Health & Wellness Articles

Improve Your Mood Without Food

Beat Stress, Boredom, and More with These Tips

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It’s another crazy day at work. The phone is ringing off the hook, yet another co-worker needs your attention, and your boss is anxious for the report that was due yesterday. So you do what anyone would do in this situation—you grab some chocolate or a bag of chips to help you deal with the stress. But then, instead of feeling better, you just feel guilty on top of it all.

If people only ate when they were genuinely hungry, most of us would never have weight problems. Unfortunately, emotions drive us to eat more often than actual hunger pangs. Whether we feel stress, boredom, loneliness, anger or sadness, we often turn to food to feel better. And while that may work in the short term, soothing yourself with high-calorie, high-fat goodies usually makes you feel worse in the long run—the emotions will still be there, along with ten or twenty extra pounds.

Instead of reaching for food the next time high emotions hit, try these coping ideas. In the end, your mind will feel better by resolving your feelings, and your body will thank you for not filling it with more food than it needs.

All Stressed Out
While it’s tempting to deal with stress by eating, there are many healthier ways to relieve the pressure. Exercise may be the best way to reduce stress levels. Instead of reaching for a snack when you feel ready to explode, take a quick walk outside or better yet, hit the gym for a vigorous workout. Any moderate to intense physical activity will lower your stress levels and help you deal with your problems more effectively. Try running, shadow boxing or even gardening, as many people find working with the earth to be soothing.

By exercising regularly, you can also help prevent stress from building up to unmanageable levels in the first place. Meditation, yoga and visualization will also help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Bored Out of Your Mind
If your weeknights are filled with TV watching, and every Saturday night brings the same old video and a pizza routine, it’s time to break out of your rut. Many times we eat out of habit without even thinking about what we’re doing, especially when we're mindlessly munching while watching the tube.

If you're eating to prevent boredom, then get off the sofa and try a new activity. Go dancing, bowling or skating for an inexpensive night out that doesn’t revolve around food. Mix up your routine as much as possible—if you usually talk to your friends on the phone, drop by for a face-to-face visit. You can’t eat if your hands are busy, so try painting, knitting or playing an instrument to keep your hands occupied. If you have free time, find an organization that needs volunteers and help out. Many people associate home with food and don’t eat if they’re not in their regular surroundings, so spending time out of the house keeps them from munching.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • This is my first comment, so please bear with me. I think that the problem with dogs in the neighborhood sounds like a law enforcement/anima
    l control problem that needs to be addressed in town hall. In the meantime, however, there are exercises you can do at home without of equipment. My wife loves "Wii Fit Plus". Light exercise, simple, and interactive. Worked well for us until a power outage zapped our Wii. - 3/20/2013 3:08:00 AM
  • lots of good ideas. Some do not apply to me but I find relief in deep water Aqua three times a week, and following the steps and journalling. Hey, lot less calories in a journal entry than a bag of chips LOL try it! - 3/18/2013 3:01:57 PM
  • I agree with what the article has to say. However, it skips the part about when you have finally stopped crying, and you know going for a walk would be a great plan......but putting on the shoes and sweaters and coats just seems like so much work. Stress and sadness are a nasty combination and I really could use a boost! Maybe Spark can give me the boost I need. - 3/18/2013 2:38:18 PM
  • Great article!! It's the truth too. I can vouch for that. I chose the exercise path and over 1 year later I'm still not smoking : ) and a healthy,fit and happy Sparker!!
    So whatever it is thats "gottcha" save your money on those patches,gum,class
    es etc. and show up here instead!! It's Sparkpeople.com folks. Your one stop BFF finder. Your "NEW ME" is free and just a click away.
    Have a great week everyone. - 3/18/2013 12:13:38 PM
  • This was one of the better self help articles that I have read lately. There are truly innovative ideas and helpful ideas that I can implement today that will help me out of a rut.

    Thanks bunches for this - 3/18/2013 9:48:25 AM
  • What if you lie to yourself? Pretend your okay when you really need nelp! When visiting with your anynlist(sp) you pretend everything is okay and he passes you on. . . . . . . . . . . . I need for spring to get here soon so I can get outdoiors! This must be why people from our locale go south for winter. - 3/3/2013 6:57:25 AM
  • Good article, we so often take things out on food and it ultimately hits our waistline. - 2/12/2013 3:47:32 AM
  • WANT2LOOKHOT
    I'm 56 yrs. old & I've tried learning how to skate at least on 3 different occasions without any luck. I love dancing but my husband is a homebody & hates dancing. Going out walking in my neighborhood is out of the question. Too many loose dogs. In fact my husband almost got bit by one today while mowing the lawn. He called the cops to report it. Said he's tired of trying to go for a spin on his motorcycle & having to fight off a bunch of dogs chasing after him every time. I live in a small town in deep south Tx. that has no sidewalks or even a walking trail. What do I do for exercise? I'll get up around 4:20 & try to make it to the elementary school track by 4:45. Walk/jog for about an hr or more & try to leve before 6 a.m. when the school busses start arriving. It's a hassle though cuz sometimes the school locks the gate to the entrance! - 2/10/2013 9:36:38 PM
  • MARTY32M
    Sometimes I get bored, or angry, or whatever, and the only way out is to stop thinking by doing something that doesn't involve thinking, that doesn't even allow thinking. Usually that's munching food. But one time I picked up a pair of 5 pound dumbbells and did some random moves with them. That had the same effect. I should do that more often. - 2/10/2013 11:45:45 AM
  • ALDEBARANIAN
    Playing drums is an excellent stress reliever. You get to hit things, make a loud noise, and you can play along with your favorite music if you want to. And there are people who get together to play in some areas. Either hand drums, or a kit. - 8/15/2012 6:22:52 PM
  • As great as it would be to leave my desk and take a 10 minute walk, or a vigorous workout, that's just not feasible. I eat emotionally at work when I'm too busy to think, and just grab something. If I had the time and luxury to go walking when I felt overwhelmed, I think I'd be quite skinny by now! - 8/15/2012 12:23:50 PM
  • Excellent article! Turning to food should be the last resort! - 8/15/2012 11:25:22 AM
  • "...your mind can only think one thought at a time..." ???

    My mind DOES think about more than one thing at a time. - 7/14/2012 6:43:01 PM
  • All the tips are absolutely excellent, and they all work. My personal favorite is the "smile when you don't feel like it". Try it. You will instantly feel better. It's weird. It's wonderful.

    Spark On! - 7/14/2012 11:52:44 AM
  • I just posted a blog entry:

    [http://www.spark
    people.com/my
    page_public_j
    ournal_summar
    y.asp?id=J%2EMARCHESANI]

    The entry sums up how I've been implementing many of these suggestions through my practice of yoga. The one significant difference is that yoga links not just body and mind, but body, mind, and spirit in supporting the development of healthier behaviors. - 7/14/2012 11:01:22 AM

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