5 Instant Mood Boosters

Discover five ways to instantly boost your mood and uplift your spirits.

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Need a boost? Here are five quick (evidence-based) fixes (mood boosters!) for when you’re feeling down.

(Click here for additional tips to improve mood and reduce stress.)


5 INSTANT MOOD BOOSTERS

Listen to music

Turn on the radio or search for your favorite song on YouTube. Music can evoke a powerful emotional response. Listen to something upbeat with a positive message to boost your mood. Music activates areas in the brain that are responsible for processing emotions.

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 

Confucius

In one study, participants who listened to upbeat music while actively trying to feel happier experienced improved mood as well as increased happiness over the next two weeks.

A 2017 study indicated that listening to your favorite songs impacts the brain circuit involved in internally focused thought, empathy, and self-awareness. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of music you choose; the mood-boosting effect is consistent across genres.

Music may also play a role in restoring neuroplasticity or as a therapeutic intervention. In 2013, researchers found that listening to uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was linked to enhanced cognitive functioning. An additional benefit to listening to music is improved mental alertness; memory and attention in particular may be enhanced.

Find a green space

Go hiking, find a sunny spot to sit outside, or simply open the window and listen to the sound of the rain falling. According the U.S. Forest Service, spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, reduce anger/aggressiveness, and increase overall happiness. If you’re upset or frustrated, you’ll recover more quickly in a natural setting, such as a forest. Nature is a highly effective mood booster!

Alternatively, consider a stroll in the park for a boost. Researchers found that individuals with depression who took an hour-long nature walk experienced significant increases in attention and working memory when compared to individuals who walked in urban areas. Interestingly, both groups of participants experienced similar boosts in mood; walking in an urban area can be just as effective!

More recently, researchers found that people who regularly commute through natural environments (i.e. passing by trees, bodies of water, parks, etc.) reported better mental health compared to those who don’t. This association was even stronger among active commuters (walking or biking to work). If you commute through congested or urban areas, consider an alternate route, especially when you’re feeling down.

Spending time outside does more than just improve your mood. A 2018 report established a link between nature and overall wellness. Living close to nature and spending time outside reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Exposure to green space may also benefit the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase sleep duration.

Read/view something inspiring or humorous

Do you have a favorite inspirational book or collection of poems? Do you like viewing motivational TED Talks? Do you enjoy comedy shows? Maybe you like watching videos of baby goats or flash mobs on Facebook. (I do!)

One study found that viewing cat videos boosted energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings (such as anxiety, annoyance, and sadness). Internet cats = Instant mood boost. However, if cyber cats are not your thing, search around to find something enjoyable to read or watch for your happiness quick-fix.

Plan your next adventure

I’m happiest when I’m traveling the world. Unfortunately, I have limited vacation days (as well as limited funds), which means I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. Happily, planning a trip may produce the same mood-boosting effects as going on a trip.

In 2010, researchers found that before taking a trip, vacationers were happier compared to those not planning a trip. A 2002 study indicated that people anticipating a vacation were happier with life in general and experienced more positive/pleasant feelings compared to people who weren’t. In both studies, researchers attributed happiness levels to anticipation. (The brain releases dopamine during certain activities, causing us to feel pleasure. Dopamine is also released in anticipation of a pleasurable activity.) For a mood boost, start planning!

Cuddle a pet

Spending time with your fur baby will instantly boost your mood. According to research, pets are good for your mental health. Teens undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse experienced improved mood, positive affect, attentiveness, and serenity after brushing, feeding, and playing with dogs.

A 2018 study indicated that dog therapy sessions reduced stress and increased happiness and energy in college students. Earlier this year, researchers found that just 10 minutes of interaction with a pet reduced stress by significantly decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.

Other studies suggest that animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety and loneliness and combats homesickness.

Research also indicates that pets help seniors and older adults cope with physical and mental health concerns. Dog ownership is also linked to better cardiovascular health and a longer life.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shultz

The next time you’re having a bad day, listen to your favorite song, go hiking in the woods, watch a TED Talks, start planning your next vacation, or spend some quality time with a furry friend… you’ll feel better!

Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

(Updated 10/18/20) Free PDF and interactive online assessment tools for addiction, mental illness, boundaries/attachment styles, relationships/communication, anger, self-esteem, suicide risk/self-injury, personality, and more. This list includes both self-assessments and screening tools for clinicians to administer and score.

Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by GuHyeok Jeong from Pixabay

This is a list of free online assessment screenings for clinical use and for self-help purposes. While an assessment cannot take the place of a diagnosis, it can give you a better idea if what you’re experiencing is “normal.”


