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5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat

5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat

In my last week’s newsletter I shared and asked the following of my readers:

Writing a weekly newsletter, I understand that not everyone will be in the same position as I am, so how much each newsletter will resonate with readers will differ depending on where they are at.

I have always known this, but I think I have thought about this much more because I am in Melbourne and we are the only place in Australia that is in Stage 4 lockdown restrictions. A quick scroll through my Instagram feed and I feel quite out of sync with everything. I see people doing things that I can only hope to be doing in a couple of months.

I didn’t want this newsletter to make anyone feel more out of sync that than they are currently feeling. I didn’t want to put pressure on anyone to feel that they need to be achieving more, doing more, or being more. Everyone is getting through the COVID-19 pandemic in their own way – there is no one perfect way to get through this.

So I decided I wanted to ask you what do you want to read about in my newsletters over the next few weeks? What will help you? What do you want me to not write about!

The response was amazing. So many readers replied to let me know that they too felt out of sync and many others wrote in with excellent suggestions for what they would like to read about at this time. Today’s post is looking to provide some ideas and inspiration to those who need a bit of a boost in mood Here are some snippets from readers’ emails:

  • Ideas that don’t involve excessive dieting or strenuous exercise for a slightly overweight couch potato like me who suffers the effects of lock down but wants to enjoy being out of the house which means looking a bit more presentable.
  • Easy and non time-consuming ways to make me feel less flat and low in energy
  • Everything is the same at the moment and I feel like my emotions have just flatlined, so any ideas on how to fix this would be most welcome!

5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat

As the primary carer, you are probably very used to doing things for and supporting members of your family when they are feeling flat. Unfortunately, it isn’t always reciprocated, so it is good to have a tool kit of simple and easy ways you can boost your own mood when you are feeling flat.

Below I have curated five science-backed ways you can boost your mood. I am not saying you have to go and do all of these! But if you are feeling flat you might like to try one or two of these and see if they help – I hope they do!

1.Take some action

 take action

Most of us get a great sense of satisfaction from ticking an item off our to do list and there is a scientific explanation for why this is and it is centred around dopamine.

Dopamine helps nerve cells to send messages to each other. It’s produced by a group of nerve cells in the middle of the brain and sends out messages to other parts of the brain.

Dopamine is responsible for allowing you to feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. When you feel good that you have achieved something, it’s because you have a surge of dopamine in the brain. {source}

When we tick off tasks on our to-do list, this action releases small amounts of dopamine. It makes us feel better in the moment and it also provides motivation to do more – we want to experience that feel-good feeling again.

Find a small task that you have wanted to complete for a little while, it might be decluttering your wardrobe, replying to outstanding emails, starting the new jigsaw puzzle you bought with the kids. The task itself doesn’t matter as long as it is something you have had on your to-do list and you haven’t completed it yet and it is something that won’t take more than 15 minutes. Set a timer for 15 minutes – we can do just about anything for 15 minutes – and focus solely on this task. Don’t take a call, don’t switch over to Instagram or do anything else that will distract you from completing the task.

Once you have finished, tick that item of your list and notice how good that feels! It is quite likely that now you have started on your to-do list, you will want to tackle another task and get another dopamine hit!

You can see my to-do list process here.

2. Walk barefoot on the grass

5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat - walk barefoot on the grass

This may sound a bit “woo woo” but there is science to explain why this is beneficial to your health and can boost your mood. Walking on a natural surface like soil, grass, or sand is often called “Earthing” or “Grounding”. A recent study on the effects of grounding found:

As a group, therapists experienced significant increases in physical function and energy and significant decreases in fatigue, depressed mood, tiredness and pain while grounded as compared to not being grounded. At one-month following the study, physical function was also increased and depressed mood and fatigue were decreased.

Our modern lifestyle means we have much less direct contact with the earth. Reconnecting with the earth by walking barefoot outside transfers the earth’s electrons from the ground into the body and can have significant positive health benefits like:

  • Reducing chronic inflammation.
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving vitality
  • Decreasing stress in the body. 

So if you are feeling a little stressed and want to boost your mood, take off your shoes and walk for 20 minutes on the grass or soil and see how much better you will feel.

3. Eat mood boosting foods

 tryptophan foods

Studies have found that low brain serotonin levels are associated with poor memory and depressed mood. There are a number of ways you can increase serotonin levels and the food we eat is one of them.

Serotonin is a chemical nerve cells produce. It sends signals between your nerve cells. Serotonin is found mostly in the digestive system, although it’s also in blood platelets and throughout the central nervous system.

Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan. This amino acid must enter your body through your diet and is commonly found in foods such as nuts, cheese, and red meat. Tryptophan deficiency can lead to lower serotonin levels. {source}

Therefore eating foods that contain tryptophan can help boost your mood. Some foods that are high in tryptophan are:

  • Seeds and nuts
  • Cheese
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Fish
  • Uncooked oat bran and oats
  • Beans and lentils
  • Eggs
  • Spirulina
  • Whey
  • Cocoa powder
  • Peanut butter 🙂

You can see a detailed list of exactly how much tryptophan is in each food per 100 grams in this post here.

I have a great range of sweet treat recipes where the key ingredient is nuts – you can find them here.

4. Move in a way you enjoy

5 easy ways to boost your mood when feeling flat - movement

You have probably heard of or experienced the “runner’s high” – it is that super feel good feeling you get after you have exercised in some way – it is isn’t limited to running!

Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which is why if we are feeling stressed and then we do some exercise we feel better. Exercise also stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. And as I have noted above these brain chemicals play an important part in regulating mood.

