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 for when you’re feeling down.


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. 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

Be mindful while listening to a happy tune; pay attention to your emotions and challenge yourself to feel happier. In one study, participants who listened to upbeat music 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 effect is consistent across genres. Music may 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. 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 Internet 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.) To increase happiness, 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 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!

List of Hobbies

Discover your next greatest hobby with this diverse list of assorted leisure activities, which range from beekeeping to Kombucha brewing to knife throwing to ghost hunting.

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

I developed this list (with the help of Wikipedia, and Google, of course) as part of a project I was working on and thought it would be worth sharing.

Hobby Categories

Animals & Nature | Arts & Crafts | Collections | Cooking & Baking | Entertainment | Home Improvement & DIY | Literature, Music, & Dance | Outdoor & Adventure | Self-Improvement & Social | Sports | Travel | Miscellaneous

Read and be inspired!

Animals & Nature

  • Attend pet shows (or horse shows)
  • Beekeeping
  • Berry or apple picking
  • Bird watching
  • Butterfly garden (Visit one or create your own!)
  • Butterfly watching
  • Be a plant parent; nurture and care for indoor plants
  • Composting
  • Dog training
  • Dog walking
  • Fossil hunting
  • Grow and tend to a fruit tree
  • Grow an indoor herb garden
  • Grow plants from seedlings (and plant outside when in-season)
  • Hang humming bird feeders and then sit back and enjoy the company!
  • Horseback riding
  • Become an expert at identifying various plants
  • Mushroom hunting
  • Nature walks
  • Adopt a pet
  • Pet fostering
  • Pet sitting
  • Plant a flower bed
  • Go on a swamp tour
  • Tend to a vegetable garden
  • Topiary
  • Visit a farm
  • Visit an aquarium
  • Go to zoos and/or nature centers
  • Watch wildlife on Animal Planet
  • Go whale watching

Arts & Crafts

  • Drawing
  • Candle making
  • Collages – Use whatever materials you desire!
  • Coloring
  • Crocheting
  • Design your own greeting cards or stationary
  • Flower arranging
  • Glassblowing
  • Jewelry making
  • Knitting
  • Lettering/calligraphy
  • Mixed media art
  • Mosaic making
  • Origami
  • Painting (watercolor, oils, acrylics, etc.)
  • Paper crafts (including paper mache)
  • Photography
  • Pressed flower craft
  • Pottery
  • Quilting
  • Scrapbooking
  • Sculpting
  • Sewing
  • Sketching
  • Soap making
  • Weaving
  • Wood carving

Collections

  • Action figures
  • Antiques
  • Autographs
  • Barbies
  • Books (classics, signed copies, etc.)
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • Comics
  • Fun socks
  • Hot sauce from around the world
  • Movie or music memorabilia
  • Obsolete tech (i.e. outdated cell phones, tape players, etc.)
  • Original artwork
  • Plates
  • Purses, shoes, and other accessories
  • Recipes
  • Records
  • Retro video games
  • Rocks and/or crystals
  • Shells
  • Souvenirs
  • Sports memorabilia
  • Stickers
  • Ticket stubs
  • Toys
  • Vases
  • Vintage items

Cooking & Baking

  • Braising
  • Bread making
  • Cake decorating
  • Canning
  • Cheese making
  • Coffee roasting
  • Cookie decorating
  • Grilling and BBQ
  • Hosting dinner parties
  • Kombucha brewing
  • Learn ethnic and regional recipes
  • Learn recipes from cooking shows
  • Make “fun foods” for kids
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Make jam or jelly
  • Make your own beef (or vegan!) jerky
  • Participate in competitive food festivals (or just go and enjoy the food!)
  • Pasta making
  • Pastry and confection making
  • Pickling
  • Pie making
  • Raw diet meals
  • Recreate menu items from your favorite restaurants
  • Reduced fat cooking
  • Sautéing
  • Slow cooker meals
  • Smoothie making
  • Soup, sauce, and stock making
  • Sushi making
  • Take a cooking class
  • Tea brewing
  • Try new recipes on a regular basis
  • Use an air fryer
  • Use a dehydrator
  • Use Pinterest for inspiration
  • Vegan cooking
  • Watch Food Network for inspiration

Entertainment

  • Attend movies, operas, plays, and musicals
  • Bingo
  • Board games and/or party games
  • Card games
  • Chess
  • Strategy games
  • Dine out at new restaurants
  • Escape rooms
  • Gaming
  • Go to museums
  • Go to poetry slams or open mic nights
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Karaoke
  • Murder mystery shows
  • Read entertainment/celebrity magazines
  • See your favorite bands/artists perform live
  • Standup comedy
  • Theme parks
  • Watch your favorite Netflix series, but make sure you become overly invested (borderline obsessed) with the story line and characters in order for this to qualify as a legit hobby

