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As a mother of four, trying to find the work/life balance, there are days when I’m just spent. I’m either exhausted from a lack of sleep, frustrated for not getting everything done that I wanted to, or depressed because I don’t do enough to make myself feel taken care of.
But I’m human… and I keep reminding myself of that. I’m also a mom, and putting my kids’ needs above my own is par for the course. I signed up for this and have no regrets.
Still, there are times when looking at my kids’ smiling faces just isn’t enough to lift my spirits… and that is when I turn to some of my favorite mood boosting activities. We all need a little pick me up sometimes and there is no shame in that. In fact, self-care is essential for our physical and emotional well-being.
So if you’re looking for a quick fix for your funk, look no further than these 45 quick mood boosting activities!
45 Quick Mood Boosting Activities
Activity #1. Soak up some Vitamin D
It is scientifically proven that a healthy dose of Vitamin D is great for one’s mood. In fact, people suffering from mild depression are often encouraged to take supplements to help brighten their day. But you don’t necessarily need a grocery store to get some Vitamin D, because it also comes from sunshine… and that is brilliant!
Activity #2. Practice Yoga
Yoga is a great way to increase your flexibility, while burning some calories, which is fantastic in itself… but the benefits for your mind are just as great. Yoga forces you to “center your chakra” and promotes quiet and calm through breathing exercises.
Activity #3. Mediate
Just saying the word, “meditate” calms me. Using counted breathing and repetitive words or phrases, the point of meditation is to relax and alleviate your mood by letting go of stressors and negative thoughts.
The best part is, it can be done almost anywhere quiet and doesn’t have to take long. Add music to the experience to help heighten your senses.
Activity #4. Go for a walk or jog
You’ve heard it time and time again… cardiovascular exercise triggers endorphins that are known to improve your mood and reduce stress. Walking and jogging are two of the most accessible exercises there are. They require no equipment or gym membership and, with the proper attire, can be done outdoors year-round.
Coupled with a healthy, balanced diet, exercise can help you lose weight… which can also make you feel better about yourself – and life in general.
Activity #5. Take deep breaths
Breathing exercises are quick and easy ways to quiet those negative voices in your head and get your back on track for a better day ahead. Breathing is the only system of the body which is both automatic and a system we can change to shift the way we feel. There are different types of breathing to help us accomplish different things… whether it’s to get a better night’s sleep or feel more relaxed.
Activity #6. Have a drink
Did I just suggest you make yourself a cocktail or pour a glass of wine? Maybe…. But before you judge me, hear me out. First, my doctor always says, “everything in moderation.” Second, alcohol has been used since the dawn of time to numb the pain of injured soldiers or “calm the nerves” of unsteady hands.
Alcohol is a sedative and a depressant that affects the central nervous system. While too much can make people hyper, sloppy or use poor judgment… one or two drinks (depending on your weight) can put you in a relaxed state of mind and improve mood.
Activity #7. Get yourself a Heavy Bag
I like to hit things… I always have. Not people, just things. I first started kickboxing right before the pandemic hit, to get out my aggression over what was happening in the world. Later on, the “high” I got from kicking and punching the heavy bag made me come alive.
I couldn’t help but smile and feel good about myself after every class. And today, I have my own bag hanging in our garage that I encourage my kids to hit when they’re having a rough day.
Activity #8. Dance
Dancing is a form of exercise… but many of us don’t see it as such because it’s so much fun! But dancing is good for your heart and mind, as it gets the blood pumping and releases more of those endorphins. In fact, a study was conducted on people with anxiety disorders, inviting them to participate in one of four activities: a modern-dance class, an exercise class, a music class or a math class. Only the dance class significantly reduced anxiety.
Activity #9. Write in a journal
Journaling is a great way to unlock your innermost feelings – whether it be anger, jealousy, frustration, anxiety, happiness, sadness, gratitude or something else. There is no wrong way to journal and nobody else has to read it except for you.
So free write whatever moves you and then spend some time reading over it now and again to put your life in perspective and allow your spirits to soar.
Activity #10. Watch a funny movie
I love a good comedy… and it doesn’t have to be slapstick or outrageous to work its magic on me. Any type of feel good movie is a sure fire way to set my mind right and make me smile, which is why movie watching is one of my favorite mood boosting activities.
