Even though most Americans are self-professed optimists, we could all use a little mood boost now and then. I know there are days that I’m not feeling so optimistic and feel down and out.. Actually if you saw me a year ago, I was a hot mess.. But how can we turn our our feelings of depressed moods, negativity, and lack of confidence??
Researchers in the field of positive psychology have been studying just this for such a long time. As you might have suspected, it’s our MIND that will get us every time! One of the biggest mistakes we make to that affect our moods and feelings of self doubt and our joy is dwelling on the negative and over-thinking things. Focusing on the positive can help us attain happiness over the long term, but in the interim, here is a quick fix for when you’re in a funk: distraction, distraction, distraction! If you replace your negative thoughts with positive experiences, you’ll be less likely to brood later. Simple lifestyle choices can help us recharge and beat those occasional blues. Here’s how to make over your mood — no prescription required!
When you’re feeling down, don’t give in to the urge to veg at home alone. This was something I did all the time when I felt sad, had no confidence, or didn’t like myself, on the outside and in.. Instead, perk yourself up by seeking out the company of friends. A study in the journal Hormones and Behavior shows that, in women, feeling emotionally close to a person increases levels of the hormone progesterone, which helps boost happiness and reduces anxiety and stress. But not to worry, men — another study in the American Sociological Review shows you get just as many mood-boosting benefits as women from hanging out with your buds. So get off the couch and go be social already!
We’ve all witnessed the rejuvenating effects of a sunny day. According to Marie-Annette Brown, PhD, RN, author of When Your Body Gets the Blues, sunlight can affect our mood. Sunscreen shields your skin from these happy UV rays — however, you should still apply SPF if you’re going to be outdoors for more than 10 minutes. Light that enters our eyes has a more immediate impact, increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Dr. Brown recommends going for a 20-minute walk during the brightest part of the day at least five times a week. If you can’t get outdoors, sitting by a sunny window can help. Or consider using a light therapy device for 30 minutes each morning. Look for a 5,000 lux blue LED lamp or a 10,000 lux white fluorescent light with a wavelength of approximately 460 nanometers.
Find Your Funny Bone
Having one of those days where everything goes wrong? Humor yourself by hanging out with a wisecracking pal or renting your favorite comedy. Laughter, or even anticipating a laugh (by, say, waiting for a punch line), may make you not only happier but healthier as well. Researchers at Loma Linda University Medical Center found that joyous laughter can increase endorphins (those feel-good chemicals responsible for the runner’s high), reduce stress hormone levels and elevate your immune system.
Too much stress can do a number on our emotions. If you’re feeling the effects of an overbearing boss, take a hike — literally. Studies have shown that spending time in the great outdoors may ratchet down stress levels. Hiking and camping not your thing? You don’t have to be a tree hugger to get in touch with your wild side. “Connecting with nature by going out and just being in the trees can boost your mood,” says Thomas Morledge, MD, of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Take a stroll through the woods, sit by a stream or have a picnic in a park Or just get dirty in your backyard by doing some gardening or yard work.
Hug It Out
When you’re in conflict with your spouse or partner, you can bet your level of stress hormones is high. Taking time to unwind and connect with your partner may help keep bickering at bay. According to Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of The Female Brain, physical contact with your significant other can increase levels of the so-called love hormone, oxytocin, which may help keep stress levels in check. It also may help you communicate better with your partner and increase feelings of trust, taking the edge off sensitive discussions. “Holding hands or getting a 20-second hug from someone you love will release oxytocin and relax you,” Dr. Brizendine says.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
I can’t stress enough that even 10 minutes worth of exercise can help rid your body of negative feelingsand help reduce stress. If you have ever gone for a walk or run after a stressful day, chances are you felt better afterward. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong! Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect. I know first hand how just a little exercise can go a long way. Before I started on my fitness and health journey, I was depressed, felt lost and just wanted to hide.. From everyone.. But once I started exercising, I saw physical and, better yet, mental changes.. I felt happy to complete even a 10 minute exercise program. I gained happiness and confidence. It didn’t happen overnight but helped me to to continue my program and to see that I didn’t have to continue to suffer. I lost weight and began eating healthier too. That’s when I knew that exercise and healthy living was my cure. It could be that way for you too.. You just have to make it happen..
But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term such as losing a few pounds and helping reduce stress. Research shows that exercise can also help alleviate long-term depression. Some of the evidence for that comes from broad, population-based correlation studies. “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University.
Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise. Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.
So if your in a funk, try one of the above suggesstions to help boost your mood.. If you would like more information on nutrition and an exercise program that could not only help your mood, but help you lose a few pounds, strengthen your body, gain confidence and increase your feelings of well-being, please feel free to contact me. Also, please follow my blog for more health and fitness information and to receive my monthly newsletter!!
I would love to hear from you so please comment or feel free share some other mood boosting tips that work for you!