Well-Being//

14 Small Mood Boosters to Try When You’re Feeling Stuck

These little habits will help you switch gears the next time you’re caught in a negative headspace.

Simona Pilolla/ Shutterstock
Simona Pilolla/ Shutterstock

Staying optimistic among uncertainty can come down to the little habits that make up our day, which could include acts of self-compassion, a ritual to stay connected to loved ones, or building in small bursts of time to recharge between meetings or when we’re feeling stressed. When we feel stuck or down, it’s important to have some mood boosting habits ready to give us a burst of energy or joy. 

We asked our Thrive community to share the little things that instantly boost their mood when they’re feeling stuck in a negative headspace. Which of these will you try?

Play with your pet

“Playing with my new puppy that I adopted in March of last year has been the best mood elevator for me. She is always in good spirits, always willing to play, and wants to run fetch at any time. Seeing her do some of the silly puppy things that she does just makes you laugh. Today she tried to bury a piece of pizza crust in my pillows! Being able to play with her for a few minutes outdoors always puts a smile on my face, elevates my mood, and makes me giggle.”

—Suzanne Schnaars, engineer, Waldwick, N.J.

Keep a pick-me-up folder

“I learned a trick from a mentor, who suggested I start a ‘keep me’ folder on my phone or computer. It’s where I house any positive feedback and uplifting notes I’ve received from colleagues, clients and friends. When I’m lacking motivation or feel like I’m in a creative rut, I take a spin through the folder for a pick-me-up.”

—Donna Peters, career coach and retired consulting senior partner, Atlanta, GA

Break into a mini dance party

“As an entrepreneur and a mom of three, I might have a few hours short every single day. To keep my energy high and to be able to serve my family, clients, and communities with purpose, I fill my cup by taking a moment to start dancing like nobody’s watching. When I feel my batteries are running slow, I turn on Justin Timberlake and just dance on the spot. Dancing never fails me and keeps my body in energy flow.”

—Dijana Llugolli, success and business coach, Stockholm, Sweden 

Try a new recipe

“When I feel stuck in my business plans or my personal life, I reach for my cookbooks and search for a new recipe. Then, I spend time in my kitchen creating this new dish and I always feel so much better afterward. The process of creation always gives me a huge boost. Plus, I sometimes give some of my food to friends who live nearby!”

—Annie Gaudreault, nutritionist, Toronto, ON, Canada

Make a thoughtful introduction

“To boost my mood, I take a moment each day to introduce two people who I think should know each other. The appreciation and gratitude that people have for these introductions simply makes me smile. The idea to make an introduction comes from a conversation I have had with a person. Once I know what they do and what they are about, I think of who they should know. I’ll send a note to the target introduction and let them know I’ve got someone I want to introduce them to and provide some background. The people I introduce are enormously thankful for the introduction and it makes me happy to have helped two people collaborate.”

—Jennifer J. Fondrevay, founder and chief humanity officer, Chicago, IL

Go for a walk

“Stepping outside for a walk is one of my favorite ways to reset my mood when I’m feeling stuck. It gets me into a different environment, allows me to enjoy a distraction-free pleasure, and encourages me to let go of whatever is bothering me and gain a fresh perspective. I typically only have a few minutes to hit the reset button during a busy day. The key is getting outside of my head for a moment to recharge and maintain perspective.”

—Karen Swim, public relations, Shelby Township, MI

Listen to a song you love

“Music is an instant mood booster when I’m feeling down. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than listening to a song you love. Whether it’s a three-minute song with inspiring lyrics or hours of Beethoven, music can lift you up, help you focus, and trigger your creativity in a matter of seconds.”

—Francesco Onorato, writer, Phoenix, AZ  

Watch a heartwarming video

“For an instant mood booster, I watch my favorite dog videos and stories on Instagram. They are so sweet and funny, and can let me laugh a little during a difficult day. They always help me maintain perspective when I’m feeling down and need a little spark of joy.”

—Sarah Rudman, operations manager, Boston, MA

Light a candle

“I find that lighting a candle instantly lifts my mood. It warms the heart and lifts up your soul. There’s something quite peaceful about gazing into the flames of a candle while mulling something over in your mind.”

—Melissa Matthee, deputy CEO, Johannesburg, South Africa 

Smell something fresh 

“Since the pandemic started, I have started keeping and planting things around me that smell great, whether it’s mint, basil and tomato plants in the kitchen garden, or jasmine and gardenia on the deck. I even have lillies sitting next to my reading area. When I need a mood booster, I spend a moment appreciating my little gardens and taking in their scents.”

—Suzanne Lettrick, entrepreneur, Marin County, CA

Ignite all five senses

“To boost my mood, I hone in on all five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. I flip the switch on my vision first, then let the rest of the senses follow the lead. If I’m in a dimly lit room when I need an energetic mood shift, I start by turning on all the lights, then I ask Alexa to play music that makes me happy, then I go outside for some fresh air, grab a crunchy snack, or change my clothes to fit the mood I want to be in. Our mind and body are just friends that want to play well together!”

—Jillian Potashnick, author, Las Vegas, NV

Keep a list of your joy triggers

“I keep a list of what I call ‘Tiny Power Plays’ that I pull from when I’m feeling low. These are small things that give me a sense of joy and control, like putting on lipstick, going on a power walk while listening to my favorite song, or even having a brief dance party!” 

—Laura C. Aiken, consultant, Bristol, U.K.

Donate what you don’t need

“I have embraced minimalism and sold or donated about half of my belongings. I noticed it is now easier to keep my house clean, and I’ve experienced a huge mood boost. My new simple home arrangement feels much more elegant and refined! Perhaps it seems counterintuitive that getting rid of stuff made me happier — but I can say for sure that it has cleared room for new, incredible things to come.”

—Elise Walsh, managing director and writer

Surround yourself with nature

“One of the simple ways I boost my mood is by spending time in nature. Whether it’s looking at the trees against the blue sky, seeing red berries on a bush, or a red cardinal sitting in a tree, I always look outside to see the beauty around me but I’m hurting or need a boost to recharge.  I take a moment to let it sink in and savor the beauty of the world. Then, I actively remind myself that there is beauty and love, here for the noticing, savoring, and enjoying.”

— Lisa Kohn, author and executive coach, Wayne, PA

What’s one small thing that boosts your mood when you’re feeling down? Share your tip with us in the comments.

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