7 tips to boost your mood when feeling depressed

Side view of a woman sitting at home with a sad look on her face.
There are ways to boost your mood if you're depressed. (Getty Images) (Egoitz Bengoetxea Iguaran via Getty Images)

When you're feeling down or overwhelmingly sad, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed and start your day. And if this state of sadness persists for at least two weeks, like a cloud you can't get away from, you could be considered clinically depressed. Unlike a single down day (which everyone has from time to time), depression is a serious mental health condition that affects your mood and how you handle day-to-day activities.

While depression can be different for each person, symptoms can include feeling sad all the time, loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and having thoughts of suicide.

Whether you're dealing with clinical depression or experiencing a rough patch in your life, having tools to help lift your mood can improve your overall well-being. Try implementing these expert-suggested strategies to boost your spirits, help improve your emotional health and gain back control of your life.

Content concerning mental health is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional medical or health advice. Consult a medical professional for questions about your health.

Physical activity can release endorphins, which naturally boosts your mood. If you're not feeling up to intense aerobic exercise, try something as simple as walking around your neighborhood or doing some yoga poses in your living room. These can help make you feel better.

"Even just two minutes of brisk walking or going up and down the stairs can lift your mood as well as help your physical health," Dr. Ramaswamy Viswanathan, president of the American Psychiatric Association, tells Yahoo. Adding a few minutes of movement periodically throughout the day is a good way to help boost your emotional state.

Additionally, he says that regular, moderate-intensity exercise of 30 minutes a day, three to five times per week, can help alleviate depression while improving physical health.

This is a well-researched area, with many studies confirming that exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. "Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, improve your mood, help you relax, and lower symptoms of mild depression and anxiety," states Mayo Clinic.

Mindfulness meditation and deep breathing exercises can help alter your feelings of stress and your depression symptoms and improve your overall mood. Mindfulness practices can also change the brain's neural pathways associated with depression and anxiety, according to Harvard Medical School.

HMS says the "aim of meditation is not to push aside stress or block out negative thinking, but rather to notice those thoughts and feelings."

You can find guided meditations on YouTube or use an app like Calm.

Woman meditating in her living room using a laptop for guided meditation.
Meditation can help improve your overall mood. (Getty Images) (PeopleImages via Getty Images)

You should try to get exposure to bright sunlight for about five minutes or more in the morning, Viswanathan says. "It favorably influences your circadian rhythm, boosts Vitamin D production and helps you sleep better at night."

It's also important to spend time in nature or in parks or other green spaces when you have the chance to head outside. Studies indicate that nature and green space exposure have been shown to improve mood and decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.

Socializing may be the last thing you want to do when you're feeling depressed, but the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that according to studies, "people who have strong social connections are happier, healthier, and live longer than those who don't."

"Reach out to someone and engage in a conversation," Viswanathan said. "Social connectedness will provide a powerful boost to your mood."

Many people reach for sweets or salty snacks when they feel down or bored, Viswanathan says, but these foods are counterproductive. Instead, you should be eating a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. "Minimally processed food is powerful in ameliorating depression in many people," he said.

He also recommends eating about an ounce of nuts daily because they "promote brain health, reduce the risk of stroke and may boost the efficacy of other approaches in alleviating depression."

When you're experiencing depression, getting a good night's rest may seem impossible. However, lack of sleep can make depression symptoms worse, according to Sleep Foundation. It's a vicious cycle, but there are some ways to improve your sleep, including exercising and meditating, as mentioned above.

Viswanathan says you should try to go to bed and wake up at a regular time — for instance, head to bed at 10 p.m. and rise at 6 a.m. — and try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

If you find that you can't get your mind in a better place, seeking professional help might be the best option. Call a doctor who specializes in mental health therapy or seek an online therapist if you'd rather talk from the comfort of your home.

Here are some of our favorite online options: