joyful woman outdoors

3 Simple Yet Surprising Ways to Boost Your Mood

By Bailey Miller
November 09, 2023

When we’re feeling low, the typical mood boosters, like meditation or yoga, may not always do the trick. Some days, it can be difficult to carve out an hour for exercise or quiet reflection after a busy, stressful day.

That's why it's good to have several different mood-boosting practices in your self-care toolbox. That way you have options to call on to fit the circumstances and the amount of time you have.

Luckily, there are many surprisingly simple ways to find happiness and joy when feeling down. The next time you need a lift, try one of these three science-backed ways to nurture your well‑being:

Get Instrumental

For many people, music in any form provides joy. But did you know that investing time into learning how to play an instrument could boost your long-term well‑being? A University of Bath study suggests that spending just an hour a week learning how to play the piano may decrease feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety over time.

Try it yourself with an instrument of your choice—piano, guitar, drums, or even the triangle! If you don’t have an instrument on hand, get creative and make music of your own with kitchen utensils, buckets, or pieces of furniture.

Look to the Skies

Gazing at the beauty of the dawn or early evening sky can leave us awestruck. And studies suggest that experiencing the emotion of awe can boost physical and mental health.

But those feelings of wonder and amazement where we are truly awed don't just happen every day—or do they? A British study suggests that observing “fleeting natural events” like sunrises or sunsets, can initiate feelings of awe..

“I had one client start their day by watching the sunrise from their window or going for a short walk to observe the beauty of nature,” Arielle Jordan, L.C.P.C. says. “After a few weeks, they reported that they felt more grounded, centered, and connected to the present moment. Taking time to appreciate nature's fleeting moments became a source of comfort and inspiration for them.”

To get the benefit, try sipping your morning tea or coffee next to an east-facing window to bask in the glow of the sunrise, or wind down at the end of the day with a cup of cocoa while watching the sunset.

Do Something Good for Someone Else

Sometimes the best way out of a low mood is to get out of your own head and put your focus on the wider world. Studies suggest that showing kindness to others can improve our well‑being.

In a study of people with elevated depression or anxiety symptoms conducted at The Ohio State University, participants who engaged in acts of kindness experienced an improvement in social connection and life satisfaction and an improvement in their symptoms.

“There's something about helping others that allows us to stop focusing on ourselves and really turn our attention to other people,” says Jennifer Cheavens, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor of clinical psychology at The Ohio State University.

The next time you’re feeling down, try volunteering at an organization in your town, writing a heartfelt note to someone you’re grateful for, or paying an act of kindness forward by buying a coffee or meal for someone else at a coffee shop or restaurant.