What 9 Therapists Do to Improve Their Moods and Why

Steal mood-boosting tips from these mental health experts.

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Summer is here, and it’s the perfect time to get active, spend time outdoors and organize your life. But while all these activities can lift your spirits—and Summertime is a natural pick-me-up for many—it can be hard to get a handle on life’s everyday stressors.

To help, we asked ten mental health experts from across the country what they do to boost their mood when feeling low. Here’s what they had to say.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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Escape to your favorite quiet place

“When my mood tumbles downward, I head out for a night at the beach,” says David DeNavarra, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and an outpatient coordinator at Largo Medical Center in Largo, Florida.

He brings along a trusted companion who can help distract him for a bit or simply listen. “The ambiance of the waves, moonlight, salty air and cool sand gives me a sensory experience that keeps me grounded and makes my problems seem smaller.”

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Work up a sweat

“When I notice I am in a negative mood or more vulnerable to stressors getting to me, I have found that engaging in some form of high-intensity exercise helps me to be less vulnerable to getting overwhelmed and makes it less likely that my mood will get worse,” says Ana Olivares, MD, a behavioral health specialist at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dr. Olivares says that after exercise, she’s often able to take a deep breath and let the negative mood go.

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Turn to your playlist

As a very auditory person, my mood is heavily influenced by sound, so I tend to listen to something to help me manage a bad mood, says Sandon Bull, LMSW a social worker at Parkridge Valley Hospital in Cleveland, Tennessee.

“Sometimes this means listening to uplifting, energetic music. Other times it means listening to a podcast with thought-provoking content to distract me from a situation that’s been nagging me,” he says. 

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Hit the open road

“One thing that I do when I feel low and need to recharge is to go for a drive,” says Matthew Tutterow, MSW, a social worker at Capital Regional Behavioral Health Center in Tallahassee, Florida. “It sounds simple, and it is. Self-care doesn’t have to be some complex or extraordinary activity,”

Tutterow says he leans towards being an introvert, so he recharges more fully by spending time alone, rather than with other people. “For that reason, I find driving to be immensely therapeutic,” he explains.

Something as simple as driving with some good music, in no real direction, is enough to make me forget about any stressors, or why I was feeling low to begin with, says Tutterow.

“I’m fortunate enough, too, to live somewhere with great country roads that are well suited for an afternoon or early evening drive and exploration trip. What we do when we feel low is personal though, and it’s important to work acts of self-care into our everyday lives so we that we begin to give ourselves the space we need to recharge and boost ourselves back up routinely,” Tutterow adds.

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Plan a spa day

I’m aware of the need to stay as emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy as possible so I can provide the best service and care to my clients and patients, says Martha Wisbey, a therapist and clinical social worker at Capital Regional Behavioral Health Center in Tallahassee, Florida. 

One of the ways she does this is by connecting with others. “Being able to laugh and enjoy friends, without thinking or talking about my work, can release most of my stress,” she says.  

“I’m also committed to getting a massage and pedicure monthly for self-care. Additionally, my interests in reading and music are fueled by activities offered in Tallahassee. When I get the time, I try to plan travel adventures to anywhere near water. Most of all, I pay attention to the times when I feel worn down or too stressed to give my best. I am fortunate to have family and friends that help me lighten up, stay grounded and able to do the work of a social worker.”

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Practice mindfulness and gratitude

“When I hit a low spot in my day, I focus on two things: being in the moment and gratitude,” says Bruce Conn, LMFT, a licensed medical family therapist at Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health in Macon, Georgia.

“First, I try to get still. Centering in my breath, I notice how my body feels. Second, from a radical acceptance and acknowledgement of the moment, I look out gratefully at the world around me. And then, whether teaching, listening or drinking coffee, I am centered.”

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Take a deep breath; laugh it off

“I use a quick breathing exercise and laughter to zap a low mood,” says Leah Baldwin, LCSW, CSAC, a counselor and social worker at Parham Doctors' Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. “Paying attention to my breathing and repeating a mantra like, “I feel great” for about one minute usually does the trick.”

The breathing exercise helps Baldwin to refocus; laughter provides a distraction and “gets her dopamine working, which always helps to spike a low mood.”

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Connect to the Here and Now

“One of the things I like to do when I’m feeling low is exercise,” says Yevgeniy Gelfand, MD, a psychiatrist at Trident Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

“It helps me get out of my head and get into the body—into the Here and Now. Yoga works great for that, for example.” 

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Spend time with people you care about

“I connect with a friend or close family member to go to the theatre, an artistic event, a hike or another outdoor activity that I know we’ll both enjoy, and spend time talking about happy memories that we’ve experienced together,” says Mark Hutchinson, LCMHC, counselor specializing in addiction at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.

After that, Hutchinson then plans another outing with the friend or family member and expresses his gratitude to them for spending the time with him. He takes the time to write down the events of that day in his journal, so that he can re-live it anytime he wants.

“I feel that making connections with a trusted and loved person, who feels the same about you, and then showing gratitude to them increases your self-esteem and gives you a rush of endorphins that stimulates your pleasure center in the brain, the result of which is a happy and content feeling.”

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Reflect on what matters most to you

“I make a point to do ongoing personal inventories of what is working or not working in the areas of my family, friends, work, goals, and so on,” says Robert Anderson, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker at TriStar Parthenon Pavillion in Nashville, Tennessee. “This helps to keep me on track as to what is most important in life, and that makes me happy."

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