Ten things to do to improve your mood NOW

BeachONE Express your feelings. If you feel sad and don’t know what to do about it, try to put your feelings into words or pictures. Be creative: write a letter, start a journal or your feelings, scribble, paint, draw, write a poem, play some music, build something, fix something, organize your books – do anything that helps you express your emotions.

It is always a good idea to talk to a friend or loved one about the way you are feeling. Talking DOES help. When things build up, it helps to discuss your feelings. Talk with someone you trust and respect. Sometimes another person can help you see a new side to a problem. If nobody is available, write a letter. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, neatness, or anything else. Just get your thoughts out. You may never read it or send it, but it may help just to vent.

TWO Be aware of the automatic negative thoughts you say to yourself on a daily basis. Things like “I can’t”, “This is hopeless”, or “Nothing will ever change” are examples of statements that will keep you in a bad mood. Practice shutting off the negative “self talk”, even for a few moments each day. Don’t apply a double standard to yourself. Would you say the negative things you tell yourself to dear friends when they’re feeling down? Probably not! So try to talk to yourself the way you talk to others, and replace negative statements with more positive, coping statements (see next item).

THREE Practice using positive self-talk (similar to “affirmations”). Develop a repertoire of several statements that help you get through the day, or that assist you in coping with difficult situations. Positive self-talk can be motivating, build self confidence, and keep you focused on accomplishing goals. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • I have dealt with problems like this before.
  • What can I do to begin feeling better?
  • I have done some really good things in the past.
  • I can be more energetic and get things done.
  • I have a choice on how to act in this situation.
  • I can work on problems one step at a time.
  • I can deal with not getting everything settled in one day.
  • There will be a time when I am happier.
  • I can do this.
  • What advice would I give to a friend about this?
  • I will take my time to make this decision.
  • Who can I talk to to get some new ideas on this?

FOUR Work on one thing at a time. Try to get just a little bit accomplished on any one problem you may be having. It will give you some confidence to get things done. Don’t give in to procrastination. If you seem totally “stuck” and unmotivated, try to do the easy things first.

FIVE Stay in good health. Try to maintain good nutrition, even when you feel like you have no appetite. Try eating smaller meals more often during the day. Take diet supplements, such as vitamins, if you don’t eat right. Get a reasonable amount of exercise (walking, aerobics, bowling, golf, even window-shopping) and stay current with medical checkups. Get enough sleep, and try to keep your sleeping patterns regular. Physical well-being is directly related to mental health.

SIX Set aside a worry period. Interestingly, setting aside a daily worry period can reduce overall worry levels over time. Set aside 20 minutes a day, always at the same place and time, to worry. Focus on your worry for the entire period and try to think of solutions to the problem. It’s likely that your first reaction will be an increase in anxiety. But resist the urge to distract yourself. You’ll get better at generating solutions or realize it’s not worth worrying about. During the rest of the day, when you notice that you’re worrying, you can say, “I’m busy now; I’ll worry during my worry period.” It frees you from worry for the rest of the day and teaches you how to let go of worries.

SEVEN Take a break! A change of pace, no matter how short, will give you a new outlook on your situation. It’s on the busy days that you should take a few minutes for yourself. Take a look at the relaxation techniques explained elsewhere at this website for some tips on reducing anxiety during these “breaks.” Also, don’t set yourself up for failure by taking on too many projects at once. Stress and disappointment can be a result of attempting to do too many things at the same time. This is one of the dangers present in the “manic” phase of bipolar depression.

EIGHT Stay Active! When you’re feeling bored or lonely, don’t just sit there. Call up a friend for company. Or, do something different and interesting – visit a museum, see a movie or go window shopping. Take advantage of free lectures, continuing education, craft classes, or activities at town parks. Sometimes just being outside helps to take your mind off yourself and your immediate situation. Socialize more. Even though you may be reluctant to do so, accept invitations to get togethers, meetings, and parties. Also, try to associate with positive people. Don’t get stuck with anything (or anyone) that’s a nuisance or a drain. Misery may love company, but the company may keep you miserable. Doing something for somebody else, no matter how small, will also make you (and the other person) feel better. Try volunteering, helping a friend unexpectedly, or sending someone a note.

NINE Avoid self-medication (using drugs or alcohol as a means of escape or relief). Drugs offer, at best, only a temporary abatement of symptoms. Avoid using alcohol, cigarettes, sedatives and tranquilizers to cope with your problems. Your ability to handle stress and sadness has to come from within, and with support from friends, family, or professionals.

