How To Get Yourself Out of a Bad Mood

bad mood

We all have times when we need to get out of a bad mood, or escape from a negative frame of mind.

I know I need to make an effort to change how I’m feeling when I find myself spiraling into a black mood. I might be unreasonably angry, irritable or tearful. I might be in one of those moods which we all get from time to time – wanting to scream, or hit something (or someone). Obviously, this isn’t pleasant for me or for the people around me, and it destroys my ability to focus on doing anything productive.

So I’ve found, partly through trial-and-error, and partly through reading the advice of others, things which help me to pull myself out of a bad mood.

Cheering Up: Things That Work

When I need to break out of a black mood, these are great instant fixes:

  • Anything that makes me laugh. LOLcats – silly but it works, and The Onion are great online sites to keep handily bookmarked for when you need a quick dose of humour.
  • Hugging someone (my boyfriend, my mum…). This helps when I’m sad, not always when I’m angry!
  • Reading a book. I find reading very absorbing, and a great way to forget about whatever was bothering me. I’ve been using this as a state-changing technique since my early teens! I find that watching TV doesn’t have the same effect.
  • Drinking tea. Over here in Britain, “a nice cup of tea” is seen by many people as a magic cure-all whenever anything goes slightly wrong. I find that sweet, milky tea gives me the comfort hit and the caffeine hit that I need to cheer up.
  • Going for a walk. When I’m getting stressed with work, or a situation in my flat, escaping improves my mood almost instantly. And exercise is a natural mood-booster.
  • Taking a shower or bath. Like going for a walk, this is a great way to force yourself out of a stressful situation. I also get most of my good ideas in the shower, so if I’m struggling with my writing, it can be a great help.

Whatever activities you use to change your state of mind, they should be things that make you laugh or relax. Don’t think “I’m in a foul mood, I can’t concentrate on my work, so I’m going to do the chores” – you’re likely to work yourself into a worse and worse frame of mind.

Wanting To Cheer Up

The main problem I struggle with, though, is that when I’m feeling very upset or wound up with something, I don’t want to cheer up. It’s hard to explain this (or even understand it!) when I’m feeling perfectly relaxed and calm, and writing an article for The Change Blog, but part of being in a black mood means feeling that I can’t snap out of it.

Rationally, I know this is nonsense: I can and do change my state to escape from a horrible mood. The hardest thing is to just remember this, and to turn to my list of “mood-breaking” activities.

One thing that does help is when my boyfriend (patient and long-suffering chap that he is) recognizes that I’m getting into a bad mood; he’ll encourage me to go for a walk or get a shower, or he’ll come and give me a hug. If you’ve got a close family member or friend you can rely on, give them permission to tell you to take a “time out” when they recognize that you’re in a bad mood and thank them (once you’re firmly back to your usual self!) afterwards…

Something else that I’m going to try is making the link between a bad state of mind and a cheering-up activity seem more automatic. For example, when I’m feeling tearful, instead of just getting more and more worked up, I’ll take a shower and calm down. If I’m getting frustrated or angry about something, I’ll turn to a good book, or to something that makes me laugh. As soon as I recognize I’m in a negative frame of mind, I’ll automatically reach for that state-changing activity. I’m hoping I can condition myself to do this almost without thinking, as once I make that first move, I’m already well on my way out of the bad mood…

Avoiding Getting Into A State

Of course, I’d ideally like to avoid getting to the brink of tears or anger in the first place. I know this means learning to recognize what puts me into an unwelcome state of mind in the first place. Sometimes, there seems to be no obvious cause (and I blame hormones) but I can usually find the roots of the problem if I search hard. For instance, if I’ve been working too hard, I’ll often “crack” at some little annoyance. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with a long to-do list, one small thing going wrong can be enough to throw me into a head-spin.

So for me, and I suspect for many people, avoiding getting into a state which needs breaking means:

  • Taking regular time out to rest and recharge. And importantly, not feeling guilty about this or calling it a “waste of time”.
  • Avoiding situations where I know I’m likely to get annoyed. For example, my university’s computer room on Wednesday afternoons… people chatting on mobiles in libraries is guaranteed to get me seeing red!
  • Staying organized with my time and my belongings. This means I don’t end up feeling rushed or stressed because I can’t find things.

