I personally know lots of people who want to improve their mood, but have no idea where to start. In this article, I’ll be talking about some useful things you can do to get started.

How to improve your mood

A lot of times, you can improve your mood just by building basic healthy habits.

To start, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep is crucial for mental health, and most people don’t get enough of it. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night – but note that that’s a very broad recommendation! Many people need more. (If you’re constantly tired, that’s probably you.) I personally aim for at least 8.5 hours every night, because I’ve found that it improves my overall resilience to stress.

Exercise also has really positive effects on mood. Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing, and lower rates of mental illness. Exercise can also help prevent mental illness, and can be a treatment for anxiety and depression. This doesn’t mean you have to start going to the gym – exercise can be anything that gets your heart rate up, including just going for a walk every day.

You should also make sure you’re eating healthy! Eating a balanced diet is important for both physical and mental health. Try to eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. And make sure you’re eating enough! Many people don’t eat enough calories, which can lead to fatigue and other health problems. You should also try to avoid drugs like caffeine or alcohol, which can cause mood swings and crashes.

Foods that improve your mood

Unfortunately, there is no magic food that is guaranteed to improve your mood, or that will solve all of your problems. (That food also definitely isn’t chocolate, or red wine, or coffee, or whatever fad is going around at the time you’re reading this.) The food you eat is just one piece of the puzzle, and you have to eat healthily consistently – there’s no minimal effort quick fix. You have to put in the work. Some key things to remember:

Other habits to build

Another thing to watch out for is social connection. Humans are social creatures, and we need social connection to thrive. Make sure you’re spending time with people who are close to you, and try to build new relationships as well. If you’re struggling to make friends, try joining a club or taking a class! You can also try volunteering – it’s a great way to meet new people and give back to your community. And make sure your social connections aren’t just online if you can: in-person interaction is much more valuable, and social media can be incredibly toxic and harmful.

You should also try to bring fun into your life regularly. People tend to return to a standard level of happiness even after something happens in their life that makes them very happy or very sad. (In fact, a famous study on recent lottery winners and recent victims of catastrophic accidents found that both groups got about the same amount of pleasure from everyday activities.) Because of this human tendency to return to baseline, it’s important to not fall into a rut and expect a big vacation or event to carry you through. Instead, you should try your best to bring small things that spark joy into your life regularly.

And finally, building strong mental health habits can help you improve your mood. This can take the form of meditation, journaling, and general reflection. Different people respond to different mindfulness tactics differently, so it’s important to experiment to find what works for you. I personally don’t get anything out of meditation, but I absolutely love journaling, and I’ve been journaling with baseline for over two years now.

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How to track your mood

If you’re trying to improve your mood, mood tracking is absolutely essential. I wrote an entire article about this, but here’s a quick summary:

In order to understand why mood tracking is so important, let’s look at how we approach improving our physical health. If we’re trying to lose weight, what do we do to see if we’re making progress? We weigh ourselves! If we’re trying to reduce our cholesterol levels, what do we do to see if they’re going down? We take cholesterol tests! The same idea is true for your mood: if you’re trying to improve your mood, you need a way to see whether you’re making progress. Mood tracking is what allows you to do that.

Mood tracking is also useful for seeing trends and correlations in your moods. Just like you might keep a food diary to identify food allergies, tracking your mood can help you understand what activities and other factors makes you feel better or worse.

Mood tracking can take as little as a few seconds (I recommend using a -5 to 5 scale). However, I also recommend journaling alongside mood tracking. This will help you see more clear correlations between your mood and life, get you thinking about how you’ve been feeling before you pick a score, and help you build language to explain your mood.

You can do mood tracking on many different mediums, but I prefer using my phone. I have it with me everywhere I go, so I can journal whenever something happens that I want to remember. (I tried paper journaling when I got home, but I would just forget too much!)