For additional online assessment tools to use with couples, see Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.


Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

Jump to a section:


Addiction & Substance Use Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for substance use disorders and other addictions

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Anxiety & Mood Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders

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Trauma, Stress, & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Obsessive-Compulsive & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Online Assessment Tools for Eating Disorders 🆕

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality Disorders 🆕

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Boundaries & Attachment Styles

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Relationships & Communication


For additional relationship and communication assessments, see Free Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.

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Anger


For additional online assessment tools and resources, see Resources for Anger Management.

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Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

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Suicide Risk & Self-Injury

  • Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale | PDF scale
  • Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory | Measurement of deliberate self-harm (PDF)
  • Imminent Risk and Action Plan | Assessment/plan from the University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology
  • Lifetime – Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Count (L-SASI) Instructions Scoring | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The L-SASI is an interview to obtain a detailed lifetime history of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior. Citations: Linehan, M. M. &, Comtois, K. (1996). Lifetime Parasuicide History. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Lineham Risk Assessment and Management Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Linehan, M. M. (2009). University of Washington Risk Assessment Action Protocol: UWRAMP, University of WA, Unpublished work.
  • Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Assessment Tool Brief Version | Full Version | Assessment tool created by Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery
  • NSSI Severity Assessment | A PDF assessment tool from the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery to assess the severity of non-suicidal self-injury
  • Reasons for Living Scale Scoring Instructions | RFL Scale (long form – 72 items) | RFL Scale (short form – 48 items) | RFL Scale (Portuguese) | RFL Scale (Romanian) | RFL Scale (Simplified Chinese) | RFL Scale (Traditional Chinese) | RFL Scale (Thai) | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The RFL is a self-report questionnaire that measures clients’ expectancies about the consequences of living versus killing oneself and assesses the importance of various reasons for living. The measure has six subscales: Survival and Coping Beliefs, Responsibility to Family, Child-Related Concerns, Fear of Suicide, Fear of Social Disapproval, and Moral Objections. Citations: Linehan M. M., Goodstein J. L., Nielsen S. L., & Chiles J. A. (1983). Reasons for Staying Alive When You Are Thinking of Killing Yourself: The Reasons for Living Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 276-286.
  • Self-Injury Questionnaire | To assess self-harm (PDF, assessment in appendix)
  • Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire | SBQ with Variable Labels | SBQ Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SBQ is a self-report questionnaire designed to assess suicidal ideation, suicide expectancies, suicide threats and communications, and suicidal behavior. Citations: Addis, M. & Linehan, M. M. (1989). Predicting suicidal behavior: Psychometric properties of the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement Behavior Therapy, Washington, DC.
  • Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII) SASII Instructions For Published SASII | SASII Standard Short Form with Supplemental Questions | SASII Short Form with Variable Labels | SASII Scoring Syntax | Detailed Explanation of SPSS Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SASII (formerly the PHI) is an interview to collect details of the topography, intent, medical severity, social context, precipitating and concurrent events, and outcomes of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior during a target time period. Major SASII outcome variables are the frequency of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors, the medical risk of such behaviors, suicide intent, a risk/rescue score, instrumental intent, and impulsiveness. Citations: Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., Brown, M. Z., Heard, H. L., Wagner, A. (2006). Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII): Development, Reliability, and Validity of a Scale to Assess Suicide Attempts and Intentional Self-Injury. Psychological Assessment, 18(3), 303-312.
  • Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit | Source: National Institute of Mental Health
  • University of WA Suicide Risk/Distress Assessment Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Reynolds, S. K., Lindenboim, N., Comtois, K. A., Murray, A., & Linehan, M. M. (2006). Risky Assessments: Participant Suicidality and Distress Associated with Research Assessments in a Treatment Study of Suicidal Behavior. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (36)1, 19-33. Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., &, Ward-Ciesielski, E. F. (2012). Assessing and managing risk with suicidal individuals. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(2), 218-232.

For additional resources for suicide risk, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

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Self-Esteem & Self-Compassion

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality & Temperament

  • Berkeley Personality Lab Measures
  • Grit Scale | Several versions available
  • The HEXACO Personality Inventory – Revised | Download either the 60-item or 100-item version to assess for six personality dimensions
  • Introversion Scale | PDF questionnaire for introversion
  • Jung Typology Test | Interactive assessment based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory
  • Keirsey | Take this interactive assessment to learn your temperament. (There are four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational.) My results were consistent with my Myers-Brigg personality type. (Note: You must create an account and enter a password to view your results.)
  • Personality Scales | 2 Word-document assessments
  • Personality Tests | A collection of assessments
  • The SAPA Project | SAPA stands for “Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment.” This online personality assessment scores you on 27 “narrow traits,” such as order, impulsivity, and creativity in addition to the “Big Five” (Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness). You’re also scored on cognitive ability. This test takes 20-30 minutes to complete and you will receive a full report when finished.
  • Similar Minds | A fun site for personality tests
  • Social-Personality Psychology Questionnaire Instrument Compendium (QIC) | A collection of assessments and screening tools

