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How to Improve Your Mood – Quickly

By Debbie Mandel

Stuck on: a long line, in traffic, a rude remark, it’s time to change the unpleasant mental movie to a calmer, more enjoyable one. The problem with the initial plot is that deep down you believe there are winners and losers and now you identify with the losers. This makes you feel disconnected. Also, since you expect things to happen in a certain way in your story, when they don’t, you feel upset. This hurls you into a stress cycle which saps your energy and distorts your focus.

Here’s how to quickly become the hero of your life story:
  • The brain does not perform well on empty. It needs glucose as energy when it is trying to control impulsive reactions like anger. For a quick infusion of calmer thinking try a quality fruit juice with fiber and then follow it up with a protein snack like a handful of nuts to stabilize the mood. (Be prepared and carry it with you)
  • When you feel like you have no control, just give it up and flow with others; you will feel connected and tap into group synergy. Stuck on a long line? Start chatting with someone else or make a joke out loud and others will join laughter and start talking to you. Suddenly, waiting on line has created a bond. You never know who you might meet while waiting on line.
  • Carry a fragrance that you have a history with – like a scent associated with a positive memory. For example, I love honeysuckle, a positive association from childhood in the Catskill Mountains. Honeysuckle, a fragrance from the past, makes me feel happy for no reason and in the moment, instead of making everything worse than it is.
  • Wherever you are stuck, go the opposite route and move, even if you are behind the wheel in a traffic jam. You can tighten and release abdominals for a core workout; place your car in park and do a palm press overhead, gently stretch your neck from side to side; do side laterals and then hold your arms out in an iron cross position for ten seconds. If you are on a line, you can do calf raises, side and rear leg lifts a few inches off the ground (be careful of kicking others), tightening and releasing abdominals, or glutes. A few minutes of exercise is a potent anti-depressant, brain balancer and mood elevator.
  • When you feel anxious, the way students feel before a test, write your feelings down in black and white to see them using a more objective perspective. In fact, if a conflict or memory is really bothering you, write about it in third person using your full name to see it from a greater distance – as though it has happened to someone else. What would you advise this person to do?
  • Use a negative experience as a rung on the ladder of success in your story. A rude remark or a barb? Become the winner by taking the high road and reinterpreting it with compassion. Let “So what!” become your new mantra. One woman in my stress management group tried it out at home. She kept saying “So what!” to her husband who was criticizing her that day. He asked, “What’s with this, ‘So what!’?” She laughed, eyes twinkling.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: