The clock reads 3pm, but it feels like you've been sitting at your desk for 24 hours. Your eyes are dry, your temples are pulsating, and you can't shake the sensation that your head feels a couple of sizes too small. While you're trying not to snap at that annoying colleague, work is piling up, but you can barely muster the energy to do anything. Welcome to the midafternoon mood slump, when all you want to do is crawl under your desk and disappear. Step away from Facebook and put down that coffee – we've compiled some far better ways to kill that bad mood faster than you can say "blah".
Commit a random act of kindness
Surprise someone with a cup of coffee, compliment a stressed-out colleague, or even make a donation to a charity online. According to Dr Anthony M Grant, author of 8 Steps To Happiness (Victory Books, $14.99), “Random acts of kindness have been scientifically shown to increase personal happiness and well-being.” In 2008, researchers from the University of California and Harvard Medical School found that cooperative behaviour is contagious. So by doing a good deed, you’re spreading your "helper's high" around the office as well.
Watch a funny YouTube clip
That age-old adage is true – laughter really is the best medicine. Try searching music video parodies or past episodes of The Chaser and watch them with headphones firmly plugged in. "Creating and fostering appropriate positive emotions leads to increased energy and motivation," says Dr Timothy Sharp of The Happiness Institute, and author of 100 Ways To Happiness: A Guide For Busy People (Penguin, $24.95). A good belly laugh is actually aerobic, too, meaning that the deep-breathing aspect helps increase oxygen production and encourages a cleansing effect in the body. In fact, researchers at Stanford University* found one minute of laughter to be as aerobically effective as 10 minutes on a rowing machine.
Use your voice
Musician Heather Frahn says your vocal cords can provide a tune-up for your energy levels in an exercise known as "vocal toning". She recommends finding a quiet place, breathing in deeply, then slowly and softly releasing your voice in one single sound (for example, an "ah" or "eee"), then repeating. According to Marvin Sams, a US academic who specialises in brain training, this practice stimulates the inner ear, which supercharges the cerebellum, balancing out the left and right hemispheres of the brain. A blasé mood can be the result of the right side of the brain (which is responsible for negative thoughts) being too active.
Head to the fridge
Not the vending machine or biscuit tin! "Foods high in white flour [biscuits, cakes, muffins] will give you an instant energy hit, but with a nasty drop," warns dietitian and nutritionist Susie Burrell. "Energy is powerfully linked to blood glucose control, and this is best monitored with regular meals and low-GI snacks that are also high in protein." Trail mix, yoghurt, cottage cheese on mixed-grain crackers and dark chocolate tick all the right boxes for a long-lasting energy boost.
Reach for a herbal remedy
Spritz on a botanical face mist, brew a cup of blended tea, or add some essential oils to a burner and deeply breathe in the aromas. Sam Sample, founder of holistic brand Be Genki, says the following ingredients are a must: "Lemon, because it's reputed to have properties that lift the spirits and overcome mental fatigue; peppermint, as it's renowned for enhancing concentration; eucalyptus, because it can help restore vitality; and rosemary, as it's associated with clearing thoughts and promoting energy circulation."
Peel yourself off that office chair and stand up, for starters. "Blood circulation is the aim of a quick mood-boosting session," explains Kirsty Welsh, founder of Live And Sprint Athletic Training & Lifestyle Coaching. "It's important to get your legs moving – your quads, hamstrings and glutes are such large muscles, and therefore promote far more neural activation and blood circulation, helping you to feel mentally more alert." She recommends a quick workout of 10 squats, 10 alternate lunges, 10 push-ups against your desk, a quick run up the fire stairs (or a jog on the spot) finished off with a good back stretch to lengthen out a desk-bound spine.