When we describe our feelings, we can be pretty specific. We use words like bored, irritated, content, calm, aggravated, restless, excited, and on and on. We can also usually attribute a feeling to something specific. I’m irritated because someone didn’t answer my email, or I’m content because I’m hanging out with my dog.
But when it comes to mood, we’re usually more general—that’s because moods are more like an affective state, meaning that unlike emotions or feelings, moods tend to be less intense but longer lasting. An emotion can last moments; a mood can last days.
So how do you begin to turn a bad mood around? Through lifestyle and nutrition.
I know what you’re thinking: how am I supposed to improve my lifestyle and nutrition when I’m stuck inside? I’m already so anxious.
But improving lifestyle and nutrition will also help with anxiety. So we’ve got a few tips that will regulate your mood and support your immune system, all from the comfort of your home. And they’re basic enough to start right now.
1) Drink water.
Hydration is one of the keys to good health, and it’s an integral factor in our moods. If you’re struggling to drink water, fill a re–useable water bottle with water at night, put it by your bed, and drink it first thing when you wake up. Or, make it a rule that before you have a snack anytime during the day, you have to drink a few sips of water first. Need to make a better appeal to your tastebuds? Fruit-infused water and/or carbonation are fair game. Remember, even though drinking water isn’t exactly fun for many of us, it can help us feel happier overall.
2) Schedule time to move.
Exercise has been shown countless times to help improve mood, but even when we’re not stuck inside, it can be hard to start a routine. To make it easier, put a reminder in your phone to move every hour. You can also take advantage of the time that you might have previously been commuting to school or work. If you’re just starting with an exercise routine, that movement can include walking around inside your home, doing jumping jacks, squats, or even skipping rope with an imaginary rope. If you’re a regular exerciser, it’s still important to be moving throughout the day, and not just while exercising. Make a reminder for yourself, too!
For extra motivation, many gyms and exercise classes are going online. Try something fun-focused like dancing, to get your blood moving.
3) Be smart about caffeine.
Caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep, and a lack of sleep can worsen depression. But quitting cold turkey is not the answer — if you stop consuming caffeine all at once, you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches. Start by cutting off caffeine in the early afternoon, and over time, continue to reduce your intake.
4) Reduce your alcohol intake.
Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, affecting your mood, coordination, and focus. If you’re used to drinking a glass or two of alcohol each night, reduce your intake by switching out one or both drinks with a cup of tea, or even water with frozen fruit. A reduction in alcohol can help support your immune system, too, as drinking too much weakens it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, call your doctor or SAMHSA’s national helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357).
5) Limit social media.
Social media has been shown to make us feel depressed, anxious, and left out. We can also get lost in it, spending hours scrolling in bed, waiting for that final dopamine hit from a like or share. If you’re struggling to create boundaries with social media, there are many apps that can help you build your own boundaries. For Sanvello’s tips on dealing with the deluge of media about COVID-19, tune in here.
6) Take sleep seriously.
Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, lack of focus, emotional reactivity, and feelings of depression. If you want to improve your mood, treat sleep like it’s one of the most important parts of your day — because it is! That means having established bedtime and morning routines that you try to stick to as often as possible. For the morning, set a regular alarm, and get out of bed when it goes off. For the evening, have a regular bedtime, and stop screen use at least an hour before bed. If you’re used to falling asleep scrolling or watching TV, try listening to a sleep meditation or a podcast with your phone’s sleep timer on. For more tips on falling asleep, read our 7 tricks to help you fall asleep faster.
7) Pay attention to the food you’re eating.
There are piles of books on how nutrition affects our mood—the most important thing to know is that it does. Examine your eating routine. Does it include fruits and vegetables? Are you eating balanced meals? Are you eating out of boredom or hunger? Are you eating regularly throughout the day? If you find it easier to snack than to cook, you’re not alone. But try to snack smart, like eating an apple or carrots with hummus. Sure, it might not be as tasty as chocolate cake, but it can help improve your mood over time.
Also, now is a great time to give cooking a shot. Search for easy recipes, along with your core ingredient, and try something new.
The benefits of meditation are robust. It has been shown to reduce stress, help us control our anxiety, improve our relationship with sleep, improve our relationships in general, and increase our compassion that we feel toward others and ourselves. Even just 10 minutes several times a week can make a difference. You can even set a reminder in the Sanvello app to help you build a meditation practice.
That’s a lot of lifestyle changes — we know. But Sanvello can help. You can track all of these health habits right in the app, along with your mood and feelings, to see what things help you feel better — and which don’t.
Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of Village MD
Clive Fields, M.D., is transforming the way today’s patients and physicians experience health care. Dr. Fields helped create VillageMD in 2013 to enable progressive physician groups, independent practices and health care organizations to move toward a primary care-led, high-value clinical model with improved quality, exceptional patient experiences and lower costs. Under Dr. Fields’ co-leadership, VillageMD has grown from an initial practice of 13 physicians to a partnership with more than 2,500 physicians across seven states who are responsible for approximately 500,000 lives.
Dr. Fields has demonstrated a passion to deliver value-based care throughout his medical career. His dedication and contributions culminated in his receiving the 2018 Robert Graham AAFP Physician Executive of the Year by the American Academy of Family Practice’s (AAFP). He has also been consistently named one of Houston’s “Top Doctors” by H Magazine and Texas Monthly. In the early 1990s, prior to beginning VillageMD, Dr. Fields initiated and served as president of Village Family Practice, which became one of the largest primary care groups in Houston and was recognized for its quality of care by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
Despite his leadership roles and commitments, Dr. Fields makes patient care his ultimate priority. He sees patients weekly and serves on staff at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital, The Methodist Hospital and CHI St. Luke’s Health-Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Dr. Fields also functions as an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at both Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas at Houston. An active member of the AAFP, he is a regular contributor on health care topics for leading publications including Forbes, Health Data Management and the Houston Chronicle. Dr. Fields received his medical degree from The Chicago Medical School and his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin.
For Dr. Fields, health care is about pioneering improvements in care to improve the lives of patients and expand the abilities of the physicians who serve them every day.