10 Simple Ways to Boost Your Mood

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

There are a million and a half reasons why a person may be feeling down. Or agitated. Or frustrated. You could have stepped on a Lego the first moment your feet hit the floor in the morning. Someone could have hurt your feelings. More seriously, you could have received some terrible news.

Human emotions are complex and mysterious, affected by anything from outside influences, to brain chemistry, to gut health, and even sleep.

Fortunately, positive mood boosts can be quick and simple, and can have a lasting affect on the rest of your day.

  1. Do something nice for someone else.
Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Carl Attard

When you focus on someone else for a few moments, long enough to come up with something nice to do for them, you get outside your own head and refocus your thoughts onto another person’s needs. Bringing them a moment of joy can be contagious. A word of encouragement, a compliment, a cup of coffee, or even a small gift will go a long way to make someone else’s day. After all, you never know how much that person may have needed that small bit of encouragement.

2. Let there be light.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Bruce Mars

In a study on depression, more than half the participants reported a significantly better mood and better sleep after three weeks of bright-light therapy. Each participant were simply exposed to an hour of bright indoor light each day, with findings showing its effectiveness rivaling that of antidepressants. This can be especially helpful for people who suffer from seasonal depression. This effect is much more powerful after spending at least 30 minutes per day in sunshine, which can provide your daily vitamin D needs and reduce blood pressure.

3. Write it down.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Brad Neathery

Keeping a journal has many benefits, especially when you use it to list out things that went well that day. Gratitude journals, for this reason, have become wildly popular. It allows you to focus on the positive, and see a few good things you accomplished. If you make a goal to list at least three good things from the day, you’ll likely find yourself listing five, or even ten. For the stay-at-home mom who gets overwhelmed with housework and all the things she didn’t accomplish, this is a significant mood booster.

4. Pet a dog.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Kat Jayne

I’m not even joking. According to Health.com, petting a dog for 15 minutes releases serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, known as the feel-good hormones. I know this to be true when I am running in my neighborhood full of hills. When I feel my energy and motivation start to dwindle, I take a detour to the nearest house with a dog who I know will greet me at the curb. Stopping for a minute or two to catch my breath and pet their sweet puppy heads makes my energy and motivation suddenly rocket. Try to pet a dog without smiling. Go ahead. I dare you. (This includes cats, too.)

5. Stretch your creative muscles.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Brigitta Schneiter

I truly believe that every single person is creative in their own way. My husband is creative in the kitchen and while woodworking, even though he says he isn’t the “creative type”. I’m a writer who adores creative wordplay (my husband calls me the “artsy fartsy type”). God is the most gifted Creator who made our entire universe from literal scratch. No matter your personality type or interests, you are creative. This includes gardening, jewelry making, scrapbooking, upcycling clothes, reorganizing your closet (seriously, people are so incredibly creative the way a single outfit can be assembled – I do not possess this gift). If nothing else, sing! Put on some music and break out into a dance. Who cares if anyone is listening or watching? Go for it, and reap the mood-boosting (or sassy) rewards.

6. Get out of the house.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Christian Gertenbach

Getting out of the house often is a major mood-lifter. Trust me. I love being at home, but depression sets in more frequently and deeply when I don’t go anywhere (carline in your pj’s doesn’t count). Now that school is out, I’ve made a commitment to go somewhere every single day. My sons fight less, and I somehow feel more free. I’ve joined the Y, braved shopping with my kids, gone to the zoo, visited the McWane Center, visited friends. We’ve scoured thrift stores and browsed farmer’s markets. My house is a mess right now, but hey, we’re happy.

7. Visit a friend.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Katie Treadway

According to Reader’s Digest, a British study of 86 depressed women showed the benefits of spending at least one hour per week with a friend. In the study, 65% of the women felt much better after being with a friend. This is true for both introverts and extroverts (so, no excuses, introverts!). I can attest to this personally (as an introvert, myself). I’ve noticed a marked boost to my overall mood when I’ve been with a close friend. There’s magic in relationships.

8. Grab a cup of coffee.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly

There’s also magic in coffee – but you knew this already, right? Edward J. Cumella, PhD, licensed psychologist and director of research and education for the Remuda Ranch Treatment Centers in Wickenburg, Arizona, swears that caffeine consumed in moderation decreases the risk of depression by more than 50%. Plus, there is a special kind of joy that comes with choosing which flavored creamer you’ll use that day, right? Oh, yes.

