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How To Spark A Positive Mood When Feeling Dull

Written by Nicky Shah
Writer at freedomwanted.com, ex-business exec, University of Oxford - Inspiring you to live more of the life you want
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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 unsplash.com


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