TEN Give yourself reinforcement after you have successfully done something to improve your mood, even if tit seems small or insignificant. It is very important to be “self-rewarding”. It encourages you to try again and protects you from being overly concerned about situations out of your control. Rewards do not have to be monetary. Try listening to a favorite CD, playing a game, or calling a long-distance friend.
Here are some MORE suggestions for improving your mood:

Try just acting happy. Look in the mirror and just grin. Do it again. Many studies have concluded that your attitudes can, with practice, follow your behavior instead of shape it. You need to get up and start acting more like happy people act, talking like happy people talk, etc. Experiments demonstrate that acting out happiness often works. You may feel like a phony at first, but eventually the phony feelings disappear. It may sound silly, but give it a few days. It works.

Avoid comparing yourself to people a rung or two higher on the ladder of good looks, income, job success, athletic skill, etc. It will not help your feeling of self-worth.

Examine your strengths as a person and use them as often as you can. Take a look at things you have been successful at in the past and try to use the same skills to solve your current difficulties.

Go rent a few of your favorite comedies from the video store. Try Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Monty Python, The Marx Brothers, Ray Romano, Robin Williams, or other classic. Often one or two really strong laughs can do wonders for changing bad mood.

Find inspiration from religious books, lectures, or tapes. Spirituality and a strong identification with your religion will give you a sense of purpose, and will often help you through difficult times better than anything else.

These suggestions are only the beginning! As with all the advice on these pages, the suggestions are not meant to be a substitute for individual therapy or counseling, but can be used as a starting point for improvement. If you feel that you have a serious problem with depression, suicidal ideation, or low self-esteem please inquire about services available through this website, at the private practice of Fred L. Holtz, Ph.D., or seek other professional sources near you.


The following ten questions are designed to be a general assessment of your anxiety and stress level. Although the items were selected from authoritative sources and reflect actual symptoms, this test is not intended to replace the diagnosis of a licensed professional. Please BOOKMARK this page for easy access in the future - information is updated daily!.

Studies show that exposure and response prevention can actually “retrain” the brain, permanently reducing the occurrence of obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms. This type of OCD therapy can even extinguish compulsive behaviors entirely.

INSTRUCTIONS: Place a check next to the statements that you AGREE with.

I am sad, blue, or down for most of the day, almost every day.

I don't enjoy my usual activities and hobbies as much as I used to.

I find myself sleeping much more (or much less) than usual.

Low Self-Esteem and lack of confidence has affected me more lately than ever before.

My apetite and my weight have changed significantly in recent months, and I have not been purposely dieting.

Sometimes my mood seems like a roller coaster: I have a lot of ups and downs.

Sometimes I attempt to do too many things at once. I sometimes spread myself out too thin, and accomplish much less than planned.

Sometimes I feel like everything would be solved if I was not alive.

I wish disappointing things in my life could somehow change. My present situation is totally hopeless.

I find myself becoming unusually tired, even after getting enough sleep the night before.


INTERPRET YOUR SCORE: These scores are designed to give you an indication of difficulties you may be having. The tests on this website are NOT intended to replace actual consultation with a professional, nor to result in actual clinical diagnoses. If your symptoms are intense, persistent or become uncontrollable, you are encouraged to follow the therapeutic advice on these pages, discuss your difficulties with family and loved ones, and seek professional assistance through the services available from this website or elsewhere.

0 to 3 - If your score was 0, you probably experience life's normal ups and downs without seriously being slowed down by depression. If your score was above 0, you are experiencing some symptoms of sadness. Although you have only checked a few items, you may benefit from some of the suggestions on these pages. Your symptoms may also be related to recent experiences of loss, disappointment, illness, or unexpected change. Depending on which items you checked, and how much your mood is affected, you may want to try some of the techniques described here and consider professional consultation.

4 to 6 - A score in this range may indicate some serious symptoms of sadness or depression. Sadness may have affected your appetite, activity level, and overall outlook on life. To prevent depression from limiting your ability to achieve your goals, you may want to try some of the suggestions found on these pages, and obtain professional help (from services available here or elsewhere). Now is the time to act. Please read the description of scores in the 7 to 10 range (below), because experiencing even a few of the symptoms listed can potentially be serious.

7 to 10 - This score indicates many symptoms of depression, sadness or bipolar disorder. This level of sadness will seriously limit your daily activities, disturb your ability to make decisions, and severely cloud your outlook on life. If you have thought about suicide, STOP! Use this website as a beginning, but GET HELP NOW. Tell someone close to you (a friend, teacher, parent, spouse, religious leader, brother, sister) about how you are feeling. DON'T keep your feelings a secret. This level of sadness will most likely NOT just go away on it's own. Professional assistance and a comprehensive program to improve mood will probably be required.

