5 science-backed mood boosters you can try right now
Life isn’t always easy. Luckily, these mood-improving techniques are – and can be used daily to help you feel like yourself again
Break-up? Bad day at work? Just not quite feeling one hundred per cent? We all suffer from low moods from time to time, often without rhyme or reason – and often without having a clue what will help make us feel better.
Luckily, help is at the hand in the form of a few easily adaptable daily actions. Using a little health know-how – and a lot of peer-reviewed, scientifically-studied evidence – we’ve gathered together a number of small things you can do right now to give your brain the little mood boost it may well need.
- Phone a friend
You really can get by with a little help from your friends. According to a study in Developmental Psychology, the presence of a best friend during stressful times actively buffered the production of stress hormone cortisol – and further research at the University of Michigan found that speaking to friends increases your mental function and problem-solving ability.
Just make sure you favour your actual friends over your friends list. While spending time socialising has been shown to actively improve your mood, spending time on social media may do the exact opposite. Researchers in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica found that the use of social media predicted low mood in those studied.
Bite-sized advice: Switch off from social media and speak to friends on the phone or in-person to feel an immediate mood boost.
- Have a laugh
They say that laughter is the best medicine. That applies to your mood, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, the very act of laughter is enough to boost your oxygen intake, stimulate endorphins in your brain, relax your muscles and cool down your stress response – all of which contribute to improving your mood.
And while this point might come hand-in-hand with seeing friends, if you don’t feel like talking then switching on your favourite sit-com should be enough to raise your mood. According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, rewatching your favourite comfort shows can give your brain a marked happiness boost.
Bite-sized advice: If you’re feeling low, laughter can relieve some tension – put on your favourite sit-com, rom-com, or stand-up comedian to feel the benefits.
- Head outside
Nature can have a huge effect on your mood. Research has shown that even a forest view can improve office workers’ job satisfaction and reduce their stress levels, while an analysis of 10 scientific studies in the Journal of Affective Disorders came to the conclusion that ‘green’ environments improve both self-esteem and mood.
A walk around the block probably won’t cut it, though. If you’re an urbanite, booking a train to the great outdoors might be your best bet when it comes to feeling better. Researchers from the University of Groningen noted that ‘awesome nature’ – ‘such as spectacular mountain scenes or impressive waterfalls’ – triggered much more mood improvement than more ‘mundane’ settings studied.
Bite-sized advice: If you want to feel some real mood improvement, book a train to your nearest natural beauty spot. Mountains and waterfalls optional.
- Find your zen
Whatever your thoughts on the ‘mindfulness’ trend, there’s scientific proof that meditation can help you conquer your mental health. A meta-analysis in JAMA Internal Medicine found that meditation can have an alleviating effect on depression, anxiety, and even physical pain.
And if you want to exercise your body as well as your mind, there’s further proof that yoga has real mood-boosting capabilities. An article in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine posits that this is because yoga increases your brain’s levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical that helps to regulate nerve activity – and which is lessened in people with mood and anxiety disorders.
Bite-sized advice: Plenty of apps offer guided meditations, yoga routines and breathing techniques to use when feeling stressed-out or run-down.
- Dance like no-one’s watching
If you’re feeling down, crank up the volume to 11. Music has long been used as a therapy, but a study in the World Journal of Psychology proved just how effective it can be at boosting mood and self-esteem, treating depression and anxiety, and even improving quality of life.
Likewise, researchers at the aptly-named Journal of Positive Psychology found that those who listened to ‘positive’ music felt genuinely happier as a result. As for what to do while you’re listening? If you believe the brains at Harvard Medical School, dancing is a one-way ticket to feeling good – it reduces stress and increases levels of feel-good hormone serotonin.
Bite-sized advice: If you feel yourself sinking into a slump, put on your favourite upbeat playlist and bust a move.
Your general health can have a huge effect on your mood, too. Give yours a jump-start by starting your free personalised quiz to get tailored vitamin recommendations, just for you.
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