Low mood - tips and self-help

Everyone feels sad or low at some stage of their lives.

A distressing event or major change in your life can affect your mood. But sometimes it's possible to feel low for no clear reason.

A low mood can make you feel less confident, tired, frustrated, angry or worried.

Our tips to help with low mood can help to boost your energy levels and your mood.

Signs of low mood

A low mood can affect how you think, feel and behave, including:

  • feeling sad or not enjoying things as much as you did
  • feeling anxious or panicky
  • being more tired than usual or sleep problems
  • being irritable
  • feeling angry or frustrated
  • feeling worthless or guilty
  • an increase or decrease in your appetite
  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • loss of interest in sex

A low mood often gets better after a few days or weeks. If it lasts longer than 2 weeks, it may be a sign of depression and you may need to talk to someone else.

Causes of low mood

There are many reasons why you might feel low at some point in your life. Any difficult event or experience can affect your mood.

Some things that may cause a low mood include:

  • pressure at work
  • unemployment
  • retirement
  • relationship difficulties
  • divorce
  • caring for someone
  • financial problems
  • illness or injury
  • bereavement

It's also possible to feel low without there being an obvious reason.

Low mood can also be part of stress.

Tips to help with low mood

There are many things you can do to help improve your mood by making small changes at a time.

Connect with other people

It can be hard to connect with people when you are busy, stressed or feeling low. But connecting with friends, family, neighbours or people you work with can help you feel happier. Even having casual friends at work or to share a hobby or leisure activity with can help your mood.

There are lots of ways to connect with other people. For example, meeting for coffee, going for a walk, video calling or messaging on your phone.

A lack of motivation or being withdrawn are common with a low mood. Make time to connect with people and stick with these plans, even if you don't feel like it. Try to connect with someone you like each day.

If you connect with people, you will also have support to turn to when you need help.

Talk about your feelings

If you feel low, it can help to talk to a friend or family member about how you feel.

Telling someone about how you are feeling can help to make things clearer for you. It can help you understand why you are feeling low and to get help with how to manage it.

How to talk to someone about what's troubling you

Do things you enjoy

A low mood can stop you doing the things you enjoy. If you are not doing things you enjoy and value, your mood can dip even more.

Make a list of things you enjoy and try to do some of them regularly. Start with ones that are easier to arrange.

Do something creative

Creative activities can boost your mood. For example, writing, cooking, painting, sewing, photography or playing an instrument. They can bring you enjoyment and fulfilment and can engage your full attention.

This can help you forget negative thoughts and make you feel happier.

Listen to music

Music can be a powerful way to change your mood.

Create a playlist of songs that you enjoy or find uplifting, for when you are feeling low. This can improve your mood and make you feel happier.

Challenge unhelpful thoughts

Negative thought patterns can make a low mood worse. They can lead to unhelpful feelings and actions.

Try to challenge negative thoughts.

Ask yourself:

  • what is the evidence for and against your negative thought?
  • are there other ways you can look at this situation?
  • if you were to be positive about the situation, how would you view it?

Try to change a negative thought for a more helpful one. Sometimes you will be able to, but it is OK if you cannot.

Physical activity

Regular physical activity can help you to sleep, relax and feel better. It can help reduce stress and boosts your energy levels. It can also be a good way to meet people and get more involved in your community.

Any activity is useful, as long as it is suited to your ability and you do enough of it. Find something that you enjoy doing. This can help keep you motivated to do it every day.

Physical activity and your mental health

Healthy eating

What you eat can make a difference to your mental health. A diet rich in foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds can boost your energy levels and mood.

Healthier food choices can improve your mental and physical health.

8 healthy eating tips to improve mental health

Sleep well

A low mood can make you feel more tired than usual. It can also make it more difficult to get or stay asleep.

Sleep is important for mental health. It helps you to think clearly and gives you the energy to deal with problems.

Most people need 5 to 9 hours sleep a night. More than 7 hours is recommended for adults. The ideal amount is 8 hours, but everyone's different.

Tips for better sleep

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises can help your mind and body to get control of a difficult situation. They only take a few minutes to do and can help you manage strong emotions and reduce stress.

Relaxation tips and breathing exercises

Mindfulness

Mindfulness teaches you to become aware of the present moment. This helps you enjoy things more.

You can learn to not react or become overwhelmed by what’s going on around you by doing mindfulness. Instead, you notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Mindfulness can be an easy activity you can fit into your day.

How to practice mindfulness

Alcohol and feeling down

Try not to use alcohol to improve a low mood.

Using alcohol to cope with difficult feelings can create long-term problems, including addiction.

Some people can feel low or depressed after drinking alcohol.

Cutting back on alcohol can make you feel better physically and mentally.

Tips for drinking less

Self-help resources for low mood

Headspace app

A free app that teaches meditation and mindfulness skills.

Get Headspace from the App Store

Get Headspace from Google Play

Minding your Wellbeing Programme videos

5 videos that help you learn more about mindfulness, gratitude, self-care and resilience.

Watch the Minding Your Wellbeing Programme videos

Stress Control course

For many people, stress can include or be linked to feelings of anxiety or low mood.

Our 'Stress Control' course can help you learn stress management skills.

StressControl.ie

When to talk to someone else

If you have tried our tips and the self help resources but you think you need extra support, it may help to talk to someone.

Mental health supports and services

Text 50808

A free text message service to chat anonymously with someone for support. Funded by the HSE.

Text HELLO to 50808 to chat with a volunteer, anytime.

text50808.ie

Aware

Information, support and peer groups for people with mild to moderate depression.

Freephone 1800 80 48 48, 10am to 10pm every day

supportmail@aware.ie

aware.ie

Samaritans

Samaritans services are available anytime, for confidential and non-judgemental support.

Freephone Samaritans on 116 123

jo@samaritans.ie

samaritans.ie

Worried about someone else

If you notice someone is struggling with their mental health, this can be worrying. You may not know what to do.

Read our advice on how to help someone experiencing mental health issues

Non-urgent advice: Talk to a GP or mental health professional if:

  • you are finding it hard to cope
  • low mood is having a negative affect on your day-to-day life
  • your low mood has been going on for a while or getting worse

Ask for an urgent appointment if you are in crisis.

How to tell if you have clinical depression

Urgent advice: If you feel you are going to harm yourself or someone else, get help as soon as possible from:

If you go to an ED, it can help to bring someone with you.

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025