Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? We all have off days, but it can be hard to shake off. Suddenly, everything seems more stressful than usual! Or maybe you’re in a funk, making it hard to focus on work or school. Fortunately, it’s possible to give your “feel good” hormones a boost.
You don’t even need to do anything crazy. Simple habits hold a lot of power, especially when you’re feeling low. It’s all about self-care and being kind to yourself. For a personal pick-me-up, try one of these natural mood-enhancing hacks.
1. Drink Water
The solution might be a simple glass of H2O. If you’re dehydrated, mood-regulating neurons in the hypothalamus get thrown off. The result is irritability, fatigue, and a downright crummy mood. It can even happen with mild dehydration, so drink up.1 Not a fan of plain H2O? Infuse it with herbs or fruit for tasty, healthy flavor.
2. Soak Up The Sun
Head outside if you’re feeling low. Sun exposure helps the skin make vitamin D, a nutrient that promotes production and activity of serotonin. This brain chemical is in charge of both mood and behavior, but low levels can leave you feeling down.2 Plus, nothing beats a breath of fresh air. It might be just what you need to recharge.
3. Snack On Dark Chocolate
Aside from being delicious, dark chocolate is an amazing mood booster. A 2009 study in Journal of Proteome Research found that it reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.3 It’ll even decrease dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, three hormones that regulate stress and mood.45
4. Eat Fatty Fish
Don’t let the name fool you. Fatty fish is excellent for the body and brain, especially when you’re feeling off. You’ll get a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid, a fat that supports the nervous system. It’ll increase availability of neurotransmitters and help “feel good” chemicals work efficiently.8 Fish like salmon and tuna also offer niacin, another nervous system helper. It explains why niacin deficiency is associated with low mood!9
5. Inhale Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is more powerful than you think. In a 2015 study, researchers found that healthy females can lower cortisol by inhaling bergamot essential oil.10 Petitgrain essential oil can also balance the autonomic nervous system, helping both emotional and mental states.11 To benefit from aromatherapy, use a diffuser or essential oil warmer. You can even take a whiff straight from the bottle.
Whether you’re anxious or sad, meditation will lend a hand.12 The practice is wonderful for enhancing mindfulness while calming the body and mind. Focused meditation is especially useful for controlling cortisol, so find an object and let yourself zone out.13 A few minutes is all you need. Find a quiet space, and turn off your phone. Count to 10 and breathe deeply.
7. Do Yoga
Stress less with yoga, a gentle way to squash a lousy mood. Even just one session has been proven to decrease levels of cortisol.14 Want to take it up a notch? Add meditation and aromatherapy to your yoga flow.
If you’re a beginner, don’t worry. Easy and light poses will still make you feel good as new. Why wait until you’re feeling blue? By adopting these habits into your wellness routine, you can ward off low moods before they start.
|↑1||Armstrong, Lawrence E., Matthew S. Ganio, Douglas J. Casa, Elaine C. Lee, Brendon P. McDermott, Jennifer F. Klau, Liliana Jimenez, Laurent Le Bellego, Emmanuel Chevillotte, and Harris R. Lieberman. “Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women.” The Journal of nutrition 142, no. 2 (2012): 382-388.|
|↑2||Seasonal Affective Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑3, ↑5||Martin, Francois-Pierre J., Serge Rezzi, Emma Peré-Trepat, Beate Kamlage, Sebastiano Collino, Edgar Leibold, Jürgen Kastler, Dietrich Rein, Laurent B. Fay, and Sunil Kochhar. “Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects.” Journal of proteome research 8, no. 12 (2009): 5568-5579.|
|↑4||Catecholamine blood test. MedlinePlus.|
|↑6||Mursu, Jaakko, Sari Voutilainen, Tarja Nurmi, Tiina H. Rissanen, Jyrki K. Virtanen, Jari Kaikkonen, Kristiina Nyyssönen, and Jukka T. Salonen. “Dark chocolate consumption increases HDL cholesterol concentration and chocolate fatty acids may inhibit lipid peroxidation in healthy humans.” Free Radical Biology and Medicine 37, no. 9 (2004): 1351-1359.|
|↑7||Golomb, Beatrice A., Sabrina Koperski, and Halbert L. White. “Association between more frequent chocolate consumption and lower body mass index.” Archives of internal medicine 172, no. 6 (2012): 519-521.|
|↑8||Essential Fatty Acids. Oregon State University.|
|↑9||Niacin. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑10||Watanabe, Eri, Kenny Kuchta, Mari Kimura, Hans Wilhelm Rauwald, Tsutomu Kamei, and Jiro Imanishi. “Effects of bergamot (Citrus bergamia (Risso) Wright & Arn.) essential oil aromatherapy on mood states, parasympathetic nervous system activity, and salivary cortisol levels in 41 healthy females.” Complementary Medicine Research 22, no. 1 (2015): 43-49.|
|↑11||Huang, Lin, and Lluis Capdevila. “Aromatherapy Improves Work Performance Through Balancing the Autonomic Nervous System.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 23, no. 3 (2017): 214-221.|
|↑12||Marchand, William R. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress.” Journal of Psychiatric Practice® 18, no. 4 (2012): 233-252.|
|↑13||Pascoe, Michaela C., David R. Thompson, Zoe M. Jenkins, and Chantal F. Ski. “Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of Psychiatric Research (2017).|
|↑14||Sullivan, Molly, Amanda Carberry, Elizabeth S. Evans, Eric E. Hall, and Svetlana Nepocatych. “The effects of power and stretch yoga on affect and salivary cortisol in women.” Journal of Health Psychology (2017): 1359105317694487.|