How To Overcome External And Internal Factors Affecting Our Mood

Sometimes life can get us down a bit. We can wake up on a dreary Sunday morning and just not feel ourselves. Of course, it's more realistic to assume that we will not always be 100%, but what are the reasons for this and how can we overcome them?

We can buy piles upon piles of self-help books, reading through them for the holistic and all-curing answer to our dread, but sometimes it's not always there.

Overcoming stress and tiredness
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The first major factor in attribution to our mood is the environment. This covers a fairly broad spectrum of factors here, such as the weather, lighting, room temperature, and surrounding noise.

Producers of film and television often make effective use of weather changes to portray a certain ambiance or the feeling of the characters. This of course isn't just for visual effects, the science behind mood changes due to weather is well covered. 

From the research provided by WebMD, up to 9% of people can feel angrier and less happy on rainy days. What this means is that more arguments could erupt, people may leave jobs or have more conflicts, all without even realizing that the weather has been a contributing factor to their mood. This also works conversely in the sense that sunny weather and light can boost our mood.

I have personally noticed that people as well as myself, are typically happier in warm and sunny weather, leading to better experiences and memories. Some doctors also recommend for those having down days in rainy weather, to still go outside, as the UV rays will still have a net positive effect on the body.

Whilst we know how weather can affect mood, an extension to this can be the temperature. When the temperature increases, people often get more angry and irritable, if you have ever worked in hot environments around other people you will know what I'm talking about.

Furthermore, decreasing temperatures can actually cause depression. One interesting anecdote related to this is that emotionally lonely people often seek out hot showers as a substitute for human connection.

Many tales of endurance have often been the result of humans spending considerable periods of time in extreme or uncomfortable temperatures. If we take Josef Koeberl for example, this Austrian man holds the record for spending two and a half hours with his full body immersed in ice.

Society likes to view these people and acts as 'spectacles' by giving them a piece of history in the form of a world record at each new feat they accomplish. For obvious reasons, there is no record for the hottest temperature ever endured.

Since we can't always rely upon the sun coming out or our hot working environments to be instantly cool and refreshing, we must find alternative and practical solutions to days where we don't feel right, stressed, or sad. 

Meditation is the practice of dedicating time in silence to focus on breathing whilst allowing the body to relax and become self-aware. 

Meditation has long been conveyed as a great solution to stress, but even as a daily practice, its benefits should not be overlooked. Information from the Mayo Clinic tells us that we can gain new perspectives on certain situations as well as allow us to focus on the current moment and maintain higher levels of patience.

We can also better manage our stress through meditation. These, of course, are only a few of the upsides to meditation, there is a myriad of others.

First things first when it comes to this, find a quiet place to sit. This can also be the most challenging part, as quiet places may be hard to come by in such a busy, noisy world, you may have to get creative. After this first hurdle, you can begin. 

Next, you will want to decide how long you wish to spend meditating, its usually advised that beginners spend between five and twenty minutes, however, you may be more fulfilled after an hour-long session. You will then want to close your eyes and simply breathe, allowing your mind to wander naturally, but be mindful that you should always come back to focusing on your breathing. 

After a period of time, you can start to come out of the process, whilst noticing your body and thoughts, you will then have completed your first session hopefully feeling more relaxed and mindful. The key to this is simply being kind to yourself and aware of your thoughts. With practice, more and more sessions should serve well in dealing with many different moods and emotions.

There are many, many different types of meditation, ranging from mindfulness to movement meditation and these all have independent styles and associated benefits. However, it is important that we meditate in a way that fits into our lives so that we can find time to keep coming back and practicing, keeping a mentally accounted for balance, whilst maintaining stress and self-awareness. 

This YouTube video effectively covers the basics of meditation:

For further information, apps such as Headspace and Calm are centered around meditation. These will allow you to have access to guidance and both have free versions.

Both exercise and meditation have many similar or the same benefits to the body and mind, this is only logical as they can be equally effective self-care strategies. 

But how do we exercise when we feel down or depressed?

It can be hard enough to get out of bed to go to the gym sometimes, and even harder when we feel fatigued and lethargic. When this occurs, it is important to remember that exercise releases endorphins that can boost our mood. 

This is where we can apply the concept of 'healthy body, healthy mind' wherein these terms are interchangeable and lead to concurrent benefits. With these points in consideration, we should also have an action plan to exercise, even if we feel down or depressed. I will list below a list of pertinent points to consider:

  • Have an action plan - date and time you are going to exercise and stick to it
  • Choose exercises that you enjoy and feel fulfilled afterward
  • Go light at first - you do not have to be completely exhausting yourself or engaging in muscle-tearing exercises to have a meaningful one 
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Time yourself - don't spend too much time working out as this can hinder recovery time
  • Challenge yourself 
  • Record your progress
  • Engage with new exercises - trying new exercises will work for different muscle groups
  • Eat healthily
  • Repeat frequently 

Plenty of material online covers exercise for beginners, but I would simply like to emphasize that you should still exercise even when you don't feel up to it. Building resistance to comfort will increase our willpower in these types of activities and will allow our self-discipline to improve over time.

Statistics from Men's Health tell us that around 60-70% of people would rather exercise alone when they are not feeling at their prime. However, if you would rather go with a friend than feel free, the reasoning for working out solo is it simply allows us to focus on ourselves and our needs, it also limits any unhealthy comparisons that we want to make.

Recording our progress through exercise will also help us with critical reflection, whether we exercise from home or in the gym, we will feel more fulfilled and motivated if we keep on track. This can mean sticking to a schedule of two workouts a week, an hour a day, or any variable that fits into your life. 

The Mayo Clinic recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, which could include a run or jog. But if we want greater results or we struggle to schedule this in, we can always adjust according to our needs.

Sometimes the gym can get busy, and we can't quite get all our exercises in, when this has happened to me, I have altered my workouts and tried new things, by exercising different muscle groups and trying new things. 

Always remember, however, that we should be choosing exercises that we enjoy and we feel fulfilled after to motivate us in line for the next one, keeping us healthy both mentally and physically.

Here are ten exercises that you can do at home with minimal or no equipment. 

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Sit-Ups
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Plank
  • Shoulder-Trap
  • Burpee
  • Yoga Press-Up
  • Step-Ups
  • Standing Jog                                                                                                   

In addition to the clear benefits for both body and mind to these exercises, we can also save time and money by working out from home. You can choose when you want to work out and you don't have to do any costly travel. 

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