Use This "Tool Kit" the Next Time You're in a Bad Mood

It's easy to feel powerless against a bad mood. Negative emotions have a serpentine way of gripping us tighter when we try to resist, until we're almost suffocated by a spiral of thought. But while giving into the bad feeling can feel like the equivalent of wallowing, there's a fundamental difference between submission and radical acceptance. In acknowledging our own humanity without judgment, it becomes much easier to gain the clarity we need to engage in strategies that will actually make us feel better.

Heather Silvestri, a New York City–based psychologist, calls this "preventative self-care." "It is extremely useful to amass a 'tool kit' of self-care strategies ahead of time so that they are at the ready when your mood has dipped or your anxiety has risen," she says. "When you're sad or upset, it's difficult to maintain perspective, and when you're anxious, it's difficult to focus and think clearly. In this way, at the very time that you most need strategies for self-care, you're typically the least able to think creatively to compile them. Having an arsenal of solid and varied strategies at the ready circumvents this problem."

With practice, your tool kit will become second nature—most of the time, you'll know exactly how to hack a bad mood the moment it arises. In the meantime, Silvestri recommends getting started by taking a few minutes to strategize and write it all down. Keep reading to learn how to build your good-mood tool kit.