Try These Mood-Boosters to Lift Your Spirits Right Now

From coloring with your kids to playing your favorite song, carving out time for the small things that bring us joy is key for getting through challenging times.

Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock
Evgeny Atamanenko/ Shutterstock

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our home and work lives and ushered in a wave of global anxiety. In challenging and uncertain times like this, sometimes it takes a bit of extra effort to find joy and laughter — but now more than ever, finding a moment to boost our mood is so necessary for our mental health and resilience.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small things that are helping to lift their spirits during this time. Which of these will you try?

Start your day with deep breathing

“I keep reminding myself that being mindful is the best way to stay healthy during this imposed isolation, and it all begins with how I start my day. Now that I don’t feel the need to hop out of bed abruptly to rush to the office, I am allowing myself time to wake up gradually and do some breathing exercises. Deep breathing is one of the best ways for me to lower stress and reduce tension. This helps me feel peaceful and in control at a time when the world feels chaotic and out of control.”

—Farrah Smith, coach, Los Angeles, CA

Listen to a song you love

“Ever since the heartbreaking passing of Bill Withers, I have been listening to his classic hit, ‘Lean on Me.’ In the midst of such uncertain times, it’s truly an anthem for its empathy of suffering and understanding of what it means to be there for others when they need us.”

—Jonathan Parks, executive producer and founder, Bethlehem, PA

Write letters to healthcare workers

“One small thing that I have been doing to bring joy and lift my spirits during this time is writing letters to healthcare workers. I shared the idea with my team, and many people were happy to jump in and write notes and even have their children draw pictures. This week, we will be delivering our first round of letters to local hospitals. I would encourage you all to do the same, as they will be so happy and grateful to know we are thinking about them.”

—Clarissa McMickens-Thomas, auditor, Tampa, FL

Color with your kids

“What helps me is taking an afternoon sketch break with my six-year daughter. We pack a bag of supplies and walk down to our local waterway. Sitting on a warm rock and quietly sketching with my daughter is the best way to stay grounded and relaxed.”

—Annabel Youens, entrepreneur, Victoria, B.C., Canada

Cook a new recipe together 

“During this stay-at-home order, my family has been cooking a lot. And we are not cooks by any stretch of the imagination! My husband, our teenage son, and I are working together to find recipes we like from our favorite restaurants and trying to recreate them at home. So far, our favorite has been the chicken lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang’s. Knowing that we are putting good food in our bodies and coming together as a team brings me peace and fills my heart with joy.”

—Tami Nealy, influencer marketing, Phoenix, AZ

Make time for tech-free activities 

“Screen-free activities have been key for me while social distancing. Jigsaw puzzles and coloring have been a welcome break from the glare. But my favorite thing is to put on a podcast and walk a circuit in my flat. I move the furniture out of the way and I walk around, doing some squats every fifth lap. This gives my mind and my body a break from the desk and the news.”

—Alexa Doman, life coach, Madrid, Spain

Focus on positive news stories

“One thing that’s lifting my spirits right now is focusing on good news. There are companies stepping up to the plate to make masks and supplies needed by our healthcare workers, communities joining together to provide food and money for those in need, and neighbors helping neighbors like never before. There is plenty of uplifting news right now, and focusing on the good will keep you optimistic.”

—Debbie Biery, life coach, Blaine, WA

Break into a spontaneous dance party

“Random bursts of singing and dancing have brought me joy and helped boost my mood. I am a quiet person most of the time, but there is something so exhilarating about singing an upbeat song and dancing around. There is nothing quite like losing yourself in the music for a few minutes while sneaking in some extra movement during the day.”

—Alyssa Swantkoski, executive assistant, Denver, CO 

Bring plants into your home

“I’ve become the ultimate plant parent during this crisis. Surrounding myself with plants soothes my anxiety in several ways: Not only does it allow me to use the analytical and creative sides of my brain to scope out the best types of plant for specific parts of my home and patio, but it also allows me to care for something other than myself, which takes my mind off of my anxieties. Lastly, it allows me to bring nature indoors, which is helpful right now with my limited outdoor exposure. I lean on gardening and adding plants to my life whenever I am going through a period of anxiety, grief, or lack of control.”

