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5 Simple Actions to Give Your Life an Emotional Boost

It has been said that a rut is simply a grave with the ends kicked out. I think that’s a little harsh. Even the most positive among us go through our down times. We are emotional beings, and sometimes even when everything looks great on paper, our moods just don’t mirror what we are outwardly presenting to the world. The winter months can be especially tough on those in a cold weather climate. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and it can hit some people pretty hard.

If you find that you are struggling to find happiness or feeling that you are just treading emotional waters, taking some simple action on a daily basis can give you a much needed lift. You don’t need a clinical diagnosis of depression to start making change. In fact, the earlier you act, the better. The following practices can boost your mood whether you are lying in a rut or standing on top of a mountain. Give them a go.

Practice Gratitude

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Gratitude journaling has gained a lot of popularity recently. This is simply the practice of writing down a handful of things on a daily basis that you are thankful for and then taking some time to reflect on your list. The power of this habit comes in its ability to shift your focus. At first blush we can all think of things that are paramount to our emotional happiness. Our spouses, our kids, our pets, meaningful work, etc.

But unless you are writing down the same list day after day, repetition forces you to drill deeper and find the little things that so many of us take for granted. Things like access to clean running water on demand. Having a roof over your head. Walking a neighborhood without fear of bombings. Having an infinite number of choices for dinner.

Changing your perspective is sometimes all it takes to influence your emotions. If you can’t see yourself journaling every day, I recommend at least getting quiet for a few minutes and internally focusing on gratitude. I like to do this first thing in the morning. Doing so helps set the tone of your day before the news, the internet, and your downer coworkers have a chance to convince you that the world is imploding. Take a couple minutes to revisit gratitude during the day when you feel like your mood is dipping. You’ll find that things are never quite as bad as they seem.


You don’t need a shovel to dig a rut. All it takes is your phone. Spend enough time on social media and eventually you’ll be looking for a lifeline out. Study after study shows that prolonged exposure to social media negatively influences your mood and your self image. This impact is especially harmful to adolescent girls, as discussed in the outstanding documentary The Social Dilemma. But social media’s reach doesn’t discriminate in its ability to infiltrate and dismantle a healthy, happy mind.

Take note of your mood the next time you spend countless hours doom scrolling the internet. And your blood pressure. (Did I mention it’s an election year?) If you don’t come out of a long session of internet surfing feeling completely beat down, you’ll probably at least regret wasting such a large chunk of your precious time. Time that you will never get back.

Try not to pick up your phone until it is absolutely necessary. What you think will be a 2 minute glance at your email can easily turn into 20 minutes of link hopping. I think it is especially important to limit your phone use first thing in the morning. You’re supposed to use that time for gratitude anyway, remember? Nothing will ruin your day before it even starts quite like the doom and gloom of the internet.

Chronic phone use is a double whammy. It’s a vicious loop of physical and emotional descent. Think about a depressed person’s physical appearance. Head down, shoulders slumped, dead eyes, immobile body, shallow breathing. Sounds exactly like somebody on his phone, right? Continually putting your body in this physical posture will perpetuate a negative mood. A dour mood will often look to the internet for escape. And the cycle continues. Exiting the cycle takes breaking the posture and limiting your screen time. If you have a hard time with self control, there are apps that can help you cut down on your phone usage.

Get Moving

The antidote to the hunched, closed posture described above is movement. Exercising your physical body is a fantastic way to cleanse your mind of the emotional weight of depression and anxiety. Literally almost anything goes. Do some stretches or yoga poses. Go for a walk. Get in some resistance training with weights or bands. Dance to your favorite music.

If we humans are hairy bags of water as someone once described us, exercise can transform you from a stagnant, lifeless scummed-over pond to a kinetic river of electrified rushing water. Exercise can not only give you a rush of mood boosting endorphins, but it is great at helping to clear the body of toxins through perspiration and activation of the body’s lymph system.

The feeling of accomplishment from completing a session of exercise goes a long way toward improving your overall outlook. There is a carryover effect. The discipline that comes with adhering to a more structured schedule of workouts is transferable to any other endeavor. And if you get to the point where exercise becomes non-negotiable, where consistent movement is stamped into your identity, you can create a feeling of near invincibility.

Just start somewhere. Make a pact with yourself that for every mindless minute you spend on social media, you’ll spend a minute exercising. You’ll either be too scared to ever pick up your phone again, or you’ll transform yourself into an Olympic athlete. Either way it’s a win-win.

Get Some Sun on Your Skin

Since you’re exercising anyway, you might as well do it outside. Daily exposure to natural daylight is an incredible mood booster. This especially applies to the winter months when people are more susceptible to the potential adverse effects of shorter days.

If you’re looking for an emotional lift from outdoor exposure, the midday hours when the sun is at its peak are the most critical. For a deep dive into recent research into light exposure on mental health, listen to a brilliant review by Andrew Huberman on a recent edition of Peter Attia’s podcast.

Even an overcast day is way brighter than any artificial indoor light. Try to get into the habit of spending some daily time outdoors no matter the weather. Even just 15 minutes in the bright daylight can have lasting effects for several hours afterward.

In peak summer months when your ability to make natural vitamin D is at its greatest, you can really positively impact your emotional state. Vitamin D is functionally a hormone that has wide reaching influence on so many bodily processes. A deficiency has been linked to a plethora of physical ailments, but also to mental/emotional conditions such as depression and cognitive decline. Dminder is an excellent, versatile app for tracking your vitamin D production with features such as burn warnings, optimal timing, forecasting, etc.

If there is anything you habitually do indoors that can be done outside, like reading for example, make the shift. Once you’ve hit your limit of sun exposure, move to the shade. Exposing your senses to a natural environment – a light breeze on your skin, birds chirping, fresh spring blossom, etc. – can be as restorative as a deep session of meditation.


When is the last time you did something strictly for the fun of it?

In a world of assignments, deadlines, projects, meetings, or any other iteration of job, school, or social commitments it seems that we are always on some sort of schedule that ultimately ties into a definite end goal.

Taking a break from all that structure, self-imposed or otherwise, can be life changing.

Make time at least once a week to do something consisting of pure leisure. The point here is to have absolutely no outcome tied to the activity. Skip some rocks. Play with modeling clay. Sketch, doodle, or finger paint. Bang on a drum.

Playing is an opportunity to release physical tension and to stimulate free flowing creativity. Liberate your mind and let things unfold naturally. Creating without consequence can be extremely relaxing for your mind and can help to overcome bouts of depression and unease.

Breaking free of an emotional rut often comes down to simply changing your pattern. While you can’t escape life’s demands and commitments, implementing a few simple habits to counter their negative effects can go a long way toward helping you maintain a healthier, happier state of mind.

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Dr. Joe Tsai is a chiropractor and health coach dedicated to helping you live up to your maximum potential. You can contact him directly at