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Emotional Intelligence

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Health & Wellness

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for happiness, resiliency, exercise, sleep, nutrition, and other health/wellness topics

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Additional Online Assessment & Screening Tools

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for various topics related to mental health, addiction, and other topics

  • APA Online Assessment Measures | (Source: American Psychiatric Association) PDF screening tools
  • The Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (BFNE) | A one-page PDF that can be completed online or printed, scoring instructions not included
  • Buss Lab Research Instruments | Assessments for friendship, sex, jealousy, etc.
  • Career Assessments | Self-assessments to assess interests, skills, and work values
  • Communication Research Measures | Source: James McCroskey, West Virginia University
  • Counselling Resource: Psychological Self-Tests and Quizzes | Interactive tests
  • CSDS DP Infant-Toddler Checklist | A PDF printable checklist for identifying early warning signs of autism
  • DBT-WCCL Scale and Scoring | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Citations: Neacsiu, A. D., Rizvi, S. L., Vitaliano, P. P., Lynch, T. R., & Linehan, M. M. (2010). The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Ways of Coping Checklist (DBT-WCCL).: Development and Psychometric Properties. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66(61), 1-20.
  • The Decision Making Individual Differences Inventory
  • Demographic Data Scale | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) A self-report questionnaire used to gather extensive demographic information from the client. Citations: Linehan, M. M. (1982). Demographic Data Schedule (DDS). University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Diary Cards NIMH S-DBT Diary Card NIDA Diary Card CARES Diary Card | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology)
  • Division 12 Assessment Repository | Source: Society of Clinical Psychology
  • EAP Lifestyle Management Self-Assessments | A small collection of screening tools
  • Emotional Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) | A short PDF scale to assess emotional regulation
  • Family Accommodation Scale – Anxiety | Family Accommodation Scale – Anxiety (Child Report) | PDF scales, scoring instructions not included
  • Financial Well-Being Questionnaire | Take this 10-question interactive test and receive a score (along with helpful financial tips)
  • Focus on Emotions | PDF assessment instruments for children and adolescents from 9 to 15 years. Includes Empathy Questionnaire (EmQue), Mood List, Alexithymia Questionnaire for Children, Emotion Awareness Questionnaire (EAQ), BARQ, Behavioral Anger Response Questionnaire, Worry / Rumination, Somatic Complaint List, Instrument for Reactive and Proactive Aggression (IRPA) Self-Report, Brief Shame and Guilt Questionnaire for Children, Coping Scale, and Social-Emotional Development Tasks
  • Grief and Loss Quiz | Interactive quiz from PsychCentral
  • HealthyPlace Psychological Tests | Interactive tests for abuse, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and more
  • Helpful Questionnaires from James W. Pennebaker | Topics are varied
  • IDR Labs Tests | Interactive psychology tests
  • Instruments from Foley Center for the Study of Lives
  • Integrated Biopsychosocial Assessment Form | 16-page PDF assessment form
  • Lamar Soutter Library: Behavioral Tests | A collection of psychiatric assessments
  • Library of Scales (from Outcome Tracker) | 25 psychiatric scales (PDF documents) to be used by mental health practitioners in clinical practice. Includes Frequency, Intensity, and Burden of Side Effects Ratings; Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence; Fear Questionnaire; Massachusetts General Hospital Hair Pulling Scale; and more. (Note: Some of the assessments have copyright restrictions for use.)
  • Measurement Instrument Database for the Social Sciences | A searchable database
  • Measures and Scales by University of Utah Psychology Faculty
  • Mental Health Screening Tools | Online screenings for depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, eating disorders, PTSD, and addiction. You can also take a parent test (for a parent to assess their child’s symptoms), a youth test (for a youth to report his/her symptoms), or a workplace health test. The site includes resources and self-help tools.
  • Military Health System Assessments | Interactive tests for PTSD, alcohol/drug use, relationships, depression, sleep, anxiety, anger, and stress
  • Mind Diagnostics
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised, with Follow-Up | Free download and scoring instructions
  • Open Source Psychometrics Project | This site provides a collection of interactive personality and other tests, including the Open Extended Jungian Type Scales, the Evaluations of Attractiveness Scales, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.
  • Parental Affect Test | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The Linehan Parental Affect Test is a self-report questionnaire that assesses parent responses to typical child behaviors. Citations: Linehan, M. M., Paul, E., & Egan, K. J. (1983). The Parent Affect Test – Development, Validity and Reliability. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 12, 161-166.
