of coffee or tea every morning to get its effects.

Tackle a problem

iStock/Alexander Gatsenko

Boost your confidence by completing a particularly hard crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Maximizing your brainpower and doing something challenging will help you to have a more confident outlook on life.

Hang a happy photo


Take a photo of yourself doing something you enjoy, like roller skating, skiing, swimming, playing an instrument, or being with friends and family. Place the picture on your desk to remind yourself that you lead an amazing life and have lots to be happy about. Don't miss these tricks to make yourself look better in photos.

Content continues below ad

Switch your sleeping location


Sleeping in a different bedroom could help insomnia, which is common in people with depression. Other ways to fight sleeplessness include cutting caffeine after 3 p.m., taking an hour to relax before bed, and getting up at the same time every day. You might not realize that these "harmless" habits are actually giving you insomnia.

Be your own cheerleader


When things go wrong, don’t mentally beat yourself up for some supposed failing. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best, and you’ll do better if you can figure out a way to improve. Start with these tricks to stop negative self talk.

View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.