Quick tricks to get happy

Bad breaks and difficult days often darken our disposition — but we don’t have to let those low spirits linger. We actually have more control over our moods than we realize.

How to quickly bounce back from the blues…

“Travel” to a happier time

Make a list of five of the happiest moments from your past. Now close your eyes, and imagine one of those moments in as much detail as possible. Visualizing happy times encourages the brain to release endorphins. This helps lower blood pressure and makes us feel happy, almost as if the pleasant experience were occurring at this very moment.

Helpful: The more sensory details you include in your visualization, the greater the odds that you will experience this mood-boosting endorphin rush. Where are you standing in the vision? Can you feel the breeze on your face? Are you holding something in your hands? What do you hear, see and smell?

Imagine that others are conspiring to help you

Bad moods often feed paranoia — the sense that others are working against you. To feel better, imagine that other people are plotting to your benefit instead.

If you have trouble imagining such things, that might be a sign that you should be spending more time with helpful, positive-minded people. Then good thoughts on your behalf won’t be so hard to imagine.

Count your complaints

When you air any particular complaint for the third time (to yourself or others), imagine it turning to vapor and floating away. Voicing our problems or writing about them in a journal can help us get them out of our system. But when we vent about the same problems over and over, the retellings don’t help us move on — they keep us in a rut.

After the third airing, raise the problem again only if the additional mention is part of a genuine effort to fix the problem… reposition your goals and plans in response to the problem… make light of the problem… or cast the problem in a new and more positive light.

Example: It’s OK to mention a health problem again to say that it was a wake-up call to start a healthy diet.

Assign yourself a task

Achieving a task helps you feel more in control. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that nothing matters more to people’s sense of well-being than whether they have a strong feeling of control over their lives. To exercise your sense of control — and boost your mood — assign yourself an achievable task related to a personal goal, large or modest. Set a deadline so that you can measure the accomplishment.

Examples: Clean a room… get 30 minutes of exercise… or speak with one professional contact about a career transition that you might like to make.

Retell the incident

Retell the incident that’s making you feel bad in a less painful way. Martin Seligman, PhD, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, has discovered that the way we tell ourselves the stories of our setbacks can mean more to our moods than the severity of those setbacks.

If you tell yourself a problem or misstep is temporary, limited to a single occurrence or mainly someone else’s fault, you are likely to rebound quickly… but if your “self-talk” says that the error is permanent or a reflection of who you are, your ill mood is likely to linger.

Example: If you’ve been laid off, replace the thought I wasn’t good enough to keep my job with This economy is costing a lot of good people their jobs, but it will turn around.

More Mood boosters

Repeat the word “forward.” Saying “forward” silently to ourselves when we feel bad reminds us that our bad mood likely is related to a past event — but the past is less important than where our lives are headed in the future.

Cuddle a loved one. Experiencing tender, caring physical contact can improve your mood and even lower your blood pressure. If there’s no one you can turn to for a hug, visit a pet store and hold a few puppies. Some animal shelters even will let you take a dog home for a week without a long-term commitment.

Let yourself feel bad — later. If you cannot reverse your bad mood, postpone it. Select a time later in the day or week to feel bad. Pencil it in on your calendar. Your mind might be willing to go along with this because you’re not denying the right to feel bad — only delaying when this happens. Better yet, you might not feel like feeling bad anymore once the bad-mood time arrives.

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