6 Things That Can Trigger A Bad Mood
If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety, then you might already be very well-aware of the different things that can trigger a bad mood for you personally. But even if you don't suffer from chronic anxiety or depression, if you're going through a particularly tough time — like a recent job loss, breakup, or death in your family — then you're likely far more prone to mood swings right now than you would normally be. And regardless of what's going on in your personal life, there are certain bad mood triggers that none of us are immune to. Fortunately, though, they're pretty easy to avoid if you know what you're looking for.
Mental and physical health are undeniably connected, so it will probably come as no surprise to you that many of the things that could be triggering your bad mood are things that could be putting your physical health at risk, too. Diet, lack of sun exposure, dehydration, and even poor posture are capable of making even the happiest and healthiest of people feel off.
If you've been struggling to stay in a good mood lately, the last thing you should do is berate yourself for it. Instead, take care of yourself, and try to avoid these six bad mood triggers.
1. Spending Time On Social Media
Personally, I fully understand the appeal of social media. Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family, Instagram is literally eye candy, and Twitter can be an effective way to promote your work. Unfortunately, though, social media can bum us out for lots of reasons, too.
According to an Austrian study from 2014, one of the reasons checking Facebook and other social media accounts can trigger our bad moods is simply because we perceive social media as a waste of time. In turn, checking on our social media too often results in feelings of guilt.
Additionally, as The Guardian reported in March of 2014, moods on social networks are literally contagious. In a study which was published in the scientific journal PloS One, US researchers used a computer program to analyze the emotional content of anonymous English status updates on Facebook from January 2009 to March 2012. The study found that, "every downbeat post triggered an extra 1.29 more negative posts than normal among people's friends."
2. Making "To Do" Lists
Sometimes writing up "To Do" lists can be really helpful, and help you feel organized when you're overwhelmed. Plus, if you're anything like me, you probably take great satisfaction in getting to cross things off your "To Do" lists, too. That said, for some people, writing out a "To Do" list can actually do more harm than good.
As Buzzfeed explained back in August of 2015, making a "To Do" list can actually set you up to feel like a failure. This is due to something called the Zeigarnik Effect, which causes us to focus on the items we didn't get to, instead of the ones we successfully accomplished.
So, if making "To Do" lists helps you feel more productive, keep making them. But if you find yourself feeling worse about yourself when you make a "To Do" list that you couldn't finish, then try making "It's Done" lists at the end of your day instead. You'll still get the satisfaction of seeing your accomplishments in writing without having to deal with feeling guilty about what you didn't get done.
3. Slouching Too Much
I'm sure everyone from your mom to your third grade teacher has talked to you about the importance of avoiding poor posture at one point or another — and they weren't wrong. Not only can slouching too much negatively affect your physical health, it could be what's triggering your bad moods, too. As Psych Central reported back in 2012, a study which was conducted by Erik Peper, Ph.D., of the University of San Francisco, found that "simply altering body posture to a more upright position can improve mood and energy levels."
In the study, Peper instructed 110 of his students to walk down a hallway in a slouched position, and then he had them skip down the hallway. Later, when the students were surveyed on their mood, the whole group reported that slouching decreased their energy levels while skipping increased them. Furthermore, students who were more depressed in general reported far lower energy levels post-slouching than those who weren't depressed.
So as easy as it is to slouch, especially when you're sitting at a desk all day, try to be mindful of just how negatively poor posture can affect your mood.
4. Eating Sweet Stuff
I totally get that dessert and sugary drinks can seem like a great way to reward or comfort yourself. Trust me, the first time I got an essay published, I celebrated by drinking a strawberry margarita the size of a coffee pot. Unfortunately, though, sugar can really mess with our mental health in general, and our moods in particular. In the short-term, consuming too many sweets can result in blood sugar crashes, and "sugar hangovers" have been linked to energy depletion, too. What's worse, though, is the long-term effects of too much sugar.
According to a 2014 study published science journal PloS One which looked at the correlation between diet and depression, long-term exposure to high-sugar diets is a risk factor for developing depression.
So while I'm definitely not suggesting you should never eat ice cream again (the horror!), you should definitely keep in mind that sugar can sometimes be the complete opposite of a pick-me-up.
5. Forgetting To Drink Water
According to Psych Central, studies have shown that dehydration can lead to a bad mood, lower energy levels, and even reduce our ability to think clearly. And this remains true whether you live a super active lifestyle or, like me, spend most of your workday sitting in front of a screen. Furthermore, as Psych Central explained in their article on the topic, women are more sensitive to the negative affects of dehydration than men are:
"Even mild dehydration that can occur during the course of our ordinary daily activities can degrade how we are feeling – especially for women, who appear to be more susceptible to the adverse effects of low levels of dehydration than men,” says Harris Lieberman, one of the studies’ co-authors."
So even though it can feel like a pain in the butt to chug water throughout your day — and it will likely mean you'll be getting up to go pee with annoying frequency — it's really important that you remember how drinking enough water can help us feel good, both physically and psychologically.
6. Staying Inside All Day
Even if you don't consider yourself to be an outdoorsy person, studies have shown that spending too much time cooped up indoors can make us feel unhappy. One such study — which was co-authored by Dr. Fatme Al Anouti, an assistant professor in Zayed University’s college of sustainability sciences and humanities — found that mood changes are directly related to vitamin D status.
In the study, researchers looked at a group of over 100 people. Of those people, researchers focused on 20 individuals with depressive symptoms and low blood levels of vitamin D. Then, researchers encouraged some of the group to spend more time outdoors for seven weeks while they encouraged others in the group to see a doctor instead. It was found that the members of the study who committed to spending more time outdoors showed a decrease in depressive symptoms. As Huffington Post reports:
"The individuals who were encouraged to get more sun 'showed less symptoms of depression,' Dr. Al Anouti told The National. 'In this study we showed that if you improve your vitamin D level, you will improve your mood.'”
So while this doesn't mean curing depression is as simple as going outside every day (nor does it mean that you shouldn't talk to a doctor if you're suffering from depressive symptoms), the fact that vitamin D levels are directly related to mood status should compel all of us to go out and get more sunshine. Luckily, with spring officially in season, and summer right around the corner, going outside will actually start being fun again soon. Yay!
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