9. Diet and exercise.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Bruno Nascimento

Ugh. Of course this would have to be included on the list. But its true. Unhealthy foods encourage “leaky gut”, which is defined by HealthyWomen.org as a condition in which toxic waste products and bacteria leak through the intestines and flood the blood stream, causing anything from inflammation, allergic reactions, migraines, irritable bowel, eczema, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, hormone imbalances, and a weakened immune system. Exercise will release tons of feel-good hormones, and help you maintain good posture, muscle tone, and heart health. So go ahead and sign up for that Zumba class. You might even enjoy it.

10. Pray.

Natalie Cone | be the anomaly
Photo by Michael Heuss

God is your creator, the ultimate Free Spirit. He knows your physical, mental and emotional design more intimately than most give Him credit for. He knows exactly how you function, your habits, and your needs. When you dive into the scripture and meditate on His power, it reminds us that this life is not, in fact, about us at all. Focus on His never ending patience and love for you, and the fact that He’ll never give up on you. It’s okay to pray away the blues – you might just discover that it is the single most powerful way to get rid of negative moods.

 

#betheanomaly

 

 

Sources: Healthywomen.org Health.com, Prevention, Reader’s Digest

The Darkest Day of My Life

It was the night terrors that landed me there in the office of our pastor. I asked him for material on spiritual warfare, certain I was under some kind of oppression that wouldn’t leave me. He suggested something else – a counselor.

He gave me the name of a reputable counselor who keeps Christ at their center, and is focused on healing.

I checked my insurance – counseling wasn’t covered. No money = no counselor.

I decided to go with the therapists that my insurance did cover, and to my luck, they had in their practice a psychologist who specialized in sleep disturbances and disorders.

I made an appointment and couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of the issue.

Sitting in the office of the psychologist, I was nervous. I had never done anything like this before. I felt the compulsion to reassure him that I was okay, I was perfectly fine, but just needed some guidance. The psychologist sat across the room from me, legs crossed, notebook in his lap, and proceeded to ask me probing, confusing questions. Did I see shadow figures while awake? Did I ever see or hear people or voices that no one else could hear? Did I sometimes feel that my thoughts were not my own? His questions were aggressively leading in the direction of bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and paranoia, none of which accurately described me.

“No, I don’t see people who aren’t there. I don’t hear voices. What do you mean, shadow figures? I’m so exhausted from sleep disturbances, sometimes my periphery is foggy in a disorienting way… What do you mean thoughts that aren’t my own? Sometimes I feel so numb inside, I don’t feel like myself. Is that what you mean?”

His questions were difficult to answer, and I was surprised when he asked for no details whatsoever of the deep, sad feelings that haunted me.

He wrote three prescriptions, one of which, he explained, was usually prescribed for war veterans suffering from PTSD. I walked out of his office exactly fifteen minutes after I had arrived. I almost left the building entirely. I wanted to crumple the paper prescription and leave it there in the hallway. But no. I was there to seek help. I couldn’t jump ship so soon.

I should have.

I followed the psychologist’s instructions to go down the hall to a room where a psychiatrist was waiting for me. She was kind and welcoming in a detached, polished way. We shook hands. I sat down.

She asked me to describe my issues. I told her about the nightmares, the overwhelming sad feelings, the exhaustion, occasionally feeling an impulse to cry for no apparent reason.

“Let’s try a new method of therapy. I’ve been waiting for the right candidate, and this method seems perfect for you.”

She explained something called EMDR, compared it to mild hypnotism, and said it has been extremely successful in many cases, particularly those who had been in war.

I wasn’t sure why they kept comparing me to war veterans.

The idea was that the method would force me to face my most horrific feelings, memories, encounters, then participate in gentle rapid eye movement while focusing on a positive image to replace the bad feelings with good ones.

I was skeptical, and honestly, a little frightened. But what did I know? I had never done anything like this before.

She consulted a manual of sorts in her lap as she took me step-by-step through the therapy. Half an hour into it, I was violently shaking, weeping, and felt the need to curl up on the floor. My body was dehydrated from the tears. I felt like screaming. The overwhelming sad feelings seemed to completely envelop me and swallow me whole. I was drowning. I was dying.

Photo by Stefano Pollio

Walking back to my car, the sun was too bright. My heart was hollow. My soul felt violated. My spirit was dead. My mind was depleted.

Just focus on driving home, I told myself. If I can make it home, I can sleep. There’s nothing left of me to do anything else.

I called my husband, to whom I had been married less than a year, on the way home and told him what happened. I told him I was a wreck, and for some reason, felt terrified. I didn’t want to go back. But how could I seek healing if I didn’t allow someone to help?

