Bad moods come in various forms. There’s the I-didn’t-get-enough-sleep bad mood, the people-are-so-annoying bad mood, the nothing-is-going-right-today bad mood. Sometimes there’s even the I-don’t-know-why-I’m-in-a-mood bad mood.
Whatever flavor of crummy mood you find yourself in, the funk doesn’t have to ruin your entire day. Depending on the circumstances that are cramping your emotional style, it might be easier to break through crankiness than you think. In fact, you can probably do it in a matter of 10 easy steps.
Rather than let the grumps get the better of you, try this expert-approved routine for busting a bad mood.
Step 1. Hydrate
Water is the perfect beverage for a quick mood boost. Why? Dehydration is a surprising potential cause of feeling down. “Sometimes, dehydration can lead to feelings of lethargy and discomfort that contribute to irritability,” says dietitian and author Malina Malkani, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.
Other beverages besides plain water can hydrate you as well. “A few low-calorie, hydrating refreshers that can help brighten your mood and perk you up include herbal iced teas, blended fruit and ice slushies, and sparkling water enhanced with sliced cucumber, fresh herbs, or citrus fruit slices,” Malkani suggests.
Step 2. Take a Walk Outside
There’s nothing like a burst of exercise to take your mind off your troubles. “Engaging in physical activity, even if it’s just a short walk or a few minutes of stretching, can profoundly affect your mood,” says neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Ph.D., director of Comprehend the Mind in New York City. “Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety, making you feel more relaxed and content.”
If you can take your quick bit of movement outside, even better! Spending time in nature is consistently linked with improvements in mood, mental health, and overall well-being, according to the American Psychological Association.
Step 3. Have a Snack with Protein and Fiber
Who can argue with snacking your way to a happy place? Not us. Sometimes a bad mood can result from a drop in blood sugar due to not eating for a while, according to dietitian Amy Brownstein, M.S., R.D.N., of Nutrition Digested. If that’s the case, a snack can really help turn things around.
Read More: 8 High-Protein Snacks Nutritionists Love
“Grab one that contains protein (dairy, tempeh, tofu, beans, meat) and fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, or seeds) to help curb hunger and boost mood,” Brownstein suggests. Bonus: When you choose a snack rich in fiber and protein, you’ll help prevent future blood sugar crashes, too.
Step 4. Take Some B12
Mood can be affected by even the smallest things, including itty-bitty micronutrients. One little vitamin with a big impact: B12. “Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays a vital role in brain function and mood regulation,” says dietitian Wan Na Chun, R.D., C.P.T., of One Pot Wellness. “It’s involved in the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are important for maintaining a balanced mood.”
Since low levels of vitamin B12 have been associated with an increased risk of mood disorders like depression and anxiety, it may be smart to stock up on this nutrient if bad moods strike often. You can do so via diet or supplements. “Including foods rich in vitamin B12, such as dark leafy greens (like spinach and kale), fish (such as salmon and trout), and eggs, in your diet can help ensure an adequate intake of this essential nutrient,” says Chun. You can also try a B12 supplement, which usually start at a 500-milligram dose.
Step 5. Just…Breathe
Take a quick trip from crabby to happy on the train of your breath. “Taking a few moments to practice deep breathing or meditation can help calm your mind and promote inner peace,” says Hafeez. “Focusing on your breath and being present in the moment can help break the cycle of negative thoughts contributing to your bad mood.” These five breathing techniques can get you started.
Step 6. Have a Laugh
Ever heard of laughter yoga? It’s no joke! This practice (sometimes called laughter therapy) involves voluntarily laughing. You can either think of something funny, put on a video of your favorite stand-up comic, or try laughing for no particular reason.
It may not come naturally at first, but once you start, you may find yourself laughing at the absurdity of laughing at nothing…which just leads to more laughter. And it really works! Research shows that laughter interventions lessen emotional and physical stressors.
Step 7. Put on Some Tunes
Many of us feel music in our souls as much as listen to it with our ears, so it’s no wonder that putting on some tunes can lift our spirits. “Listening to uplifting or soothing music can quickly change your mood when you’re feeling down,” says Hafeez.
So what’s your favorite song? Pop in your earbuds and take a listen when you’re feeling low. To amp yourself out of a bad mood, choose something with a killer beat. Or to chill out when you’re frazzled, opt for a more peaceful track.
Step 8. Nibble On Some Chocolate
Consider this your permission to eat chocolate (yes, yes, in moderation)! “Chocolate contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that stimulates brain chemicals and increases blood flow to the brain. It also seems to release endorphins, which make you happy,” says culinary nutritionist Laura M. Ali, R.D., author of The MIND Diet for Two.
Read More: 8 Foods That Can Boost Your Mood
While these compounds peak in effectiveness around two to three hours after consumption, they reach the bloodstream and brain and start taking effect within just 30 minutes, Ali says. Just note that a small piece is all you’ll need—and make sure you go for dark chocolate. The dark variety has more flavonoids than milk chocolate, so the darker your bar the better.
Step 9. Call a Friend
In a world where texting is the default communication mode, picking up the phone can feel downright old-fashioned. But calling a friend for an actual chat could make a major difference to your mood. 2023 research published in Communication Research revealed that contacting a friend and engaging in quality conversation led to a meaningful boost in mood. So go ’90s-style and call a pal—you and your friend will likely benefit.
Step 10. Pause for Gratitude
“When we’re in a bad mood, it’s easy to focus on what’s going wrong or what we lack,” says Hafeez. Instead of ruminating on that critical comment from your boss or the aggravating thing your spouse keeps doing, take some time to recenter your thoughts around what’s right in your life. Journal about five things you’re grateful for, put up a social media post about something good that’s happened recently, or call a loved one to express thanks for something they’ve done for you.
You may find your bad mood evaporates in light of your blessings. “Reflecting on the things you’re grateful for can shift your perspective and improve your mood,” Hafeez says. “Gratitude practices have been shown to increase overall well-being and happiness.”