Since humans discovered the role of the sensory neuron we have been in search of order and true knowledge of the world we live in. Scientists continually look at our world, attempting to find our place within it.
Science and research offer us lots of snippets of information that when followed can provide us enormous benefits. It tells us that breastfed babies are more resistant to infections of the respiratory system and digestive tract during early childhood. It tells us that smoking causes cancer, that frequent sauna use may lower risk of dementia, and that healthy eating as a child boosts one’s reading skills.
Research gives us a lot of ‘take away’ information we can use to better our physical and mental health, so pay attention! Did you know, for example, that it’s possible to boost your mood significantly with these 15 simple mood-boosting activities?
1. Seek out laughter
It is often claimed that laughter is life’s best medicine, with research telling us that the more we laugh, the better our perspective. Children laugh up to 300 times a day, but sadly, adults average just five times each day, meaning the takeaway should be to seek out laughter every day. Laughter is ‘inner jogging’ that’s good for the soul and can: lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, boost immune function, trigger the release of feel good endorphins, and create a general sense of wellbeing.
2. Savour some chocolate
Chocolate lovers will be delighted to know that chocolate can provide protection against heart attacks and stroke, as well as reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and promote pleasure-offering hormones. Importantly, however, the chocolate should be dark and only eaten two or three times a week, one square at a time. For the best results look for chocolate with high levels of polyphenols.
3. Smell the lavender
Certain aromas are thought to lift your mood by influencing the production of endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel good’ chemicals. The scent of vanilla, for example, is thought to ease anxiety, which is often associated with depression. Lavender too is an excellent mood-booster, with a few dabs of lavender oil on the wrist thought to improve mood and insomnia. Next time you’re out and about, be sure to stop and smell the flowers.
4. Take an exercise class
Group exercise has distinct advantages, one of which is to improve your endorphin levels. Research tells us that those who work out in groups have an increased rush of feel-good hormones when compared to those who work out solitary. The takeaway here then is to enrol in a dance class, fitness class, or join a walking group.
5. Enjoy the great outdoors
Research continually tells us that environments can increase or reduce stress levels, which in turn affects our mood. Your temporary state relies heavily on what you are seeing, hearing and experiencing, and the more pleasing an environment, the calmer and more relaxed you’ll feel. Science tells us that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on mood, so imagine what enjoying nature outdoors can do!
6. Have sex
Sex is one of nature’s greatest relaxants and is an enjoyable, de-stressing activity that burns calories too. Research shows that being touched reduces stress and that a release of hormones occurs as a result of sexual activity. The hormones at play are dopamine and oxytocin, thought to bring pleasure while promoting bonding and affection.
7. Listen to music
New research shows that even sad music can lift your mood, while other studies suggest music can boost your overall happiness and reduce anxiety. Music is an integral part of the human experience and music therapy is often used to tap into the processes of comfort, relief and enjoyment. For the best effects, however, listen to upbeat music that makes you smile.
8. Eat something spicy
When you eat enough capsaicin (found in many spicy foods), your body starts producing endorphins to block the pain of heat. The body can start to tingle, the hands and arms go numb, and the feeling of lightheadedness can lead to a euphoric state. Research also tells us that spicy food can help you live longer.
9. Spring clean
Being surrounded by clutter can bring you down and lead to feelings of ‘failure’. Clutter is a reminder that you’re pushed for time or ‘lazy’, both negative feelings that can lead to sadness. Research tells us that even stacking a few things into neat piles can offer a mood boost.
10. Offer a hug
When you stimulate the pressure receptors in the skin, you lower stress hormones, which has a positive effect on your mood. In a 2015 study by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that hugging is a marker of intimacy, and can help generate feelings that others are there to help in the face of adversity.
The process of meditation stimulates the release of endorphins, which turns off stress hormones and lowers cortisol levels associated with the fight or flight stress response. Meditation triggers the hypothalamus, promoting relaxation, self-healing and overall wellbeing. Because it encourages the quieting of the brain’s default mode network (DMN), it lowers mind wandering, commonly associated with negative thoughts.
12. Keep moving
While group fitness trumps in terms of feel good hormones, any exercise or attempt to keep moving will increase levels of endorphins and serotonin. Aim to walk for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week and you’ll be amazed by how much happier you could feel.
13. Catch up with friends
According to researchers at the University of Illinois, the happiest 10% of people prioritise relationships with friends and family. If you can’t get out to meet them, pick up the phone and give a friend a call.
14. Do a good deed
Many people find volunteering work reduces stress, and studies show that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression.
15. Enjoy a Mediterranean diet
Those who eat Mediterranean diets have a 30% reduced risk of depression, according to the journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Fish is high in happiness-boosting omega-3s, while wholegrain bread, starchy veg, beans and pulses increase the production of feel good serotonin.
Loads of mood-boosting summer activities
Being happier is easy this summer, because science tells us that we are in control of our emotions. Follow these tips and keep smiling all summer long.