He decided to go with me for the next session.

Feeling brave and empowered with the man I loved in the room, I sat across from the psychiatrist, ready.

Half an hour later, I felt void of life. I could only speak with slurred, emotion-laden words. Through my tears, I caught a glimpse of my husband’s face. He was horrified, and looked as if he wanted to sweep me up and carry me out of there.

I should have let him.

Two more sessions later, I couldn’t do it anymore. This method may very well have been successful for some people, but it wrecked me. The gaping hole in my soul had grown into a canyon.

That’s when I remembered the name of the counselor my pastor recommended.

I decided it was time to listen.

I made an appointment with no money to pay, and wasn’t sure where it would come from. I prayed for provision, and went anyway.

Sitting across from the counselor, I was surprised to see him smile. He didn’t look at me. He looked into me.

It made me feel human again.

I braced myself for a method of therapy that would leave bloody claw marks on my spirit, but it never came. His voice was gentle. He didn’t just hear my words. He understood them. I described my previous experience with a psychiatrist and assured him I never even filled the prescriptions. He apologized, and said he wished I had come to him first.

“We won’t do anything like that here,” he said.

I cried with relief.

Weeks of counseling followed. From the beginning, I knew I was in the presence of someone who was in the profession because he truly, deeply had a passion for helping people restore health to their spirits.

The things he taught me echo through my mind to this day.

Oddly enough, several weeks after my last counseling session, I had the darkest day of my life

It was a Sunday morning, and I was alone.

The depression had been slowly creeping up on me, and it was frustrating. I had been through counseling – didn’t that mean I was healed from this? That’s when it dawned on me.

I was broken.

I could never be fixed.

I was useless.

I was a burden to my precious husband.

I was unfit to ever be a mother, and should be grateful that we didn’t have children yet.

I was a wasted life.

My existence was a mistake.

Photo by Volkan Olmez

My husband would be happier with someone else, but because he was loyal and committed, he was stuck in a marriage that he would have to endure for the rest of his life.

I had robbed him of happiness.

Lies, lies lies.

I listened to the lies, those words of hate whispered to my vulnerable heart.

I had to set him free. He would probably be relieved.

I didn’t know why I felt that way. He had never been anything but loving, supportive, giving, self-sacrificing. For a moment, my heart warmed when I thought about how beautifully and selflessly he loved me.

You don’t deserve it, the lies hissed. You’re broken and you’ll never be whole again.

I won’t describe the events that followed. I will never again speak of that moment where I readied myself for death. It was cold, dark, and lonely.

Somewhere in that void, a warm light penetrated my heart. I suddenly remembered to Whom I belonged.

God doesn’t create waste. I was not waste.

That warm light brought to life my awareness of the moment. It illuminated the vicious, vile, evil lies mere seconds before my life ended. I was so close.

My heart blasted to life, and I desperately needed to throw up. So, so close.

I ran.

With rows of chills prickling down my spine, I ran downstairs and sat on the bottom stair.

Don’t move, I told myself. Just don’t move. Sit. Wait.

An hour later, my husband arrived home. He saw my face, and rushed to my side.

My eyes were long dry, empty of tears that had poured for the last hour. I told him everything.

He rocked back with a look on his face I’ll never forget. An expression of horror, confusion, grief, and relief.

He said very little. He said just enough.

Over the following week, we talked miles and miles of words. He reminded me of what I had learned in counseling. We tried to dissect what led to that moment.

My husband then named the monster that tormented me – Depression.

But wasn’t depression temporary? I had no idea depression could be so dark and empty. I had no idea I was still susceptible to it. I had been through weeks of counseling! This couldn’t be possible.

He made me promise I would never hide the depression from him, that I would always be open and let him know.

I kept my promise.

To this day, the nightmares still torment me. They come in waves. Depression is still an evil creature that lurks in my world, occasionally attacking fiercely. So many times I have begged God to free me from depression. For whatever reason, He has chosen not to. I trust his reasons. I have spoken to many who suffer the same afflictions, and when they were finally pointed back to Christ, they felt hope again. Ever since that dark day, depression doesn’t take over me anymore. I have protection now.

I wear armor.

Photo by Samuel Zeller

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:11-20 NIV

God didn’t remove the depression from my life. I rely on Him to help me through, and use what I have learned to help others. For this reason, I have stopped asking God to take it from me. For this reason, I am an ambassador in chains.

Depression no longer kicks me down.

I declare this boldly:  With Christ, I stand.