Three Non-Obvious Ways of Boosting Your Mood and Energy

These are happiness strategies for real life.

Posted Jan 18, 2018

1. Take 30 Minutes to "Do the Right Thing."

It's often written that prosocial, generous behaviors tend to enhance our mood and happiness, but sometimes people think of this only in terms of larger-scale actions, like volunteering. You might not necessarily put more basic actions, such as simply being friendly or encouraging, into this category.  

It's easy to get self-absorbed when life is busy, and you're dealing with your own stresses and anxieties. When this happens, it's likely that you have the desire to reach out to others in supportive or friendly ways, but you just don't get around to it.

For example:

  • You want to touch base with a close friend you haven't contacted in a while.
  • You want to congratulate a coworker on a success.
  • You had a good customer-service experience and want to relay that positive feedback.
  • You want to support a colleague's new project.
  • A new person has joined your team at work. It's been your intention to make an effort to get to know the person, but you haven't gotten around to it.

I'll often do a short "blitz" of doing these types of behaviors for 20 to 30 minutes. I feel like I'm getting to express the nicer side of myself, rather than feeling like that aspect of my personality is always shoved to the side in favor of doing work where the productivity value is more immediate or measurable.

Sometimes what I do is as simple as sending a friend a "Want to catch up?" email.

If you're the opposite of me, and you tend to push your personal productivity aside because you get caught up being prosocial or friendly, then you might try a different approach. In your case, it might be more of a mood boost for you to close your door, turn off your phone, and hunker down to work on your own goals for a period where you're not accessible to others.

2. Take 5 minutes (or less) to prevent a headache, or a disaster.

As I write this, I'm looking over at the amenity kit I got on a recent international flight. It came in a nice bag that I'm planning on leaving for my mom, with whom I'm currently staying. The problem is that I put our passports in the bag so I could easily access them coming through immigration, and I know there's a decent chance that when I'm packing to go home, I'm going to forget the passports are there. This is now the third time I've imagined that scenario and I have still not put the passports back in their usual spot in my carry-on bag.

Addressing simple things that could cause headaches or disasters later will help you feel a lot more effective and in control of your life — and hopefully less anxious as well.

There are typically lots of things like this that can prey on your mind until you take care of them. In other scenarios, you leave it too long, your worry does eventuate, and then you have to deal with that situation. 

Either way, you can feel a boost of efficacy by taking a couple of minutes to stop these types of things from draining your concentration and energy.

Koldunov/Shutterstock
Source: Koldunov/Shutterstock

3. Set up future pleasure.

Many of us have amazing entertainment options at our fingertips, from multiple TV streaming services to being able to download ebooks and audiobooks from local libraries. The problem is that you can easily spend 20 to 30 minutes just finding something you're interested in, and that process isn't very relaxing since it involves decision-making, which is inherently mentally taxing.

You can enjoy your entertainment more if you separate the time you spend searching and deciding versus the time you spend relaxing and enjoying what you've chosen. One advantage of this approach is that you get to experience anticipatory pleasure. For example, you put a hold on a popular audiobook from your library, and you're excitedly waiting for it to become available.

Aim to "queue up" a stream of content you think you'll enjoy, whether it's TV shows, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, or books. You want to find content that feels nurturing to consume, whether it's because you learn something, you laugh, it excites you, or it gives you a sense of comfort. 

Being able to find content that's positive and self-nurturing is a skill you can practice and refine. One strategy I use: When I like an author, I search for podcasts in which he or she has been interviewed. I'll listen to that interview, and then listen to other episodes of the same podcast as a way of discovering other authors i may like. This helps provide myself with an ongoing stream of new things I'll like. 

The better your skills for finding content that fits your interests and emotional state, the more that doing so will provide a mood boost in the form of a sense of fun and discovery. When you're in the mood for discovery is probably quite different from when you're in the mood for relaxing and consuming that content. Therefore, it's best to separate these.

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