We all know what it feels like when our mental state is not where we want it to be. Maybe we feel stressed about a deadline at work, anxious about an upcoming event, sad over a loss, or unmotivated to tackle the tasks we need to do. In these moments, our minds feel clouded, our bodies feel tense, and we desperately wish we could snap out of the funk and shift to a more positive state.
The good news is that even when we find ourselves in an unwanted mental state, there are techniques we can use to improve how we feel quickly. Small but powerful physical, mental, and emotional shifts can change our mood and outlook. With practice, we can equip ourselves with tools to get out of a negative headspace immediately.
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1. Try Deep Breathing Exercises
One of the fastest ways to shift your mental state is to focus on deep breathing for a few minutes. When we feel stressed or anxious, our breath becomes shallow and rapid. Deep breathing has the opposite effect on the body, triggering a relaxation response.
Practicing deep breathing doesn’t require any special skills. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand as your lungs fill fully with air. Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs. Repeat for 5-10 breaths, focusing your attention on the sensation of breathing.
Research shows that deep breathing techniques increase oxygen flow to the brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, quickly inducing calm. If you begin to feel overwhelmed during the day, take a few minutes to drink a glass of water and do some deep belly breaths. You’ll release tension and approach your tasks with a clearer mind.
2. Listen to Uplifting Music
Music has an uncanny ability to reflect and even shape our moods. Upbeat songs with a joyful tone can provide an immediate boost of energy and positivity. When you need a quick pick-me-up, turn on a favorite feel-good music and allow yourself to sing and dance along as you listen.
Research has shown that listening to pleasant, high-energy music releases dopamine in the brain – a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, motivation, and focus. Music also has a unique link to memory. Happy songs from your past can stir up nostalgia and sensations of comfort, joy, and confidence. Keep a playlist of uplifting music on hand that you can play whenever you need a mood boost.
Here’s an example of using music to change your state: Andrea felt stressed and drained after a bad day at work. On her commute home, she put on her “Good Vibes” playlist of upbeat 80’s pop songs. She cranked up the volume and sang along, releasing some of the day’s tensions. When she got home, she felt lighter and more energized to enjoy the rest of her evening.
3. Get Moving
Getting your body moving is another fast way to impact your mind positively. Aerobic exercise causes your brain to release mood-enhancing chemicals called endorphins. It also helps break the cycle of repetitive worrying that drains our mental state.
When you feel stuck in a negative loop, get up and engage in physical activity—even for 10-15 minutes. Go for a brisk walk outside, do some jumping jacks, or dance it out to an upbeat song. Movement increases blood circulation, loosens muscle tension, and distracts you from whatever brings you down. You’ll gain a fresh perspective from a short movement break.
Mark felt anxious and unfocused on a work project due the next day. He noticed his shoulders were tense, and his mind kept rehashing worries. He decided to take a quick break to walk outside. He walked briskly around the block and felt his head clear a bit. His steps felt lighter, and the fresh air revived him. When he returned to work, he had renewed energy to stay positive and tackle the remaining tasks.
4. Be Mindful
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment without getting caught up in judgments. Our minds often cycle through regrets about the past or worries about the future. Practicing mindfulness can interrupt this tendency and bring you into a state of active calm.
Pay close attention to the physical sensations happening in the present to tap into mindfulness. Notice your breathing, any scents or sounds around you, and the texture of objects you touch. The more detailed your observations, the more you anchor yourself in the here and now.
Being mindful helps prevent your thoughts from spiraling into anxiety or sadness. Redirecting focus away from your thoughts and towards the present environment can immediately improve your mental state. Commit to spending 5 minutes each day practicing mindfulness to train your brain to stay grounded.
Here’s an example of using mindfulness: Ryan was feeling depressed after a conflict with his partner. He kept replaying the argument in his mind and criticizing himself. To shift his state, Ryan tried a mindfulness exercise. He picked up an orange sitting in a bowl on the counter. He thoroughly examined its color and texture and smelled its bright citrus scent. The sensory experience brought him into the moment and instantly lifted his mood.
5. Laugh It Off
As the saying goes, laughter is the best medicine. And research confirms that laughter immediately lightens your mood by releasing feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. Smiling and laughing also reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
When you need an instant mental state shift, exposing yourself to humor in any form can help you stop taking life so seriously. Try watching a funny video, listening to a comedy podcast, looking at humorous memes, or calling a friend who makes you laugh. Letting loose with laughter makes tension dissolve and reminds you not to take life’s frustrations too personally. Laughter creates psychological distance from your problems.
Jasmine was feeling severely anxious before a big presentation at work. She had trouble sleeping the night before and felt her confidence lagging. Before the presentation, she called her best friend, who always cheered her up. He told a story that made her erupt in laughter. The giggles provided an enormous release of tension. She headed into the presentation feeling buoyed by the dose of humor.
6. Try an Energy Shift
You have the power to shift your inner energy through visualization intentionally. When your state feels negative, visualize filling yourself with bright, positive energy from head to toe. Picture it flowing into every cell of your body, radiating from your core. Envision any darkness or heaviness dissolving away.
Or visualize yourself blowing out a candle to symbolize negative thought patterns extinguishing from your mind. See the flame disappear as you exhale and let the negativity fade away. However you envision it, intentionally moving stagnant energy can instantly improve your mental state. Even just stretching or rolling your shoulders back can help.
Jim was feeling anxious and tired after a stressful week. He decided to spend 60 seconds visualizing energy flowing through his body. He stood upright, took a deep breath, and imagined breathing sparkling white light into his chest. The white light filled him with calm, confidence, and joy. It flowed down through his legs and arms, energizing him. After this quick visualization exercise, Jim felt refreshed and ready to seize the day.
How Emma Transformed Her Mental State
Emma had dealt with generalized anxiety disorder her whole life. She often felt overwhelmed by worries she couldn’t control. This kept her in a constant state of tension, draining her energy. She got stuck in negative thought loops that made her feel helpless and sad.
After learning techniques to shift her mental state immediately, Emma decided to put them into action. She made an uplifting playlist of songs that made her want to dance. During moments of worry, she practiced mindful breathing while noticing the textures around her. She went on short jogs when her mind felt cluttered. Laughing more with friends left her feeling lighter.
Within a few weeks, Emma saw a transformation in her mental state. She felt more empowered, using tools to pull herself out of anxiety. Her body felt less tense, and her mind quieted down. She learned not to take every worry so seriously. Her outlook became more positive.
Emma continues to use these techniques to prevent downward spirals. She can catch herself when anxiety starts bubbling up and calm her mind. She feels more relaxed, focused, and energized thanks to learning simple practices to shift her state. Her quality of life has dramatically improved now that she knows how to feel better immediately.
When you find yourself in an unwanted mental state, remember you have the power to shift your mood and outlook immediately. Techniques like deep breathing, upbeat music, movement, mindfulness, laughter, and visualization can quickly improve how you feel. Begin adding small practices like these into your daily life.
With consistency, you’ll develop go-to tools to get yourself out of a negative mental rut. Instead of staying stuck, you can emotionally reset and change your state when needed. Mastering these simple but powerful techniques will improve your overall mental health and resilience. You’ll gain confidence in your ability to handle any challenges life sends your way.