Don't wait! Mood Disorders (Depression, Bipolar Disorder, etc.) are among the most devastating of psychological disorders. Use the advice on the following pages as a starting point, but get professional help and support if your depression is serious.

SKYSuicide is the purposeful taking of one’s own life. There are over 40,000 completed suicides in the United States each year. To put that number in perspective, 40,000 people would fill a VERY large sports arena, and is the population of an average American town. Suicide is completed by males three times as often as females, but attempted by females three times as often as males.

It is both a sad and encouraging fact that many suicides could have been (can be) prevented. Numerous studies reveal that people who commit suicide usually show clear signs of their intent beforehand, either in significant changes in behavior, previous attempts, or by actually expressing intentions of “ending it all.” Because of these facts, it is clear that any expression of suicidal thoughts or actions should be taken seriously.

The vast majority of individuals who complete suicide do NOT actually want to die. What they DO want is an end to the pain, suffering, sadness, loss and despair they experience. They want a solution or an answer, and taking their own life was the best option they believed they had.

Although suicide occurs among all ages, cultures, and levels of income, there are some known risk groups in which suicide is more prevalent. This includes the elderly, teens, and college student. Reasons given for suicide (based on studies of suicide notes) include depression, poor health, loss of income, loss of loved ones, failure, pressure to succeed, intense guilt, and revenge.

Here are some known danger signs that may indicate that someone intends on harming themselves, or that someone is at high risk for contemplating suicide

  • Previous attempts at self harm
  • Verbal threats of suicide
  • Unusual changes in behavior
  • Sudden use of drugs
  • Unusual or extreme purchases
  • Giving away possessions
  • Sudden anger
  • Constant themes of death
  • Sudden happiness (after intense sadness)
  • Verbalizing despair, intense grief, or depression
  • Repeatedly referring to worthlessness or insignificance

MYTHS about suicide:
People who say they are going to kill themselves are not really serious.
NOT TRUE: Many people who have committed suicide have given clear signs of their intent beforehand.

People who commit suicide are crazy or insane.
NOT TRUE: Many people who kill themselves are only looking for a solution to unbearable problems. Most are quite sane.

Talking about suicide with someone may make them do it.
ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE: People who are considering suicide NEED to talk to people about their feelings and thoughts.

Suicidal people really want to die.
NO. They want solutions or answers. They want their pain, suffering, guilt or depression to be relieve

Nothing will stop someone once they decide to kill themselves.
UNTRUE: Many suicides are preventable.

LISTEN ATTENTIVELY TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY: Tell the person you want to hear what they are thinking about, and what they are feeling. If you don’t know how to respond to what they say, just tell them “I really don’t know what to say, but I want to listen and help.” It’s OK not to have all the answers. It’s important that you listen.

BE DIRECT: Ask them, in a very straight forward manner, what is wrong. Why are they thinking about doing this? What are they going through? Who have they told? How have they tried to solve the problem?

DON’T GIVE EASY ANSWERS: Don’t say things like, “Don’t worry, time heals all wounds” or “Things will get better. You’ll see.” The person has already tried all the easy solutions and they have not worked. It’s perfectly OK to tell the person that you don’t have the answer, as long as you are a good listener and care about what they are saying. Also, don’t sidestep the issue or change the subject if they are willing to talk.

DON’T LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE: Stay with the person until help can arrive. Tell them that you would rather stay with them if they request to be alone. If possible, remove any unsafe objects or substances in the vicinity.

STAY CALM: Don’t yell at the person, put them down, or raise your voice. It’s OK to tell the person that you are nervous or scared about the things they are saying.

TELL SOMEONE: You MUST tell someone who can do something about the situation. Contact the person’s family, spouse, brother, sister, Priest, Rabbi, Pastor, the police, campus security, therapist, teacher, caretaker or anyone who can get help immediately. Tell the person that you will be there to help them call someone if they want to do it themselves.

Never tell the person that you are willing to “keep a secret”. You will NOT be helping the person unless you tell someone who can help (see previous item).

DON’T FEEL RESPONSIBLE: If the worst should happen at some later time, even after you have tried the suggestions above, don’t feel responsible. You DID help the person, but the difficulties were beyond what you could possibly have prevented in the short time involved. You did not fail in helping.