Yes, it’s all common sense, and all stress-avoiding advice that I’ve heard time and time again – but somehow, that doesn’t make it any easier to take on board!

What do all of you do to change your state, to snap out of a miserable or angry mood, and to cheer yourself up? I’d be very grateful for your advice and your thoughts!

Photo by A6U571N

33 thoughts on “How To Get Yourself Out of a Bad Mood”

  1. I really, really need this right now. I’ve heard it all before, as you have said, but I need to keep hearing it till I get it down.

  2. Angela Henderson

    I agree wholeheartedly! When I usually get to the point of breaking, anything and everybody get on my last nerve (insert little man jumping up and down here!) The only thing for me to do, is to take an adult time-out. Like you said; a book, a shower, etc. Anything to take me away from the world and ME for awhile. A hug is a wonder, but only AFTER I have detoxed. Before, and I still feel caged in. For anyone listening, or reading :) , don’t feel guilty for having to take time for yourself! I’m a new mom of two and I’ve had to really, REALLY try not to. Everyone needs time to recharge. Whatever it is for you, do it! You will thank you, and those around you will thank you too. Trust me!

    1. You’re completely right about not feeling guilty. We all need and deserve “me-time”. It’s amazing how much difference half an hour “away from it all” can make…

    2. Good points Angela. I have two boys under the age of two so I know how draining it can be looking after young children. It’s important to have some “me time” to recharge. And as you say, everyone benefits from this.

  3. Not only singing, but listening to music, or playing a musical instrument helps me.

    I also find that I must stop myself, before the mood takes over completely and consciously make the choice of how I want to feel. I talk myself out of it by asking myself if I REALLY want to be like this, or go down this road again. Do I NEED this, or can I allow it to dissipate.

    But, this doesn’t always work. So I take naps in the sun, go for a walk, paint or draw or read, or write a journal entry, take a shower, spritz a scent, make a cup of tea, or play with my cat or the dogs, or take a spin on my gratitude machine.

      1. I was in a stinker today (the to do list syndrome – needless to say, after my panic NOTHING on the list got done) and googled randomly ‘The Devil’s got me by the B***s’ (as this was how I felt at the time). What turned up was quite a good song with the same title by a group called the Winchester Pump – which kind of distracted me from the mood in a good way! ps- too many cute dog and cat vids can end up being a downer… (jmo)

    1. Good point – I find it amazing how certain songs can change my mood from bad to good, just like a light can be switched from off to on.

      PS – I’m curious….. what is a gratitude machine?

  4. It is fascinating to reflect on why people label experiences as being anything less than they are. The body offers endless helpful hints to draw your attention to what matters. In doing so, you gradually learn what kinds of perceptions are unfounded and no longer necessary. You choose which views to dissolve and when. Its all good.

  5. I think that what you said about taking regular time out to rest and recharge and how it is important to not feeling guilty about it is very true. I tend to feel like I am wasting my time if I am not doing “something”.

  6. One thing I tell myself it’s OK to be in a bad mood, angry or whatever. Then I give myself time to be mad, miserable etc. Maybe a few hours or even a day. Sometimes I even let myself have a pity party. Go to bed with a sad movie, a box of Kleenex and a bag of chips.

    Then I get back up, brush myself off and move on.

    I’m also a runner and like to run it out.

  7. I give myself permission to have a pity party. A sad movie, a bag of chips and box of tissues.
    I may even take a nap.

    I also tell my husband, “I’m giving myself 12 hours (or how long I think it will take) to get over this. Then I’ll never bring it up again.

    I also like to go out for a run.

  8. I have all sorts of tricks I could use, but usually I just allow the feeling to be. It will change by itself when the time is right.

    You write: “Don’t think “I’m in a foul mood, I can’t concentrate on my work, so I’m going to do the chores” – you’re likely to work yourself into a worse and worse frame of mind.” Actually I do get chores done. I figure if I get them done when I’m feeling bad, then I’m free to have fun when I’m happy again. The main thing for me is not to make a big deal about a bad mood. Hey, they happen. And there’s nothing wrong with going through one.

    1. I guess it just shows how different things work for different people! Actually, some chores do help me calm down – washing up in particular, there’s something meditative about it.

