It's a time of celebration and cheer, but it’s not unusual to feel a little blue in the middle of all the festive season madness. It can be a stressful time – not only emotionally but financially too. If you’ve woken up today feeling a bit glum, don’t just write it off as a bad day and stay down in the dumps. Try one of these 12 interesting ways to boost your mood and turn that frown upside down.
Sit up straight
It’s so simple but incredibly effective because good posture really does affect your mood. Research has found the better your posture, the easier it is to think of something that makes you happy. When you’re slumped forward it takes twice as much brainpower to access happy memories, says Professor Erik Peper of San Francisco State University.
The connection between body and mind is strong. "When you’re feeling powerless you look down and shrink, but when you’re feeling empowered and positive your posture expands and you look up," Peper says. "Creating that stance has the same effect, so arrange your world so you regularly look up.
Put joyful images high on a wall, and when you’re sitting put a pillow behind your lower back as it naturally helps you tilt your pelvis and lift your chest upwards."
Put a spring in your step
The bouncier your walk, the more positively you think. "People who walk in a happy way recall fewer negative words than those moving in a more depressed style," says researcher Johannes Michalak of the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. Try swinging your arms and looking around you as you stride.
Use a diary
Scheduling activities in a diary creates such a positive mood boost that UK doctors have been testing it as a treatment for mild depression. They’ve found it works just as well as some more expensive forms of therapy. The theory is when we’re feeling down we tend to put off doing activities that might make us feel better, such as exercise, or we might even avoid things we’d usually enjoy, which then creates more sad feelings.
"Experiencing more, or more varied, activities can lift the mood," says study author Professor David Richards of the University of Exeter. It also gives your day structure.
Say thanks to your pillow
It’s well known that being grateful for what you have creates a more positive mindset, but sometimes, especially if you’re feeling particularly down, it can be hard to find that feeling. “I suggest people start by expressing gratitude for inanimate objects,” Australian life coach Irena Bee says.
"You might say, 'I’m grateful for the pillow that stopped my neck aching in bed last night' or 'I’m grateful for the ceiling that means I have shelter'. Start with simple things. Then, as you train your gratitude muscles, you can start looking for positives deeper in your life."
Eat a chili
Several foods are known to lift mood naturally, and chilli is in the top five on that list. "It’s something I do when I need a quick mood fix," says Sydney-based motivational speaker Nicole Harcourt. "I actually keep a few little red-hot chillies in my handbag. They release the same endorphins as exercise but it’s easier than trying to run somewhere in heels, which I often wear." No need to get quite so gangster though – adding chilli to your next meal will work too!
Find someone in a good mood
Happiness is catching. Believe or not, researchers are actually studying this phenomenon on a biological level. It’s thought the sweat produced by happy people contains chemicals that infuse those around them with a similar feeling. But of course we’ve all experienced it on an emotional level.
"Happy people see possibilities in life rather than focusing on problems," says American motivational speaker Dain Heer.
Jump in the air
This is a little trick American business mentor Renee Mayne suggests to clients who can’t quite shake themselves out of a funk. "Sit and think about what’s causing your mood," she says. "Once you’ve come up with the answer, jump up into the air as if you’ve just won the lottery. Repeat three times."
"Doing this shifts your energy so whatever is causing your mood won’t have the same impact on you – either it will disappear, or you’ll come up with a way to solve the problem. If you hang out with them, this mentality transfers to you."
Stand on one leg for a minute
"When you do this you have to focus and be calm and this brings your attention to the present moment, which is well known to reduce stress and boost mood," Australian life coach Alex Kingsmill says. She suggests you use this mental reset as what she calls a "choice point" – a moment when you decide to stop being grumpy and thinking in a negative way and instead focus on thinking positively.
"A lot of mental attitude comes from a conscious choice about how we see things," she explains. It really is as easy as choosing to think happy thoughts," she says.
Get your eyes tested
When our vision is compromised – even moderately – we’re likely to suffer from a low mood and depression. It’s not known exactly why this is, but researcher Professor Jugnoo Rahi from London’s University College Hospital says it’s possible that even slightly poor vision might make doing things we enjoy, or that keep us independent, harder – and this impacts our happiness.
"If you think your eyesight is changing, seek medical attention," she advises. "There might be something you can do to stop it getting worse and having further effects on your health."
Treat yourself to a vanilla yoghurt
Women who eat fullfat yoghurt regularly are less prone to bad moods as it’s believed the healthy bacteria and fats it contains help modulate emotions. For a bigger boost, however, choose vanilla yoghurt. Dutch researchers found this is the flavour most likely to boost mood, possibly because we associate the taste and scent of vanilla with happy memories such as eating ice cream on the beach.
Change your password
Using a life-affirming password, known as "positive passwording", is such a trend in the USA that there are books and websites with advice on how to choose the right phrase for you. The theory is that typing a password that makes you feel happy each day can boost your mood.
"It’s got to feel believable to you though, or it will be met with resistance by your mind and it won’t work," Kingsmill says. She suggests using words such as "choose" – for example, 'Ichoosehappy' rather than 'Iamhappy' – so it feels more doable.