Activity #11. Watch a video of baby animals
Baby goats. Puppies. Kittens. A fawn’s wobbly legs. A chick’s first chirp. I’m betting you’re already smiling just reading this. So do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes watching videos of cuties like these. I can almost guarantee you won’t be able to fight the urge to feel good.
Activity #12. Volunteer
Giving back to those less fortunate, or helping a person or animal in need, are excellent ways to be a part of your community and feel good in the process. Taking the time to look at what you have, compared to what others don’t, is a great way to be appreciative of all that is good in your life.
Activity #13. Sing at the top of your lungs
I love to sing. Am I good at it? Well, my kids say so… but I’ve yet to get that callback from America’s Got Talent. Still, that isn’t the point. I don’t love singing because I’m good (or not good) at it… I love it because of how it makes me feel. I smile, I laugh, I shout… and with each of these things, I can feel my mood gauge rise up.
Activity #14. Get intimate with your partner
Yes, I am suggesting you make out or “go all the way” with your partner. There is nothing wrong with shared intimacy between two people in a loving and committed relationship… and that closeness is a great way to shut your minds off to the world around you and get the heart beating faster with every gentle touch.
Activity #15. Plant a garden
There is something so relaxing about digging your hands into the earth and feeling the soil run through your fingers… knowing you are about creating something beautiful (or edible) to nurture so that it grows. Just thinking about the beautiful flowers or tasty veggies gives you something to look forward to, which is sure to plant some positivity in your mind.
Activity #16. Go hiking
Hiking might as well be called, “Communing with Nature 101”. It’s such a powerful and calming way to connect with the outside world, while providing an excellent cardio and strength toning workout to boot! You can even make it a multi-day hike and camp out somewhere peaceful… all of which equates to one happy camper!
Activity #17. Plan a spa day
The activity title says it all… spa days are meant to be a relaxing escape from whatever ails you. Whether it’s physical pain, stress or anxiety… there’s no better cure than pampering yourself to quiet things down and boost your spirits!
Activity #18. Play hookey
There’s a reason why kids and adults alike love the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Sometimes it’s ok, and also much needed, to just run away for a day. Fake an illness or emergency (just be sure to “knock on wood”) and skirt your responsibilities for a while.
I promise the world will not end and life will go on without you for 8-12 hours… and you will feel a rush from the adrenaline coursing through your veins from doing something spontaneous that’s just for you.
Activity #19. Go see a comedian
Laughter is the best medicine. It’s been said many times, by many people, dating as far back as the 1300s. Some even say it was written in the Bible, Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
Grab your partner or some friends and find a comedian that will leave you in stitches while crying tears of joy. And if going out isn’t your bag, you can always try out a funny podcast.
Activity #20. Look at old photos
No matter how bad of a day I’m having, nothing brings a smile to my heart and lightens my soul quite like looking at old photos. Photos of my husband and I dating (how young we felt!), photos of my kids as babies (now ages 7-11), vacation pics, special occasions, relatives who are no longer with me, pets, childhood photos, candids, selfies.
It’s easier now than ever to share your photos to the “cloud” and be gifted with a surprise “memories video” on your smart device. Those get me every time!
Activity #21. Eat chocolate covered bananas
So this mood boosting activity kills two birds with one stone. Dark chocolate is known for improving mood… and so are bananas. This type of chocolate is high in health-promoting flavonoids – which have been shown to increase blood flow to your brain, reduce inflammation, and boost brain health, all of which may support mood regulation. Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which helps synthesize feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Combining the two just seems like a logical and yummy idea!
Activity #22. Order your favorite meal
They call it “comfort food” for a reason. There are just some meals that make our tummies and our minds happy. And what better than to have someone else cook it for you? This way you can just relax and take it all in.
Activity #23. Cook for your friends
Cooking for friends combines two great feel good activities – spending quality time with people you care for and being creative in the kitchen. Cooking is relaxing… and the gratification of serving a delicious meal to others is sure to boost your confidence and mood!
Activity #24. Host or attend a game night
There are so many awesome games these days, it makes me wonder why television is still the most popular pastime for many. Board games, trivia, charades, card games… the list goes on.
