There’s nothing worse than having a bad mood hit you out of nowhere — in the morning, right before a meeting or even on a weekend, when should be enjoying your time away from the office.
Not only can a bad mood can lead to irritation, distrust and contempt, it can also bring down everyone else around you. The worst thing you can do when this happens is to feel helpless and simply wait for the time to pass.
Here are some science-backed methods to banishing a bad mood — in five minutes or less:
1. Take a walk in nature
Never underestimate the power of nature and physical activity combined.
A study from 2005 found that walking in nature can make you happier and less brooding. For the experiment, 60 participants went on a 50-minute walk in either a natural (oak woodlands) or an urban (along a four-lane road) setting.
After the walk, researchers found that those who took the nature route experienced less anxiety and higher levels of positive emotions, compared to the urban walkers.
But that doesn’t mean you need to be outside for an entire 50 minutes. Even just five minutes of walking can help do the trick.
Another study found that walking — even for just a short period of time — can facilitate positive emotions, as well as “override expectations of mood worsening.”
”[Walking] will almost certainly result in increased feelings of pleasant energy. And that’s true whether you expect this to occur or not,” says psychology professor Jeff Miller, the lead researcher of the study.
If you can find the time to check your phone every half hour or so, you can certainly afford a few minutes to sit still and meditate.
A number of studies have found that meditating can change your brain in positive ways, like lowering stress and boosting productivity. It also encourages you to focus on the present, as opposed to worrying about the past or future.
Other researchers have found that the effects of meditation can “transfer to non-meditative states.” In other words, the positive effects of meditation may stay with you, even after you stop your practice.
Meditation can be as simple as just closing our eyes and listening to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
3. Lend a hand
When you’re in an emotional funk, interacting with others might be the last thing you want to do. But research has shown that when you radiate good feelings towards others, you can unlock the positive ones in yourself.
A study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications found strong links between generosity and happiness. Researchers asked participants to promise to spend their money over the next four weeks either on others or on themselves.
According to brain scans before and after the four-week period, those who donated their money reported increased happiness, compared to the second group.
You can express generosity by donating to a charity or cause, but even small actions (i.e., offering to help an overwhelmed colleague, holding the door open for the person behind you, asking someone how their day is going) can make a difference.