May 2021: 9 tips for lifting your mood and motivation

After the events of 2020 and 2021 so far, anyone could be forgiven for feeling out of sorts and lethargic. Perhaps you’re on edge about restrictions easing. Perhaps things aren’t normal enough for you by far. Throw in a wet, windy, grey May and the ongoing uncertainty over coronavirus and it’s no surprise that many of us are struggling to lift our mood and motivation. We’re even limited to who we can hug – if anyone at all. And we all know how good a hug can feel. On that subject, before we get into our tips for lifting mood and motivation, it’s worth knowing that even hugging a soft toy, like a teddy bear, can actually have a comforting, reassuring effect. Even the gentle action of stroking a soft surface or tactile texture, like a plush cushion or blanket, is shown to offer comfort. One to bear in mind… Build our other advice on mood boosting into your daily routine and you’ll be feeling more like yourself in no time.

1. Fake it till you make it. It seems absurd, but forcing ourselves to do things in a positive way can actually lead to positive feelings. That means reminding yourself to smile – at a thought, or at another person – to laugh and even to walk with your head up and with positive intent. Even focusing on preventing yourself from frowning is shown to lead to more positive feelings. Yes, you really can convince yourself that you’re happier than you thought you were – which leads to actually feeling happier.

2. Reframe your views. That’s psychology-speak for paying attention to how you’re thinking or feeling about something, and actively trying to put that thought process or emotion into a more positive context. This can start with really simple stuff, for example, the very, very wet May we’re having. It’s easy to look outside and think “Oh, great, another day of dreary rain” and for that to bring you down. Instead, reframing that thought as “All this rain is doing wonders for the plants; the grass looks healthy, the flowers are growing strong, and the birds are loving washing themselves in that big puddle!” will enhance your mood naturally. Try applying this positive reframing to anything that makes you feel negative. “I was really looking forward to reading that book, but it isn’t in the library” can become “Here’s my chance to try an author I’ve never read before!”

3. Get out amongst the greenery. We mean that quite literally: even seeing a lot of the colour green can have a positive effect on mood. Probably because we associate it with the natural world, and countless research studies have shown that when we get out in the garden or into the countryside, we feel more relaxed, positive and happier. Walking around the garden – or further afield if you have parkland or countryside nearby – is a wonderful mood lifter. You’re getting fresh air. You’re getting vitamin D from the sun (well, when the clouds thin or part enough). You’re hearing bird song. You’re looking at flowers. You’re exercising. You’re seeing green… All of those things are absolutely proven to make a difference to the way you feel right now and the way you feel about the future. If you can do a little gardening while you’re out there, so much the better.

4. Step up your social scene. It’s not the easiest time to do that, admittedly, what with restrictions still in place, but human contact, even for the grouchiest and most antisocial of us, is really important. Make time to chat with a friend or relative. Don’t engage in negative thinking just because they haven’t initiated that contact. Be the first one. Be proactive. A chat on the phone, over Zoom or Skype or, ideally, in person, can be really uplifting. Combine it with playing a game to make sure you’re testing your brainpower a little (good for mental and physical health and mood) and to add new elements to your conversation. Or get outside in the fresh air with someone, even if it feels a little fresher than you’d like. To keep your social interactions positive and make sure your mood – and that of the other person – is lifted, stay off negative topics. We’ve all talked too much about Covid-19 and politics recently, so steer clear. Mood is contagious, so try thinking positively and if your friend or relative is feeling down, try to help them reframe their thoughts in a more positive light – it’ll do wonders for you both. What’s more, the very act of being helpful to someone else is shown to produce a feelgood factor for yourself. Not every good deed needs to be entirely altruistic…

5. Amp up your activities. Exercise is good for the mind and emotional wellbeing just as much as it is for your body. It releases endorphins and the very act of doing something positive makes you feel positive. Increased exercise also leads to better sleep – and better sleep leads to better health and better health leads to…feeling better about yourself and the world around you. Sign up to exercise classes, dance to your favourite music, and go for that walk you’ve been putting off. Even five minutes around the garden a couple of times a day counts for something.

6. More music, maestro. We mentioned music above and it’s a simple but effective mood lifter. Upbeat, happy tunes are best, of course, putting a spring in your step and fuelling your motivation naturally. As it happens, even a sad song can prove positive – as it gives you an outlet for any sadness. Just don’t sit there playing miserable music for longer than it takes to give you a little release. After that, bring it back upbeat and focus on enjoying the rhythm.

7. Do something you’re good at. It’s basic self-affirmation. We feel good when we do things well. This could be anything, from knitting to baking, painting to writing poetry. Activities as diverse as singing with a choir, flower arranging or tackling a crossword or sudoku puzzle all count. Even a straightforward word search puzzle gets the grey matter going and gives a sense of satisfaction. And that translates into a lifted mood.

8. Choose the healthy item. We love a sweet treat as much as the next person and, medical advice notwithstanding, we think the occasional reward is more than justified. But we’d all benefit from making healthy food our first choice. Increased intake of minerals and vitamins and cutting back on sugar and complex fats can only improve health, mood, energy levels and sleep quality. Try to get green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach onto your plate several times a week, as well as cauliflower, broccoli or asparagus. Oily fish, like herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines, contain Omega-3, which combats depression, slows the decline in brain function, and can support eye, bone and heart health. Add bananas and other fruit, beans and lentils, and reduce your sugary snack intake, and you should see a noticeable improvement in how you feel in yourself.

9. Look for laughter. The internet is famous for videos featuring adorable and funny videos of babies and small children, pets and wildlife alike. If it’s funny, it’s uplifting. Get online and seek out the silliest moments captured on camera. A few minutes laughing at dogs’ faces captured in slow motion, and you’ll see exactly what we mean. Don’t be tempted to go to a news website! You could even bypass your daily newspaper delivery, too. Because really, how much of what you read in the news is GOOD news? Bad news sells papers and spells negative emotions. Give it a miss. Give yourself a lift.