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Stuck in a Funk? 5 Ways to Boost Your Mood!

by Elise Museles

We all know about the Monday Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which impacts over 10 million Americans every single winter. And those are very real! But, there’s a much more common version of the blues that happens to all of us at some point or another: we feel “stuck,” or can’t seem to shake our bad mood. We get irritated, annoyed, or just a little “meh” about everything and everyone.

Whether it strikes you for a few hours or a few weeks, it’s easy to slog through the day feeling grumpy and grouchy. But there are ways to get unstuck and reinvigorated, even when you want to hide under the covers and shut the world out.

Here’s what I do to find the other side of my funk:

1. Create a colorful plate

You probably could have guessed I’d start here: we can use food to help boost our mood. Adding more colorful ingredients to our meals is instantly uplifting. Think: coconut curry soup, a nutrient-packed dinner bowl, colorful kale salads, matcha lattes, and pumpkin smoothies. These foods are rich in antioxidants to revive and invigorate. And, of course, a visually vibrant plate will energize you more than a colorless one ever could!

P.S. Bringing more color into your life in general can also lift your spirits! That means that even though it’s easy to start wearing the black uniform as the weather turns colder, keep those pops of burgundy, green, orange, and other fall hues in your wardrobe. And adding brightness also applies to your surroundings—there’s no mistaking what beautiful fresh flowers can do transform your home any time of year.

2. Choose restorative foods

Once you have a colorful base, add a few ingredients that are known for their rejuvenating or energizing properties. Healthy fats from avocados, nuts and seeds, nut butter, or fatty fish help fight free radicals; lentils help boost production of the feel-good hormone serotonin; beets can increase happiness with a hefty does of folate; and flax seeds are rich in depression-fighting omega-3s.

Other mood-boosting foods include L-theanine-packed matcha tea, B vitamin-rich Brazil nuts, and polyphenol-loaded dark chocolate.  (Chocoholics: rejoice!) Meals that include just a few of these foods can make you feel revitalized and restored. And besides being loaded with good-for-you nutrients, they happen to taste great, too!

3. Clean your space

When we’re feeling weighed down, stuck, overcrowded, or messy, even our physical surroundings can make things worse. That means that reorganizing can be a real mood-booster!

If you’ve read or heard about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, you know how many lives the book has already transformed. Marie Kondo does an amazing job of explaining how spaces that are bogged down with “stuff” make our minds feel cluttered and disorganized, and she offers tips for creating spaces that support the calm, collected lives we want to lead. When you de-clutter your space, focus on what you want to keep, instead of what you want to discard, and you may find releasing and letting go of “stuff” a lot easier to do.

Reprioritizing and reorganizing can help us feel less encumbered, and creating a serene environment is one way to make internal space for inspiration to flow again. Feeling lighter in one space often leads to big changes in other spaces—both physically and mentally. (Really and truly: it’s all connected!)

4. Move your body (and switch up the routine)

Need some motivation to move? Here it is: When we move around (in any way), we’re more patient, more focused, and more relaxed. Movement releases endorphins, which can reduce stress, bust bad moods, and promote restful sleep. Exercise of any kind also strengthens the mind-body connection, so we can tune into how we’re truly feeling.

If you’re already committed to daily movement, there’s a good chance you’ve gone into autopilot and aren’t really present for your workouts. (I know that this happens to me!) As you settle into a new schedule for fall, why not mix things up: sign up for a new fun dance class, indulge in a session with a personal trainer, try your hand at high intensity interval training, or plot a different route for your daily run. Just one small change in your routine can inspire you to want to move more.

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5. Perform a random act of kindness

I teach a class at the Children’s Inn at NIH every month. Recently, I handed my book to every single one of the participants, and I gave each of the young patients a heart bowl courtesy of my friend, Ksenia, of Breakfast Criminals. Seeing all of their grateful, smiling faces made my heart burst with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude.

When you’re in a rut, it’s easy to turn inward and pretend that the rest of the world doesn’t exist. But even tiny acts of generosity—paying for the person behind you at the coffee shop, complimenting a stranger (or a friend!) on her gorgeous hair, making sure that the driver waits for a fellow pedestrian who’s sprinting to catch the bus—pull us out of our shells. And once we’re out, we remember what a marvelous place the world can be! Never underestimate the power of making someone else’s day to make your own.

Feeling stuck and down is very real, and sometimes it can be tough to beat. Try a few (or all!) of these easy ways to keep the blahs at bay. And when your mood starts to lift, remember that the blues aren’t forever—and that compassion for yourself and others is the best way to beat them.

Now it’s your turn: How do you shake yourself out of a funk? Share your stories and insights in the comments. The more ideas, the better!

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