Most people feel low sometimes, but if it's affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help. Support is also available if you're finding it hard to cope with low mood, sadness or depression.
Symptoms of a general low mood may include feeling:
- more tired than usual or being unable to sleep
- easily angry or frustrated
- low on confidence or self-esteem
A low mood often gets better after a few days or weeks. It's usually possible to improve a low mood by making small changes in your life. For example, resolving something that's bothering you, exercising more or making sure to get adequate sleep. Most people experience feelings of stress, anxiety or low mood during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.
There can be physical symptoms too, such as:
- Feeling constantly tired
- Sleeping badly
- Having no appetite or sex drive
- Various aches and pains.
The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living.
What can help overcome depression?
Treatment for depression can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medicine. Your recommended treatment will be based on whether you have mild, moderate or severe depression.
- If you have mild depression, your doctor may suggest waiting to see whether it improves on its own, while monitoring your progress. This is known as "watchful waiting". They may also suggest lifestyle measures such as exercise and self-help groups. Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), are often used for mild depression that is not improving, or moderate depression. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed.
- For moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants is often recommended. If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a specialist mental health team for intensive specialist talking treatments and prescribed medicine.
Watch the below video about depression, developed by the World Health Organisation
Mindfulness has shown to be effective in helping people manage low mood and depression. At Keeping Well, our Mindfulness Practitioner Peter Helmer runs weekly mindfulness sessions which can be accessed by health and social care staff - click here to learn more.
Have a healthy lifestyle
Limit your alcohol intake
- When times are hard, it's tempting to drink alcohol because it "numbs" painful feelings.
- It can exaggerate some feelings and make you feel angry or aggressive. It can also make you feel more depressed.
Read more about the effects of alcohol on your health and get simple tips to help you cut down.
Choose a well-balanced diet
- Making healthy choices about your diet can make you feel emotionally stronger. You're doing something positive for yourself, which lifts your self-esteem.
- A good diet helps your brain and body work efficiently, too. Aim to have a balanced diet that includes all the main food groups.
Do some exercise
- Even moderate exercise releases chemicals in your brain that lift your mood.
- It can help you sleep better, have more energy and keep your heart healthy.
- Choose an exercise that you enjoy. If it helps, do it with a friend or listen to music. Adults should aim for 150 minutes a week.
Get enough sleep
- Around 7 to 8 hours is the average amount of sleep an adult needs for their body and mind to fully rest.
- Writing a "to do" list for the next day before bed can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distractions.
Self assesment tools
If you are unsure about needing further support, you might want to complete the self-assessment questionnaires on low mood to find out more about your symptoms - click below.
Depression and low mood - an NHS self help guide
In this self-help guidebook from the Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, they provide information on: what depression is and the signs/symptoms you may experience if you are depressed, what causes depression, what research tells us about depression, what treatment is available.
An easy read version is also available to download here.
Centre for Clinical Interventions worksheets
This resource has modules to work through which can be used at your own pace, information sheets including ways to improve how you feel and analysing your thinking and thought diary worksheets.
Mental wellbeing audio guide
Listen to a series of mental wellbeing audio guides to help you boost your mood.
Webinar: Managing low mood and burnout
Watch this webinar about low mood and burnout.
Here are some NHS-approved apps to help boost your mood (many of which are free if you live or work in London), including:
Be Mindful (free)
A clinically proven online mindfulness course approved by the NHS, Be Mindful helps you to improve your mood through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
The Happify app uses simple exercises and games help you get motivated, feel more positive, build self-confidence and cope better with stress.
By using this NHS-approved programme for 15 minutes a day, you can optimise your cognitive health, mental wellbeing and resilience to stress.
My Possible Self (free)
This clinically proven app can help you to understand and identify the causes of your low mood so you can learn coping mechanisms and manage future situations better.
tomo is expertly designed to support you with many of life's obstacles. The app combines digital peer support with the best of social media and proven therapeutic techniques.
A safe and confidential space to share experiences and gain support from our community and qualified professionals.