What Activities Do People Use to Regulate Their Moods?

Even if we aren’t always aware of it, we all have tricks we use to manage our emotions on a day-to-day basis.

One of these is that we engage in different activities that help us regulate our moods. When we’re feeling down, we do something that’ll help bring our mood back up.

For example, listening to music is a way people commonly regulate their emotions. You might even have a certain kind of music you like to listen to when things aren’t going your way.

In fact, psychologists have found that some types of music are more conducive to mood regulation than others. Specifically, listening to music you’re familiar with tends to be associated with brain activity related to mood regulation. Among people who play music, singing and improvising are especially well suited to dealing with your emotions. Even “sad” music can raise people’s moods, a paradox that researchers are still grappling with.

Exercise is another popular mood regulator. Exercise is such a powerful way of regulating emotions that it has even been proposed as a treatment for depression. People who have deficits when it comes to regulating their emotions may be especially likely to benefit from exercise.

However, mood regulation isn’t just about what we do but when we do it. We all have a balance of more and less fun things we have to fit into our lives, and our emotion management strategies can affect that scheduling.

In particular, it appears that people are generally more likely to do mood-raising activities like playing sports at points when they’re feeling worse and mood-lowering activities like housework when they’re feeling happier. So in a sense, you may be happiest when you’re doing housework – or right before you do housework, anyway!

Strategically scheduling mood-increasing and mood-decreasing activities this way may be partly how people simultaneously keep their mood more or less stable and fit in all the things they don’t want to do but have to do anyway.

Scientists are still learning about how people regulate their emotions so artfully, but in the meantime it can’t hurt to go for a jog, put on some music, and take advantage of the times you’re feeling good to sneak in a few chores!

D’you notice any techniques you use for mood regulation? Share below!

Image: FreeImages.com/Christy Thompson


  1. Courtney on August 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Coloring with map pencils, crayons or markers in a coloring book made for teens and adults is very therapeutic. It “gets you out of your head” for a while.

    • Neil Petersen on August 23, 2016 at 11:34 am

      That’s a good one, thanks for adding it.

  2. Joyce Savage on August 22, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Sometimes listening to “sad” music can be very validating of what we’re feeling at the moment. Then, we feel happier being validated.

    • Neil Petersen on August 23, 2016 at 11:34 am

      I hadn’t thought about it in those terms before — thanks for commenting.

  3. JimmyGJR on August 24, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    When I’m feeling down, accomplishing something, even something small gives you a positive feeling. I’ll walk around the house and pick up small items and put them where they belong. Not a real physical workout but I feel better after a few things cluttering the house are now out of sight.

    • Neil Petersen on August 24, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      I think it’s important to break the vicious cycle: when you’re feeling down you, you can feel like not doing anything, but the less you do, the worse you feel!

  4. msmerlin on August 25, 2016 at 1:44 am

    For me, house cleaning is not a mood-lowering activity but a mood-raising activity. I can be in a funk, and by the time I clean for a few hours, I feel 100% better. So I think the activity itself can also be different for different people. I feel better after exercise class mainly because it’s over and I don’t have to do it again for a few days. I do house cleaning because I love it. Gardening is the same way; for me it’s a mood-raising activity. Interesting how different people respond differently…

    • Neil Petersen on August 26, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      I agree — it can give you a feeling of accomplishment and being productive.

  5. KAT BIGALKE on September 5, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I’ll put on some enjoyable music and accomplish a project, whether it’s cleaning up something or doing some sewing and getting some exercise in the process always gives me a lift! And treat myself to a glass of wine or something else to celebrate always makes me feel great!

    • Neil Petersen on September 5, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      It’s true, you really can’t beat some good music and a glass of wine 😛