—Paige Lewis, professional and personal development coach, Los Angeles, CA

Read an uplifting book

“In this stressful time, I’m trying to read books and news stories that are helping me stay positive. I have been reading books from the Indian author Amish Tripathi and some spiritual books written by Devdutt Patnaik. Reading keeps me knowledgeable and keeps my mind at peace.”

—V. Rashmi Rao, content writer and digital marketer, Hyderabad, India

Take a walk around the block

“My primary mood-booster right now includes walking around the neighborhood and catching the beauty of nature, particularly that of the dogwood trees, which are in full bloom. I love noticing the non-human neighborhood residents, like the cats, squirrels, and dogs. Simply looking deeper at things and focusing on beauty can spark joy.”

—Nils Valdis Vytautas Skudra, UNCG graduate student, Greensboro, NC

Create a neighborhood craft project

“Our family has made an effort to reach out to other families in the neighborhood with kids to help do collective projects that can be seen from the street. Most recently, it was a walking zoo, where families would put either stuffed animals, decorated cardboard cutouts, or other animal prints out on porches or patios and then people could walk through the neighborhood and see the ‘zoo animals.’ One parent went so far as to create a Google Map and spreadsheet with all the animals!  It was quite the collaborative effort and the kids and adults walking by the houses loved it.”

—M.J., Mill Valley, CA

Establish a joyful morning routine

“Having something to look forward to on the calendar can really uplift my spirit. For me, that starts with a grounding morning routine. I’ll pick a workout the night before and do it when I wake up before I get to work. This way, I’ve already moved my body and showered, and feel like I’m showing up for myself and my career, rather than just rolling out of bed and getting to it. Then, I’ll make my coffee, which is a ritual I always look forward to. Maybe the process is enjoyable or the actual drink tastes amazing, but I love finding gratitude and joy in these small parts of my routine.”

—Kelley Hoag, behavioral health advisor, West Hollywood, CA

Reconnect with an old friend

“I’ve found the time to rekindle with a lot of friends that I was out of touch with as a result of my work. Though work is still as hectic as it was when I wasn’t working from home, I find some time to talk to them and it’s been therapeutic for me. Our lives have changed drastically, but it affects all of us similarly and that’s something that connects all of us.”

—Shah Anas Ahmed, content strategist, Karachi, Pakistan

Give back to essential workers

“I’ve been spending a few hours of my day packing snacks for community workers or building on an initiative to create leadership workshops for young girls. It’s not a lot, but it’s a first step that I hope to build on. In this way, we don’t just look for hope; we create it. The last few weeks have also allowed me to find meaning in the simplest interactions, such as Zoom calls to catch up with friends, laughing with family, and just taking time to read.”

—Aria Soliven, student, Philippines

Look at beautiful flowers

“When I’m out on my daily walk, making sure to maintain a physical distance from others, I stop and take photos of the spring flowers I see. Scrolling through the photos at the end of the day brings a smile to my face, as I’m able to take pleasure in the simple beauty around me.”

—Lisa Abramson, executive coach and mindfulness teacher, Menlo Park, CA

Play sports with your kids

“For the past four weeks, I have gotten crushed by my teenage son in basketball almost every day. This might not sound like a mood booster, but we’re outside getting exercise and there is comedy in my total lack of skill. At the end of the game, we’re always both tired and laughing: a sure sign of joy!”

—Linda Kneidinger, life and health coach, Thousand Oaks, CA

Read a book on the porch

“Sitting on the balcony each day and flipping through pages of my favorite books, reading stories and insights, has been stimulating. Of course, being warmed by the sun at this time helps — not only in terms of getting vitamin D and building my immunity, but also because I feel like the sun is illuminating each character and their story so vividly. The authors’ messages are a wonderful reminder of how connected we are, regardless of outside circumstances.”

