4 Ways to Cheer Up when You’re Feeling Down

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There are lots of lists on the internet about how to be happier. And when you’re stuck in a funk, they can seem like a load of crap. But these four rituals from Time are backed by neuroscience (read: people who study your brain have shown they help). Next time you’re feeling blue, pull out these tricks, and try them for yourself. The worst that can happen is you’ll still be in a bad mood at the end, right?

  1. What are you grateful for? It can be hard to break the cycle of negative thoughts because guilt, shame, and worry activate the reward center. But when you think about things you’re thankful to have in your life (even if it’s the last thing you want to do), it releases serotonin in the same way. Even trying to find something you appreciate can help, for those times you can’t land on an answer.
  2. What exactly are you feeling? Giving your generalized yuck a name can reduce the emotion’s impact on your mood. Are you sad? Or anxious? Thinking about how you are feeling, instead of ignoring it and pretending everything is fine, reduces the intensity of the emotion you’re experiencing, so you feel less sad, less anxious once you’ve given it a label.
  3. Just decide already. Even making the good-enough choice instead of the best possible one in the world stops your brain from spinning like a top and gives you a little peace. Actively choosing to do something, to take action towards a goal also boosts your serotonin.
  4. Reach out and touch somebody. When you don’t feel love and acceptance from the people around you, it can by physically painful. The easiest way to feel connected to your fellow humans is a pat on the back, a handshake, or a hug – physical contact. Human touch makes you more persuasive, improves team performance, improves flirting (and math skills!), and reduces pain. Don’t have anyone to hug? A massage will do. Can’t afford that? Call someone and talk – it makes your body feel better in a way that texting just can’t do.

Still glum and gloomy? Check out The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, Ph.D., the man whose research is behind the original article.

Image by 8 Kome.

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