These are the exact moves to try when you’re feeling sad, lonely, or overwhelmed.
How are you feeling right now?
Another question: How do you want to feel? Energized? Strong? Loved?
No matter the feeling you’re craving, there’s a good chance you can help yourself find it with exercise.
Any type of movement can lift your spirits. In fact, it’s one of the best reasons to exercise.
“Exercising is the ultimate natural way to fight anxiety and boost your mood,” says Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.N., a dietitian, personal trainer, and coauthor of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Exercise kicks your body’s feel-good chemicals—your endorphins—into high gear.”
But certain movements may help you tap into the specific emotional boost you need. Try these exercises to improve your mood instantly.
As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
You Want to Feel: Energized
Improve Your Mood with Alternating Reach
This fun, no-equipment cardio move will get the blood flowing through your whole body. Put on some upbeat music for an extra boost.
Repeat for 1 minute
How to do it: Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
Reach to the left with your right arm overhead. Then reach to the right with your left arm overhead.
Reach to the left with your right arm across your chest. Then reach to the right with your left arm across your chest.
As you move your upper body, pivot your feet. Repeat for one minute, resting as needed.
Make it easier: If it’s uncomfortable to reach overhead, alternate reaching across your chest.
You Want to Feel: Grounded
Improve Your Mood with Mountain Pose
When life feels like it’s moving too fast or you’re a little off-kilter, mountain pose can help you feel firmly planted and safe.
Hold the pose for 1 minute
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down.
Check your posture. Your head should be up, and your chin should be parallel to the floor. Ears should be over your shoulders. Shoulders should be over your hips. Knees and toes should be pointing forward.
Stand tall, feeling your feet rooted to the floor. Breathe here for one minute.
Make it easier: Do the pose sitting tall in a chair with good posture. Want more tips? Check out our guide to mountain pose for beginners.
You Want to Feel: Renewed
Improve Your Mood with Tree Pose
Physically, this pose builds balance. Mentally, think of a tree in spring, and let it inspire vitality, possibility, and growth.
Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths per side
How to do it: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, and your toes, knees, and hips facing forward. Shift your weight to your right foot. Turn your left toes slightly out, lift your heel, and draw it toward your right foot like a kickstand.
You can bring your palms together in front of your chest or raise your arms overhead. Draw you belly in for support, stand tall, and breathe here for three to five breaths. Return to standing on both feet, and repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: Hold on to a wall, counter, or sturdy chair for support.
You Want to Feel: Focused
Improve Your Mood with March in Place
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, this exercise can remind you that you’re capable. Keep your eyes forward, march hard, rest when you need to, and repeat. You’ve got this.
Repeat for 1 minute
How to do it: Stand tall facing a wall, kitchen counter, or back of a sturdy chair, holding on for support if needed.
From here, raise one knee as high as you comfortably can, making sure not to tilt your trunk as you do so. Pause, then lower your leg to the starting position. Repeat with your opposite leg. Continue for one minute, resting as needed.
Make it easier: Use a chair for seated march.
You Want to Feel: Strong
Improve Your Mood with Warrior Two
How can you not feel strong in this pose? It activates your legs, core, back, and shoulders. And with practice, you’ll notice improvements over time—that’s when you’ll feel really strong.
Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths per side
How to do it: Turn your left toes out toward the left. Bend your left knee about 90 degrees, keeping your knee above your ankle and heel. Keep the outer edge of your right (back) foot firmly on the floor. Engage your belly.
Extend your arms out at your sides with your palms facing down, and gaze out over the middle fingertips of your left hand. Breathe here for three to five breaths, then gently return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Make it easier: If you need more support, place your hands on your hips, and simply gaze to the side.
You Want to Feel: Loved
Improve Your Mood with Hands to Heart
When you’re feeling lonely or sad, it can help to think about happy memories with loved ones, even if they’re far away or someone you’ve lost.
Do 5 to 10 reps
How to do it: Stand with your feet together. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down.
Reach your arms out and overhead, bringing your palms together. If you’d like, gaze up at your hands. With palms together, bring your hands in front of your chest. That’s one rep. Do five to 10 reps.
Make it easier: Do the pose sitting tall in a chair with good posture. If it’s uncomfortable to lift your arms overhead, lift them out to your shoulders, and bring your palms together in front of your chest.
You Want to Feel: Unburdened
Improve Your Mood with Resting Pose
During this pose, you’ll let your body feel heavy. As you do that, imagine you’re also putting down—at least for a short break—whatever burdens you’re carrying.
Relax for 1 minute
Lie on a mat or supportive bed with your legs straight. Rest your arms at your sides a few inches away from your body, palms facing up.
Close your eyes, and breathe naturally. Allow your body to feel heavy. Relax for one minute or longer.
To come out of the pose, sit up slowly, gently rolling to your side first if needed. Check that you feel steady before standing up.
Make it easier: Sit in a comfortable, supportive chair with your hands on your lap.
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