Published on April 1, 2021

How To Spark A Positive Mood When Feeling Dull

How To Spark A Positive Mood When Feeling Dull

It’s impossible to be in a positive mood all of the time. We all experience those odd days when we aren’t feeling like ourselves—a dull feeling, perhaps. Most of the time, before you have a chance to figure out what’s wrong, you spring back to your normal self.

But sometimes, we don’t miraculously bounce back. Instead, we see our happier times drifting further and further into the abyss. When you notice this happening, you might want to jump-start your positive mood by doing these three things.

1. Refresh or Improve Your Environment

We underestimate how much our environment impacts us. A messy home, clutter everywhere—these things can drag us down in ways we don’t realize. If you notice your positive mood is not so positive anymore, try to switch up your environment. Tidy your surroundings and invite more calm and peace into your life.

This doesn’t mean just shoving everything in sight into a cupboard and forgetting about it (if only)! It means actually dealing with things that are bogging you down—physically and mentally.

For example, perhaps you have a pile of paperwork that needs addressing (accounts that need closing, bills that need to be paid, etc.), and every time you glance at this pile of paperwork, it chips away at your positive mood. Again, don’t just shove the paperwork into a cupboard because even though your eyes won’t see it, your brain will still nudge you and let you know that something has been left unresolved.

Think about it logically: whatever you’re delaying needs to be addressed eventually. You can do it sooner rather than later, then relax and free up your diary to do more exciting things. Or you can let it linger for weeks and let it impact your mood that whole time, allowing it to cause you prolonged anxiety.

To be clear, when it comes to things like tidying up or doing chores, you don’t have to pretend to enjoy any of it. You just have to count on the fact that once it’s done, you will feel better.


Despite the can’t-argue-against-that logic, I understand that you will still resist that to-do list. We are human after all. So, if you really cannot find the energy for tackling it, then do the next best thing and get away from it momentarily, perhaps by placing yourself in different surroundings.

Take a walk to give your brain a rest. Add some music if that helps. Or even better, go after those mega endorphins. I personally find that boxing or attending spin class is incredible for immediately lifting my mood. What is your equivalent? It doesn’t even need to be an exercise. Perhaps you find joy in painting or singing or watching stand-up comedy. Whatever floats your boat—do that.

Another favorite activity of mine is hitting the sauna or a taking hot bath. Perhaps you spot the pattern of sweating as being something I find incredibly uplifting. Not all of what will lead to a positive mood has to be mental. Sometimes, a good old sweat sesh could be the best remedy for our woes.

The more endorphin-inducing things you can combine, the better. Listen to upbeat music while sipping your favorite coffee and sing along to the catchy chorus (whether you know the words or not), all while wearing your comfiest clothes—you get the idea.

I like this Instagram post by the Psychologist Dr. Michaela as a handy reference for examples of things you can do to bring about a more positive mood.

2. Lean on Creativity to Remain Positive: Have a Secret Project

The previous section of this post focused on ways to spark an immediate positive mood when you start to feel any dullness kicking in. In this section, I want to introduce the concept of a secret project as a way to prevent wandering too far into any dullness in the first place.

A secret project is a project you add towards over time, based on a topic of your interest. The key (and the magic) about this project is that:


  • You never have to complete it.
  • You don’t have to show it to anyone.
  • You don’t have to meet any targets.
  • You don’t even need to be any good at it!

It simply has to be something you find enjoyable or inspiring or both.

The idea behind having a secret project is to provide escapism from any monotony in your life. It’s a way to keep your mind creative, fresh, and constantly thinking about new possibilities.

Maybe when you daydream, you think about exciting dishes to create in the kitchen. You have so many ideas in your head but they never come to fruition because the reality is that when you get home from work, you are too tired to cook that the convenience of sticking two slices of bread into the toaster and slathering them with peanut butter will suffice.

80% of your weird and wonderful recipes never see the light of day.

In this instance, your secret project would simply be creating a recipe book of your still-to-be-tested recipes. You don’t have to make these recipes in real life, you don’t have to worry about buying ingredients you wouldn’t normally buy, and you don’t even have to worry whether it would taste any good.

You just turn to this project regularly when your mind is yearning to feel inspiration and creativity.

Other examples of secret projects could include:


  • Collecting images of your dream house, down to the exact cushions you would like to have if needs be.
  • Creating your own travel brochure with the top countries you’d like to visit, including what you would see, what you might eat, where you would stay, etc.
  • Writing down a never-ending list of new businesses you could start. The enjoyment, for you, comes not from launching any ideas but simply from coming up with them.

Sadly, many of us are plagued by a routine that doesn’t allow for creativity. Don’t let that be you. Get yourself a secret project.

3. Practice Gratitude

When we’re in a funk, it’s so easy to think that our life sucks and we are unlucky. The truth is that this mentality can further propel us into a downward spiral when what we need the most is an upward path to get us back out of our funk.

It’s when you feel at your lowest that you most need to remind yourself how fortunate you are. This can happen by practicing gratitude.

I’ll warn you now—this one isn’t easy and requires practice over time. Most importantly, do not wait until you’re in a bad mood to start practicing gratitude because it won’t work! Start when you’re in a positive mood.

Really appreciate what is great about your life when it is going smoothly—little things, big things, as much as you can. A comfortable bed, a great night’s sleep—not everyone in the world has these things. Maybe the sun appeared today. Or a friend sent you a nice message that let you know they were thinking of you.

Be mindful as much as you can in terms of what puts you in a positive mood because sooner or later, your lucky streak will end. Maybe you didn’t get the guy you liked to like you back. And in the same week, you didn’t get the promotion at work. And just when it couldn’t get any worse, you’ve gone and spilled red wine over your favorite top and it’s started to rain.

These are the times when it’s all too easy to forget about all the good things in your life. What’s happening is that the good things are being overshadowed by a series of unfortunate events because you are feeling the negative emotions with greater intensity versus the positive ones.


Have a cry—because releasing negative emotions is a genuinely important act. Just don’t linger in that space permanently. Every few hours, force yourself to find things about your life that you are grateful for and maintain a level of perspective.

If you don’t believe me when I say that practicing gratitude is a powerful thing, have a look at the outcomes of small experiments conducted by scientists.[1]

Final Remarks—Find What Works for You

Cultivating a positive mood, especially when you’re in a dull mood, is no easy task. But it’s not impossible either. You just have to find what works for you—ideally in advance of you reaching a negative state of mind. The more you understand what makes you happy, the wider the arsenal you’ll have at your disposal when things start going awry.

If you can, work on your long-term positivity by practicing gratitude every day but when you need an extra boost, turn to the things that immediately boost your happiness. And don’t forget to keep a secret project going as that will help you maintain an inspired and creative brain, both of which can help prevent bouts of negativity in the first place, especially if you are faced with a non-inspiring and monotonous routine in your daily

More Tips on Staying Positive

Featured photo credit: dusan jovic via


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Nicky Shah

Writer at, ex-business exec, University of Oxford - Inspiring you to live more of the life you want

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:


  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.


Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.


Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.


However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.


Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:


  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:


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