Bad moods don't care if you're at the office... in fact, that's often when they happen. The problem is that when you're at work you can't just curl up into a ball or yell as if you were by yourself, and it's why proven ways to be happier at work are super helpful when we need to maintain composure and feel better fast.
The reason to try to improve your bad mood at work isn't just to make you feel better; according to a study from the University of Toronto published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a bad mood can literally give us tunnel vision, affecting what we see and the information we absorb. Conversely, people in positive moods take in more information on average. Basically, not only do our moods literally affect how we see the world and absorb information, but a bad mood could negatively affect our performance at work.
The good news is, there are actually a ton of hacks to feel better pretty quickly, and you can do a ton of them right at your desk. For those of you struggling to beat bad moods and stay composed at the office, even on bad days, here are seven ways to feel better at work almost instantly.
1. Listen To A Feel Good Song
According to a 2013 study conducted by the University of Missouri, listening to cheerful, upbeat music can positively affect your mood in the short term, as well as increase your happiness levels overall if done daily for several weeks. The study's author, Yuna Ferguson, noted that it's important not to overthink, "Am I happy yet," while listening, and instead just allow yourself to enjoy the experience.
2. Think Of Something Positive That Happened That Day
In an article for Time, Nataly Kogan, CEO of the digital wellness company Happier, recommended taking a moment to think of something good that happened that day, and even write it down. "Our brains are better at remembering the bad than the good," Kogan said, "The good news is that you can train your brain to better remember the positive things. In other words, you can fight your natural negativity bias." Kogan also noted that people who practice some form of gratitude ritual regularly report feeling better and more optimistic about their lives overall.
3. Have Your Favorite Scent On Hand
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An Austrian study published in PubMed found that ambient odors, like orange and lavender, actually reduced anxiety and improved mood when tested in the waiting room in dental offices. The study stated that these findings supported previous theories that certain aromas can actually alter emotional states and reduce stress. So if you work in a high-stress work environment or often find yourself feeling overwhelmed, keep a simple scent diffuser by your desk to help keep anxious feelings at bay.
4. Get Some Light
In an article for Women's Health, psychologist Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., said that a quick dose of sunlight is one of the fastest and most effective ways to boost our mood and fight depressing thoughts. "When bright light reaches the retina it stimulates the optic nerve, which sends a signal to the part of the brain that regulates production of serotonin and melatonin. You will recall that serotonin is the same neurotransmitter that is boosted by Prozac, Paxil, and the other selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. It relieves stressful feelings and produces a general sense of well-being," Rossman said.
5. Organize Your Space
In an article for Prevention, Elaine Aron, PhD, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, said "clutter is a reminder of things that should be getting done but aren't," and this can make us feel even more anxious. However, Aron doesn't recommend stopping everything we're doing for a deep clean — especially when we're already short on time— but suggested simply quickly restacking and moving some things around. "Just the illusion of order is enough to ease the mind," Aron said.
6. Take A Productivity Break
In an article for Psychology Today, Sandra Bond Chapman Ph.D, Founder and Chief Director of the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas, stressed that it is extremely important that we give ourselves mental breaks. "The frontal lobe brain networks—responsible for reasoning, planning, decision-making, and judgment—work for you in creative ways when the brain is quiet, not while you are effortfully trying to find a solution to a problem. Moments of insight increase as the brain unwinds. Why? When not actively tackling a task, the brain connects random ideas and consolidates these with prior knowledge into exciting new thoughts, ideas, directions, and potential solutions," Chapman said.
If you're in a bad mood and feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Even if it's just five minutes to stroll around the office or a quick talk with a friend. You'll feel so much better when you sit back down.
7. Rid Yourself Of A Nagging Task
According to author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin in a piece for Real Simple, ridding yourself of nagging tasks is one of the best ways to feel better fast."Deal with that insurance problem, purchase something you need, or make that long-postponed appointment with the dentist. Crossing an irksome chore off your to-do list will give you a rush of elation," Rubin said. I can personally vouch for this one; nothing feels better than just getting something done that has been hanging over my head — and work tasks are no exception.
A bad mood doesn't have to equal a bad day. Remind yourself that it's often a mental game, and that you probably also have a ton of positive things in your life regardless of one less than awesome thing that happens. With a few tricks up your sleeve, you can be feeling better within minutes.