  • Patient Health Questionnaire Screeners | This is a great diagnostic tool for clinicians. Use the drop down arrow to choose a PHQ or GAD screener (which assesses mood, anxiety, eating, sleep, and somatic concerns). The site generates a PDF printable; you can also access the instruction manual. No permission is required to reproduce, translate, display or distribute the screeners.
  • Project Implicit | A variety of interactive assessments that measures your hidden biases
  • Project Teach Rating Scales | PDF assessments for children and youth
  • Psychologist World Personality & Psychology Tests | Interactive tests
  • Psychology Scales from Stephen Reysen | Topics are varied
  • Psychology Tools | Online self-assessments for addiction, ADHD, aggression, anxiety, autism spectrum, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, OCD, and personality.
  • PsychTests | Interactive tests for intelligence, personality, career, health, relationships, and lifestyle & attitude
  • PsychTools | Searchable database
  • Psymed Psychological Tests | Interactive tests for addiction, anxiety, mood disorders, personality disorders, and more
  • Recovery Assessment Scales | A variety of assessments for individuals recovering from psychiatric illnesses
  • Research-Based Psychological Tests | Questionnaires for anxiety, depression, personality, etc. from Excel At Life
  • Scales from the Motivated Cognition Lab
  • Science of Behavior Change Measures | Assessments for stress, communication, relationships, emotional regulation, and more
  • Social History Interview (SHI) | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SHI is an interview to gather information about a client’s significant life events over a desired period of time. The SHI was developed by adapting and modifying the psychosocial functioning portion of both the Social Adjustment Scale-Self Report (SAS-SR) and the Longitudinal Interview Follow-up Evaluation Base Schedule (LIFE) to assess a variety of events (e.g., jobs, moves, relationship endings, jail) during the target timeframe. Using the LIFE, functioning is rated in each of 10 areas (e.g., work, household, social interpersonal relations, global social adjustment) for the worst week in each of the preceding four months and for the best week overall. Self-report ratings using the SAS-SR are used to corroborate interview ratings. Citations: Weissman, M. M., & Bothwell, S. (1976). Assessment of social adjustment by patient self-report. Archives of General Psychiatry, 33, 1111-1115. Keller, M. B., Lavori, P. W., Friedman, B., Nielsen, E. C., Endicott, J., McDonald-Scott, P., & Andreasen, N. C. (1987).  The longitudinal interval follow-up evaluation: A comprehensive method for assessing outcome in prospective longitudinal studies. Archives of General Psychiatry, 44, 540-548.
  • Somatoform Dissociation Questionnaire | A PDF assessment, scoring information here
  • Stanford Medicine WellMD | Self-tests for altruism, anxiety, burnout, depression, emotional intelligence, empathy, happiness, mindfulness, physical fitness, PTSD, relationship trust, self-compassion, sleepiness, stress, substance use, and work-life balance
  • Supervisory Relationship Questionnaire (SRQ) | PDF scale with scoring instructions
  • Survey Instruments and Scales | (Source: CAPS) To assess risky sexual behaviors
  • Therapist Interview | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The TI is an interview to gather information from a therapist about their treatment for a specific client. Citations: Linehan, M. M. (1987). Therapist Interview. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Treatment History Interview | Appendices | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The THI is an interview to gather detailed information about a client’s psychiatric and medical treatment over a desired period of time. Section 1 assesses the client’s utilization of professional psychotherapy, comprehensive treatment programs (e.g., substance abuse programs, day treatment), case management, self-help groups, and other non-professional forms of treatment. Section 2 assesses the client’s utilization of inpatient units (psychiatric and medical), emergency treatment (e.g., emergency room visits, paramedics visits, police wellness checks), and medical treatment (e.g., physician and clinic visits). Section 3 assesses the use of psychotropic and non-psychotropic medications. Citations: Linehan, M. M. &, Heard, H. L. (1987). Treatment history interview (THI). University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work. Therapy and Risk Notes – do not use without citation. For clarity of how to implement these items, please see Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Book, Chapter 15.
  • TTM Measures from the HABITS Lab | To assess for self-efficacy, decision-making, process of change, etc.
  • Whirlwind of Psychological Tests from Delroy L. Paulhus | A modest collection of tools
  • Why Do You Lie? | Interactive quiz from WebMD

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If you know of a free assessment for mental health or addiction that’s not listed here, please share in a comment! Contact me if a link is not working.