We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed, annoyed, and feeling like everything is going wrong at work. If you find yourself longing for your commute home, take a few minutes and use these expert and science-backed strategies to change your mood and your day.
Shift Your Focus
“When the train is late or the traffic is terrible, it’s easy to feel the day is sunk before it’s even begun. That’s a problem, because our brains actually only have enough capacity to notice a fraction of what’s around us at any time–a phenomenon known as ‘selective attention,'” says Caroline Webb, CEO of Sevenshift, a New York-based consulting firm that teaches people to use behavioral science to improve their working lives, and author of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Have a Good Day. Once a foul mood hits, it’s likely to color our interactions for the rest of the day if it’s not addressed.
Webb’s antidote: Stop what you’re doing and simply focus on the positive. “Decide to notice three good things. They don’t have to be particularly big or meaningful—perhaps a funny poster, a person being helpful, a nice hat. You’ll reset your mood—which means you’ll go on to spot more good things throughout the day.”
Listen To A Sad Song
Conventional wisdom tells us to turn up the peppy tunes when we’re feeling bad. But “sinking into a sad song” could actually be a better move, says career coach Jane Scudder. A June 2016 study published in the journal PLOS One found that some people actually feel better when listening to sad music.
Scudder says that sad songs may validate feelings of sadness and allow the person feeling them to better deal with them. “You don’t want to ignore it. You don’t want to just say, ‘Nope, I’m not depressed. I’m going to listen to a happy song. I’m totally fine,'” she says. That just bottles up your emotions. If you’re frustrated or sad, give yourself a moment to be frustrated or sad, so you can move on.
Smell Some Vanilla Bean
Scent is a powerful trigger, and certain scents can help you feel better. A 2005 study published in Chemical Senses found that scents like vanilla bean and clementine made people feel happy. A whiff of your favorite scent could help you feel better during a bad day.
Change Your Scenery
Scudder says that a quick change of scenery can also help reset your mood. Get outside for a moment—we know that fresh air, sunshine, and green spaces can all help people feel better and improve mood. If you don’t have time for a walk outside, head to an empty conference room or a quiet office for a few moments. If you’re really strapped for time, in 2015, researchers found that simply looking at photos of greenery can reduce stress levels.
Write It Out
Research indicates that writing about your feelings can affect how you feel. In one 2005 study, subjects who wrote about their traumatic experiences actually had better physical and psychological outcomes than those who wrote about neutral subjects. So take a few minutes to privately write about what you’re feeling. You may even find that, once it’s down on paper, you can let it go.
Do Something Nice
Webb says that doing something nice for someone else is one of the most reliable ways to improve well-being. “It doesn’t have to be a big thing to make a difference. Pay an unexpected compliment, give up your seat. Stop to give someone directions rather than striding past. Notice how great it makes you feel,” she says.
“There’s nothing that can put us in a better mood than satisfying our senses,” says life coach and mindfulness meditation teacher Ora Nadrich, author of Says Who? How One Simple Question Can Change The Way You Think Forever. A sweet treat might do it. If you don’t want to get in the habit of using food to feel better, try some Craniosacral therapy, which is gently massaging your face and scalp. “It can be very soothing and relaxing, and doing it for as little as 10 minutes can make a big difference in how you feel,” she says. Phoning your funniest friend or otherwise injecting some humor into your day can also help.
“The minute you start laughing, you can get someone else laughing, and before you know it, laughter has changed the energy or mood of the day,” she says.