  9. Hi Ali,

    I shake off my bad mood by exercising or blasting my music out loud and singing to it. You had listed some great ways too and thanks for the article.

    Personal Development Blogger

  10. Hi Ali

    I think that is a very important point you make about “wanting to get out of it”. I’ve thought about that a great deal. I like your suggestions.

    I have a tendency to reprimand myself if I get into a bad mood, but I try to stop and just allow myself the emotion for a bit – to understand it, make sure that I am not missing anything and then gently moving myself towards a better space.


  11. Like this post also. But, I differ in one way-I use the bad mood to work for me. For example, i really don’t like to clean-it will often PUT me into a bad mood. So if I find myself in a really crabby, bad mood, I get my cleaning done, as fast and furious as I can.

    After I’m done cleaning my mood always improves, simply because something I dreaded is over with!

    This only works if you have the time off that day to do the cleaning-I use other methods if I’m in the middle of my workday, etc.

  12. I give myself one morning a week where I allow myself to be completely unproductive. I don’t dictate which day, so that means if I’m feeling cranky one day I can take the morning off, watch TV on my computer and forget about all the pressures that made me cranky.

    By lunchtime I’m in a much better mood having thoroughly enjoyed my pout and I get back to being my normally optimistic self.

  13. I am totally agree with Alex that If you are not in mood to go to office then don’t go. Enjoy with friends and do everything which you like.

  14. Last night, my wife and I had a fight. I don’t usually get angry quickly but she has this nasty habit of sputtering out insults that finally brings me to a boiling point. I exploded. I don’t hurt anyone; I don’t even so much as pinch her. But I break things, plastic chairs, small tables, etc. I often forget that this scare tactic does not work on her anymore. She proceeds with her babble. She is determined to keep me miserable while she’s at it. Then I remembered that I wrote in my site about the need to feel good always. I knew I should get my state up and out of this quickly or else commit the same mistakes I listed in my article.

    The first two of your instant fixes is what I used. I went to approach my youngest daughter and made funny faces at her. When she laughed, I was immediately out of my misery. But since the background babbling was still there, I need to keep this up too. In between making my daughter laugh, I recalled all the really funny youtube videos I have seen. This is really effective, I found myself laughing softly, which I had to stifle lest my wife interpret it negatively.

    When you’re in a fight, I don’t think you can do the last 4 instant fixes. You can’t read a book with all that babbling noise. You can’t drink tea, lest she picks it up and splash on your head. You can’t ‘walk out’ on her. Take a shower or bath? But I can’t stand very long baths.

  15. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article. I find that good music is a great way for me to calm down and refocus my mind. I will try to incorporate some of your suggestions as well.

  16. Katherine McGinness

    Thanks for this I constantly go in these mood and it’s hard to explain it affect my relationships. Recently I almost fell out and lost my best friend over it and I really do want to stop. It is very hard to as you know but thanks for the advice :)

  17. great ideas! sometimes for me, and this may not work for everyone else but i actually will clean my room or apartment…ill start organizing things in my closet and something about the repetition of moving things again and again sends me into a subconcious lull and is kinda meditative. i will also go for a bike ride or play my guitar. that seems to help but thanks for the advice it helped!

  18. One question: I was in class today (sociology) I was a bit stressed beforehand thinking about all of the work and studying and feeling like I was loosing control of my schedule.

    While I was in sociology we had to do a group activity for a book club. This was an in class activity that I dont think we had enough time to do so that made me grouchier. Then the group I was in for the most part, didn’t get the material which was frustrating.

    I, unfortunately, are one of those people who let my unhappiness show in my face and speech. Normally I am bubbly but I felt deflated. I wish I could control that more.

    Now my question: My teacher after class asked me if I was doing okay…I of course trying to patch things up said, everything is great. Should I explain my frustration or just get on and try to deal with these emotions in the future?

    1. If your teacher was concerned in a kind way, I think you should have taken the opportunity to explain your feelings. I know if I’m in a real bad mood, I might just say ‘I’m ok’ so that I don’t get the pity from the other person (which might make me ashamed or tearful), but really it seems better to accept when people want to help. I’d be interested to hear others’ opinion on this one. Do we try to bottle it up (even when it shows) or do we try to accept help?

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