—Elizabeth Celi, Ph.D., leadership coach, Queensland, Australia 

Try a new at-home workout

“I was so used to going to the gym every day that it took me a while to figure out my new at-home routine.  I soon realized how important that daily workout was to my state of mind. I started small: first an additional dog walk, and then a 15-minute mat exercise routine. I kept my commitment short so as not to feel like pressure. Soon, though, I found myself missing a good sweat so I bought a stationary bike. Now I am in my new workout groove, which is boosting my mood and bringing me joy.”

—Bridget Fonger, author and podcaster, Los Angeles, CA

Join a charity initiative 

“I’ve started participating in a program called 365 Give, where we give something every single day for a year. We can give up our personal time to help someone else, donate cookies, share kind thoughts and messages with others, or even donate to charity. Giving to others provides me with the greatest amount of joy.”

—Brie LaPrell, accountant, Buffalo, NY

Try a mantra-workout hybrid 

“I’ve been developing my emotional intelligence during this time through this movement practice called intenSati. It is a workout, but can be done even just as a short movement, and the idea is to speak affirmations to yourself while we do the moves. I get to move my body and tap into happiness, fulfillment, joy, and peace of mind. I do it several times a day and it keeps me connected to my community and my loved ones, because I even started to do it on Zoom with my family that lives in Switzerland!” 

—Liv Behre, producer and founder, New York, NY

Pause to express gratitude 

“When I am feeling stressed, I grab a cup of coffee, go outside, put on some music, and look up at the sky and thank God. It is at that time I am reminded that even in these hard and dark times, there is beauty in the world, and that I just need to open my eyes again to see it.”

—Mike Lee, family physician, Irvine, CA

Create a Facebook group

“I have created a Facebook group to provide support to others in the HR community who are busier than ever, but have the same personal challenges as one another. It feels good to be sharing tips, tools, and advice and to provide a forum for people to just share, vent, and chat.”

—Kirsty Baggs-Morgan, human resources, Bath, UK

Learn a new skill

“These days, we are all watching how-to videos online, from yoga and salsa classes to face mask tutorials. Changing is not easy and makes us feel anxious. You cannot change the circumstances, but what you can do is change your routine, and your attitude will eventually change. A mood-booster for me is getting to do little things every day that bring me joy and learning new skills. You are what you do every day.”

—Luciana Paulise, coach, Beaumont, TX

Fill your house with a calming scent

“I love finding that scents lift my spirits, especially while sheltering in place. I burn candles or use essential oils in my diffuser to fit my mood or needs at that time of day. In the morning, I love my cucumber lime candle or diffusing lemon or orange oil. In the evening, I wind down with rose candles or lavender oil. Having scents in the house also reminds me to take moments during the day to look away from my computer and take a few deep breaths.”

—Tara Bethell, HR and wellness consultant, Phoenix, AZ

Bake something sweet

“I’ve picked up baking again. It brings me so much joy, and it’s a major stress-reliever for me. I made mandazi’s last night, which is a Kenyan doughnut with hints of cardamom and coconut. And to fight off any weight gain from all the sweet treats, I’m working out daily. I’ve teamed up with a few friends. Exercising with a group of friends means I really have no excuse not to do it, so it’s become a daily necessity and it motivates me knowing we’re all depending on each other to stay on top of our fitness.”

—Lynn Abhulimen, marketing and events manager, UK

Schedule calls with friends

“I schedule calls with friends at the end of the day during the evening news broadcasts. I find great joy in connecting with those I love, and it wraps up my day on a positive note. It also helps to keep me occupied when it’s most tempting to mindlessly tune in to the day’s headlines.”

—Ali Smith, technical communications manager, Cape Cod, MA 

Exchange screen time for family time

“Our 22-year-old son moved home after his college closed, creating a great deal of additional stress on him to finish his senior year online. To help reduce his stress and keep all of our spirits lifted, our family made the conscious decision to live in a house of peace by dramatically reducing our television consumption, speaking with more compassion towards one another, listening more deeply, and taking care of what’s around us.”

—Amy Camie, musician, author, and speaker, St. Louis, MO

Do you have a ritual or activity that’s helping bring you joy during this time? Share it with us in the comments.

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