Regular exercise in any form can have a beneficial affect on your mood. It doesn’t have to be an hour long high intensity exercise session to get results. Findings from a recent study, show frequency is the key:

The mechanisms underlying the antidepressant effects of exercise remain in debate; however, the efficacy of exercise in decreasing symptoms of depression has been well established. Data regarding the positive mood effects of exercise involvement, independent of fitness gains, suggest that the focus should be on frequency of exercise rather than duration or intensity until the behavior has been well established. The addition of self-monitoring techniques may increase awareness of the proximal benefits of exercise involvement, which is generally reinforcing to the patient. {Source}

If you don’t already have a regular exercise routine, start one. Start small and with something that you can achieve. This will have a double mood boost benefit of ticking something off your list and from the exercise! It might look like 3 x 30 min sessions a week to start off with.

And with the COVID-19 pandemic taking everything online, there is no excuses about not being able to make it to a class! Here are some online exercise resources that could work for you:

  • Yoga with Kassandra – I adore this yoga Youtube channel. She has plenty of beginner classes to do and lots and lots of classes 30 minutes or less.
  • PE with Joe – in the first lockdown the youngest and I did this together daily. Joe is no longer doing these live daily, but you can go through the archive and start at any point. These would be good if you want to get the kids moving too as Joe makes it enganging and fun. Most of the workouts are broken up into 2 x 10 minutes blocks with a 2 minute break. The 10 minute blocks are tabata style so you work for 30 secs then rest 30 secs. Great for all ages and beginners.
  • Couch to 5k – this is a great app you can download. It has a plan of 3 runs a week, with a day of rest in between, and a different schedule for each of the 9 weeks. It starts with a mix of running and walking to gradually build up your fitness and stamina, so is perfect if you have never been into running or are returning to running.

You read a little about my running and recovery routines here.

5. Limit alcohol intake

 reduce alcohol intake

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time and a study by ANU shows that Australians have increased their alcohol consumption during this time.

The study found almost one-in-four women who drank at all (22.8 per cent) reported an increase in drinking during May 2020. Almost one-in-five men (17.9 per cent) reported an increase in the same period.

“For males, a strong predictor for increased drinking was because of a loss of job or decline in working hours. For females, a strong predictor for increased drinking was having a child-caring role,” Professor Biddle said.

The main reason given for an increase in drinking, for both males and females, was spending more time at home. For 67.3 per cent of males, this was the reason their drinking increased, while 63.7 per cent of females reported the same.

“Increased stress was the second biggest driver for females, with 41.9 per cent of females saying this was the cause of their increased drinking,” Professor Biddle said.{source}

I don’t bring up this study to cause guilt, but to highlight that this is something that is common in particular amongst Australian mums at the moment. The thing about alcohol is that it tricks us into feeling better initially but as alcohol starts to wear off we start feeling its negative effects.

Studies have found that the specific effects of alcohol depend not just on how much someone drinks, but also on whether blood alcohol content (BAC) is rising or falling. When a person’s blood alcohol level is rising, alcohol has a stimulant effect, but when it is falling it has a depressant effect.

As BAC ascends, drinkers report increases in elation, excitement, and extroversion, with simultaneous decreases in fatigue, restlessness, depression, and tension. Conversely, a descending BAC corresponds to a decrease in vigor and an increase in fatigue, relaxation, confusion, and depression. None of these impacts are positive to our mood.

Add to this that alcohol also severely decreases the quality of sleep we experience and it can even more negatively impact your mood. While you may fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a short time after drinking alcohol in the evening, overall it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the sleep we need to wake up in the morning and feel refreshed. I don’t know too many mums who feel happy after a poor night’s sleep.

If you feel your alcohol intake has quietly crept up on you during COVID-19 restrictions, take steps to reduce your alcohol so you can give your mood a long term boost.

What do you do to boost your mood when feeling flat?

Comments 6

  1. Thank you Nicole. In lockdown #2 in NZ & while I enjoyed the first one I’ve been feeling a bit flat this time. A very timely & helpful article.

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  2. Hi Nicole, brilliant post. Hand on heart I’ve used all of these during the 6 months of up & down emotions & flatness In more recent month as we enter 7th month of Covidland!
    I’m really grieving the loss of long term school access for adults in QLD! Crazy. Small problem compared to many I know, but All of my family & friends are in paid work, and/or seem to have friends they catch up with outside school & that keeps them happy, I don’t seem to have those relationships & I didn’t realise how much of a social boost I would get from the hellos & smiles of the School mums & staff as I walked through campus after a drop off once a week, maybe a coffee at canteen, parent praise in chapel on Friday or pop into uniform shop or library then off to My gym & day of chores & volunteer work.
    So I’ve had to find new ways to boost my mood.
    I’ve quit alcohol this year (thank goodness as I would
    have been drinking more wine to escape I bet) & get a lot of joy ticking off each day on STREAKS app.
    I am using the Calm mindfulness app first the “7 days of calm” & now onto “21 days of calm”. It’s incredible & worth the &79.95 annual fee. I have finally gained a way to detach from my monkey mind & not get swept into every thought I have – that’s been a huge help!
    And I feel I’m achieving something for me each day I tick off my streak app.
    Finally, I’ve been buying cards & choccys on special & delivering them to School departments Via my kids To thank staff & acknowledge the loss I’m feeling!

    Cheers lovely – stay well i think of you often! T

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      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience Theresa! There are so many small things I miss at the moment very similar to what you have noted.

      Focusing on things we can control, like reducing alcohol, using apps like Calm and giving to others can be so helpful at this time. I have just packaged up some biscuits to send to a friend (she lives more than 5km from me so can’t drop them off personally 🙁 ) and that gave me a little boost!

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