We all experience natural fluctuations in our mood. Very often, slight drops in our mood will resolve of their own accord over time. However, sometimes it may be necessary for us to take action to prevent our mood from declining further and interfering with our day to day life. This sheet aims to give you some ideas about ways to improve low mood.
Maintain activities and balance
When we are low in mood we are likely to feel tired and lacking in energy and motivation. As a result the natural tendency is to rest and do less. However, this usually makes the situation worse as we miss out on the potential enjoyment and sense of achievement from completing tasks and being involved in our hobbies and interests.
The temporary relief we feel from not doing activities that seem like an effort also makes us less likely to do them the next time. Both these factors can lead to our mood declining further. One very effective way to reverse this process is to ensure that you do not stop doing the things you would normally do. Try to continue with the work for your subjects in school (accepting that it may just take a little longer than it would if you were feeling 100%), socialising with your friends, eating proper meals and pursuing your hobbies and interests. Aim to strike a balance between doing the things you need to do and the things you enjoy doing.
Challenge negative thoughts
When we feel low, we tend to have more negative thoughts. We may think negatively about ourselves, others and the future. Often it is our perspective and interpretation of a situation or event that most affects how we feel, rather than what has actually happened. Try to be aware of the thoughts that go through your mind. If they are negative, question how accurate they really are and consider whether there is any factual evidence to back them up or whether there is any evidence to suggest they may not be completely true. See if you can think of a more realistic alternative thought.
Not being able to get enough sleep can often be one of the first signs that our mood is deteriorating. Most people need approximately 6-8 hours per night to feel well and function to the best of their abilities. If you are getting less than that it is worth considering if there are any changes you can make to your sleep routine. Try to get up at the same time each day and go to bed at roughly the same time each night but only when you feel sleepy. Give yourself an hour to wind down and relax in the evening before going to bed. If you go to bed and find you cannot sleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy and then go back to bed.
Exercise improves our mood by giving us more energy and releasing endorphins in the brain. Enhanced fitness and health, as well as a more toned physique, can also help us feel better about ourselves. Exercising outdoors brings the additional benefit of fresh air and, often, proximity to nature. Setting goals within the activities we choose to do can help to give us a mood-boosting sense of achievement. The social element of exercise involved in playing a team sport such as football or netball, or doing activities with others such as jogging with housemates can also lift our mood.
The food we eat can have a significant effect on our mood. Eating three regular balanced meals will help to give us a steady flow of energy during the day. Aim to minimise your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates and instead try to consume more complex carbohydrates such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Bananas can boost levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. B vitamins help protect against low mood; these can be found in leafy greens, beans, citrus fruits, chicken and eggs. Omega 3 acids present in oily fish, nuts and seeds have a role in stabilising mood. Limiting caffeine from tea, coffee and chocolate is also beneficial as well as minimising salt intake. Drinking plenty of water is always recommended. For further advice on diet, refer to the school nurse.
Connecting with others
Positive social relationships can significantly improve mood. Making time to be with your family can lift your spirits if you’re feeling a bit down. Going for a coffee or chatting to a friend is also likely to help how you’re feeling, even though you may prefer the idea of withdrawing from seeing people. If you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings with people you know, you can see a member of the pastoral team and we will advise you who you can speak to in confidence if we are not able to help.