A healthy mood has a number of benefits – it can help you to have better relationships, achieve your career goals and even live longer. If your low mood lasts a long time and makes everything feel more difficult, you might have a mood disorder, such as depression.

What is low mood?

Everyone feels low or down from time to time. It does not always mean something is wrong. Feeling low is common after distressing events or major life changes, but sometimes periods of low mood happen for no obvious reason.

You may feel tired, lacking confidence, frustrated, angry and worried. But a low mood will often pass after a couple of days or weeks – and there are some easy things you can try and small changes you can make that will usually help improve your mood.

Feeling low may cause someone to stop doing the things they like, cut themselves off from loved ones or have difficulty sleeping. Other signs include feeling:

  • sad
  • worried, anxious or panicked
  • tired
  • less confident
  • frustrated, irritated or angry

If you recognise any of these symptoms it's important to remember help is available. We are here for you. You are not alone.

If you're having thoughts that life's not worth living, or you're self-harming or thinking about doing so, it's important to tell someone. You do not have to struggle alone – urgent help and support is available right now if you need it.

Having low self-esteem generally means having a long-standing low opinion of ourselves. While it's normal to have fluctuating levels of self-confidence and positive thoughts about ourselves, low self-esteem may be to blame if those thoughts are frequent or become the normal way we think about ourselves.

Low self-esteem doesn't only affect how we think about ourselves, but it can also negatively skew our general outlook on life and other people.

While low self-esteem is not a recognised mental health condition in itself, it is often a symptom of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and low mood.

Challenging your self critical thoughts

Try to find concrete and factual evidence that challenges your views of yourself. Often, we find that many of the negative thoughts we have about ourselves are not based on facts, but rather ideas that have manifested because of our low self-esteem.

See your inner critical voice as a bully and stand up to its overly harsh views towards yourself. It's likely that if you heard a loved one being spoken to in the same way that your inner voice 'speaks' to you, you would be furious and want to stand up to them and contradict their criticisms. 

Don't avoid things that worry you

Having low self-esteem can make us shy away from doing things that seem challenging, such as going out to meet friends or applying for a new job, because we think that we will somehow fail and we doubt our capabilities to cope with potential failure.

However, the more we avoid putting ourselves 'out there' the less chance we give ourselves to disprove our theory that things will end badly. This means that we end up 'stuck' with the idea that we are no good.

To increase self-esteem, we need to collect more examples of where we/situations have had a positive outcome to use them to challenge our negative ideas about ourselves. We can only do this by having more experiences.

Focus on the positives

Having low self-esteem can make us focus more on the negatives and ignore the times (or at least pay them much less attention) when we do something well that we should be proud of.

Next time something goes your way, pause and reflect on it and think of all the great things you did that made it happen. If it helps, write it down and use it against the self-critical inner voice when it rears its head.

Be assertive

Low self-esteem can make us disregard our own needs, because we don't feel worthy enough, and focus on putting other people first. This can mean that we might sometimes agree or go along with things that we don't want to do or agree with. 

It's understandable to want to please others and gain their approval, especially when we may not like ourselves so much. In the short-term, this can give us a boost, make us feel included and makes things seem easier overall.

However, in the longer-term, this can then result in self-criticism that we failed to stand up for ourselves and perpetuate feelings that we don't matter.

Although it can be difficult, try to learn to pause and think about what you truly want to do or what you think about something. It's unlikely that having a different opinion to someone else or saying 'no' to something you don't want to do will result in conflict or people not liking you (and if that's the case, they may not be worth knowing, anyway!).

Being assertive about who you are and what you want not only teaches you about yourself, but also teaches those around you about what you like and how you think, so that they begin to respect and consider your needs and desires. This then acts as a feedback loop to you that you matter!


Mindfulness has shown to be effective in helping people manage low mood and depression. At Keeping Well, we are running free online mindfulness offers.

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. 

Visit our physical health page for some tips to looking after yourself. 

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.

Get more tips to help you get to sleep.

What is 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.

With the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.

The symptoms of depression 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, and 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.

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.

If you recognise any of these symptoms it's important to remember help is available. We are here for you. You are not alone.

If you're having thoughts that life's not worth living, or you're self-harming or thinking about doing so, it's important to tell someone. You do not have to struggle alone – urgent help and support is available right now if you need it.

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. We can help signpost you to talking therapies services or access CBT. Get in touch with us! 

  • 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.

Reference: NHS Choices

Take a self assessment questionnaire

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.

Depression and low mood - an NHS self help guide

In this self-help guidebook provides 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) 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).

Happify (free)
The Happify app uses simple exercises and games help you get motivated, feel more positive, build self-confidence and cope better with stress.

MyCognitionPRO (free)
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 (free)
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.

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