Hosting or attending a game night (even a virtual one) is a great way to blow off steam, share some laughs and get a little competitive… which always gets the juices flowing and the mood rising.
Activity #25. Start a gratitude jar
The gratitude jar (or box) has been a popular mindfulness activity for kids with anxiety for quite some time… but it’s not limited to children. Decorate a jar or shoe box to keep notes of things you are grateful for inside, then make a pact to add to it whenever you’re feeling down or less than grateful.
Activity #26. Become a mentor
Most parents often play the role of lead mentor for their children… but not all kids are lucky to have that. Some kids rely on mentorship programs to help them cope with day to day things. There is nothing quite life influencing a young person to boost your mood. Visit MENTOR to get started, or check out your local Big Brother/Big Sister programs.
Texting is fine. Email is fine. I get it… we live in a fast-paced world and these tools are so much more convenient and time-efficient than actually picking up the phone to call someone. I’ve been guilty of this myself. But, there is also nothing quite like hearing the voice of an old friend on the other end of the line – especially if it comes at a time when you need it. Kismet. It will make you both feel good and smile to catch up.
Activity #28. Start a new hobby
Finding a hobby or two that you truly enjoy is a wonderful way to lift your spirits, especially if you’re having a rough day. Still, there are times when those hobbies can feel a bit stale and need some “shaking up”. That’s where finding a new hobby, possibly even related, comes into play. If you like photography for example, why not take up photo editing? Or if you’re a singer, why not take up an instrument to accompany your tunes?
Activity #29. Send yourself a gift basket or flowers
You don’t need a significant other, or special occasion, to receive a gift basket or flowers. Celebrate you and all that is wonderful in your life by sending yourself a random gift – on a random day. Be sure to include an inspiring and thoughtful note for yourself!
Books can be a great escape. They take up places that force our minds to illustrate and wonder about. Books can speak to you by connecting with your deep or hidden emotions. Characters become your heroes… or the antagonists you’d love to take your aggression out on. Choose a book that matches your mood and you’ll see things quickly turn around as every page is turned.
Activity #31. Check into a fancy hotel room for the night
Sometimes you need to step away from your routine to gain perspective and give yourself that little pick-me-up that it needs. Find a fancy hotel with room service and pay-per-view, maybe even a spa, and tuck yourself in for a cozy and rejuvenating night of “me time”.
Activity #32. Whitewater rafting
One way to almost instantaneously boost your mood is to push your body and mind to its limits. To scare and challenge yourself a bit. It’s you vs nature when you sign up for whitewater rafting (or kayaking). The unpredictability of the current and sheer force of the water is sheer adrenaline, which affects mood. Working as part of a team means camaraderie, which can lead to bonding and possible new friendships as well!
Activity #33. Smile at a stranger
Smiles are contagious. Try smiling at a stranger and chances are you’ll get one in return, lifting their spirits and yours! You never know what kind of day a person is having, and your smile may be just the thing to turn it around!
Activity #34. Pay for someone’s meal
We’ve heard stories about someone paying for another person’s coffee at a drive-thru… or giving them the extra money they need to get something they didn’t have enough for. I can speak from personal experience on this. My husband and I once had an expensive anniversary meal paid for by a couple we’d never met… and we couldn’t stop smiling for hours afterwards.
Talking about how we were going to pay it forward. Not that we needed a mood boost on our anniversary, but this certainly took it to the next level! When we did something similar for an elderly couple months later, we couldn't’ have felt better.
Activity #35. Bring a meal to someone who is ill
Sometimes people are going through something rough that we can’t understand, like losing their house to a fire or battling cancer. Cooking them a homemade dish, or sending them a premade dish for a local restaurant, can make their lives a bit easier and make you feel wonderful in the process… as their faith in humanity is restored with a simple gesture.
Activity #36. Attend a concert
Music affects mood. It’s been scientifically proven and talked about by psychology professionals for years. Songs can make us laugh, make us cry, make us smile uncontrollably. Music brings back memories and makes us think about making new ones… all of which is wonderful for elevating our mood.
