Sometimes we just feel a little … down. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe you’ve just had a bad day. You may not feel like it’s enough to talk to a doctor about, or you don’t want to risk taking supplements that might affect your prescriptions or your body chemistry. But there are many natural ways to encourage your brain to produce feel-good chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Here are 10 quick, safe, and natural ways to lift your spirits and get yourself back in a good mood.
Being physically active, like taking a walk or stretching, is great for your mood. Exercise increases the brain’s production of a certain chemical, BDNF, that is known to alleviate depression and anxiety.
The benefits of exercise on your serotonin levels are even more pronounced when you’re out in nature. Take a walk in the park, in the forest, or near a lake, river, or ocean to lift your mood.
Being outdoors in sunlight can help your mood because light triggers the brain to produce serotonin. If weather or illness is keeping you indoors, try to increase light indoors by leaving the curtains or blinds open during the day and making sure trees and hedges aren’t blocking light from coming in.
Listening to music is a known mood-booster. In one study, researchers discovered that music reduced stress-hormone levels in participants by up to 41%. Scientists say that it’s the music itself, not the lyrics, that help our mood – so choose something upbeat with a cheerful melody.
We’re not just talking about complicated essential oils here; simple, comforting, nostalgic smells can boost your mood. Find something that works for you – freshly baked bread, peppermint, sunscreen (really!) – anything that triggers happy memories will work.
Research has found that people who donate some of their time to volunteer activities are happier with their lives and have a stronger feeling of wellbeing. Even if you don’t regularly volunteer, and even informally helping out – driving a friend to the doctor or providing a meal for someone who’s homebound – can make you (and them!) feel good.
Slowing down, removing distractions, and concentrating on your breathing can relieve stress and anxiety. Even if you’ve never tried it before, just 5 or 10 minutes of meditation can help boost your mood.
A Healthy Meal
Whole grains, vegetables like squash and pumpkin, and fish and other seafood can lift your spirits. In fact, three ounces of fish will boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels within 30 minutes.
Good news! It’s not just whole grains and fish that are good for your mood. Chocolate, when eaten in moderation, is also a proven mood booster. Scientists say that chocolate may increase the brain’s production of serotonin. Dark chocolate also contains antioxidants and small amounts of phenylethylamine, a mood-regulating chemical that also naturally occurs in the brain.
Another important nutrient that keeps our moods from dipping is calcium. You may already be supplementing your diet with calcium, but along with calcium’s bone-strengthening benefits comes its mood-stabilizing abilities. Studies have shown that women who take 1200 milligrams of calcium per day can see up to a 45% reduction of mood swings, tension, and anxiety.
One last tip: always make sure you’re getting enough water and sleep. Dehydration and exhaustion – even if you don’t feel thirsty or tired – can affect your mood.