Home Improvement & DIY

  • Add a backsplash to your kitchen
  • Bathroom remodel
  • Build a shed
  • Build furniture
  • Design a meditation room, home office, “man cave,” or “she shed”
  • DIY headboard
  • Fireplace makeover
  • Hanging shelves
  • Home organization
  • Install smart home technology
  • Kitchen remodel
  • Paint an accent wall or update your entire home
  • Paint old cabinets
  • Redecorate a room
  • Stencil or wallpaper
  • Update a closet
  • Update furniture
  • Update lighting
  • Use chalk paint or metallic spray paint

Literature, Music, & Dance

  • Acting
  • Attend art galleries
  • Attend literary fests
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Belly dancing
  • Blogging/guest blogging
  • Break dancing
  • Editing
  • Go to book signings
  • Go to the library
  • Join a book club (either in-person or online, i.e. Goodreads)
  • Listen to music
  • Play/learn an instrument
  • Puppeteering
  • Rapping
  • Reading
  • Sell your art on etsy.com
  • Singing
  • Song-writing
  • Submit articles/opinion pieces/essays to magazines and newspapers
  • Swing dancing
  • Take a dance class (swing, hip hop, ballroom, etc.)
  • Take a drama or improv class
  • Take voice lessons
  • Wikipedia editing
  • Write a book
  • Write poetry
  • Write short stories

Outdoor & Adventure

  • Backpacking
  • Boating
  • Bungee jumping
  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Caving
  • Fishing
  • Geocaching
  • Go-Karting
  • Hiking
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Laser tag
  • Mountain biking
  • Mountain climbing
  • Paintball
  • Parasailing
  • Rocking climbing
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Skiing
  • Skydiving
  • Snowboarding
  • Snorkeling
  • Waterskiing
  • White water rafting
  • Wilderness survival

Self-Improvement & Social

  • Advocate
  • Attend support groups/meetings
  • Attend workshops
  • Bullet journaling
  • Daily positive affirmations and/or self-reflection
  • Join a club
  • Join a gym
  • Join a Meetup group
  • Join a political campaign
  • Journaling
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Make a vision board and update it regularly
  • Meditation
  • Read research
  • Read self-improvement books
  • Social media
  • Stretching
  • Take a class (i.e. self-defense, a foreign language, etc.)
  • Use a habit tracker app
  • Volunteer
  • Watch documentaries
  • Watch inspirational Ted Talks
  • Wear a fitness tracker
  • Yoga

Sports

  • Archery
  • Badminton 
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Biking
  • Body building
  • Bowling
  • Boxing
  • Cricket
  • Darts
  • Disc golf/frisbee
  • Fencing
  • Football/flag football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Hockey
  • Ice skating
  • Jogging/running
  • Knife throwing
  • Lacrosse
  • Martial arts
  • Poker
  • Racquetball
  • Racing
  • Riding a unicycle
  • Roller derby
  • Rugby
  • Skateboarding
  • Soccer
  • Surfing/body boarding
  • Swimming
  • Table football
  • Table tennis
  • Tennis
  • Thai Chi
  • Volleyball
  • Weight training
  • Wrestling

Travel

  • Alaskan cruise
  • All-inclusive resorts
  • Beach vacations
  • Caribbean cruise
  • Cross country train trip
  • Explore your home town and other nearby place as though you’re a tourist
  • Guided group tours
  • Mediterranean cruise
  • Road trip
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Travel to all the continents in the world
  • Travel to all the states in America
  • Trip to Las Vegas
  • Visit the Grand Canyon
  • Visit the New Seven Wonders of the World
  • Visit the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World
  • Go on city walking tours

Miscellaneous Hobbies

  • Astrology/astronomy
  • Billiards
  • Couponing
  • Creating DIY home products
  • Fantasy sports
  • Genealogy
  • Ghost hunting
  • Hair styling/braiding
  • Hula hooping
  • Juggling
  • Keeping up with the latest fashions
  • Kite flying
  • Learning magic tricks
  • Makeup application
  • Metal detecting
  • Model building
  • People watching
  • Storage unit auctions
  • Sunbathing
  • Yard sale shopping/thrifting

Note: The Wikipedia webpage, “List of Hobbies” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hobbies), was utilized as a reference for this list.