Attending a concert is a great way to capture these feelings in surround sound. Add to it the excitement in the air among other concert goers, and you’ll have a feel-good time.
Activity #37. Play games in an arcade or on the boardwalk
When I think back on my childhood, some of my favorite memories involve walking on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore, snacking on funnel cakes and ice cream… in between trying my hand at skeeball, pop the balloon, mini golf and other classics. I still enjoy doing this with my kids every year.
Treat yourself to a little nostalgia and you’ll soon be feeling like your carefree and youthful self again! If you’re not close to a boardwalk, there are adult-friendly arcades that actually serve food and beer for a fun night out with friends!
Activity #38. Dress up for no reason
I’ve been doing this thing since I was in my 20s… everytime I feel “blue”, or slightly under the weather, I would dress up. I’d put makeup on (something I don’t do often as a work-at-home mom), put on one of my favorite outfits and go somewhere. Anywhere. It could be the movies, a shoe store or even running errands.
It didn’t matter where I went, only how it made me feel. It made me want to smile when people admired me, or smiled in my direction. I developed a spring in my step and added some extra hip action to my swagger – and that was all it took to get me feeling right as rain.
Activity #39. Have a good cry
When you think of crying, you probably don't think about endorphins. Yet, here we are. According to a Harvard Medical School study, crying releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, also known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals help ease both physical and emotional pain.
So don’t be afraid to have yourself a good cry. Watch the sad movie, read the tearjerker novel or watch a documentary on animal slaughter in Africa or melting ice caps. You’ll surprisingly feel better after.
Activity #40. Start a bucket list
Bucket lists are all about looking ahead to the future… near and distant. It’s about the hopes, dreams and aspirations you have for yourself and your loved ones before your time on this earth comes to an end.
Life is too short not to live it to the fullest, or at least try. Sit down and make a bucket list for your life and I promise you’ll start smiling at all the possibilities.
Activity #41. Spend the day at the beach
The beach is known for its calming sounds, waves crashing at your feet, soft sand, seashells and sunshine. All of these components make it one of the great mood boosting activities. It’s also typically inexpensive to access, if not free.
Experts suggest walking just 20 minutes on the beach to seriously impact your mood and cut back on feelings of isolation and depression.
Activity #42. Babysit for a tired friend
As we mentioned with some of the other activities, helping people can be a feel-good shot to the arm. We’ve all had days when we feel tired, overwhelmed or anxious. Take a good look at the people in your life and ask yourself, “Is today the day they need a break?” For women, 8 times out of 10, I’d wager that person to be a mom or dad (or both) with young kids.
So offer to take them off her hands for a while so she can get her hair cut or go shopping in peace… maybe enjoy a quiet dinner. They won’t need to pay for a sitter and you’ll feel good helping out a friend.
Activity #43. Start a Meetup or Social Group
Finding the people and things we truly love in life is one of the keys to happiness. It gives us purpose and joy… and puts us in a good place mentally. Whether you are looking to make new friends, meet the love of your life or get involved in a cause you care about… starting a Meetup or social group is a fantastic place to start (I met my husband via a volunteer Meetup group I started).
Activity #44. Sleep in
Getting the right amount of sleep each night is directly related to how we feel and function, both physically and mentally. In one study of partial sleep deprivation, subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.
So the next time you’re feeling stuck in a multi-day rut, try sleeping in. It’s also a good idea to make a habit of going to bed earlier and practicing affirmations for deeper sleep.
Activity #45. Color
Coloring isn’t just for kids. Adult coloring books, pages and apps are gaining in popularity, being touted for helping you relax and color your cares away. Choose bolder and brighter colors to make yourself feel happy… or go with dark tones to get your feelings of angst out. Either way, you’ll feel better once your masterpiece is complete.
We all need a little help sometimes… whether it’s a pep talk from a trusted friend, reading just the thing you needed to on a motivational blog post, praying or meditating on life. But there are also simpler things you can do to help yourself that are quick and easy fixes for your mood.
Any one of these mood boosting activities is sure to help you move in a positive direction, be it short term or long, provided you engage in them regularly whenever needed. And if you need a little helping figuring out what you’re feeling or why, you should check out our article on mood tracker apps.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.