Health & Wellness Articles

15 Natural Mood Lifters

Quick and Easy Ways to Lift Your Spirit

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One morning I awoke and decided it was the perfect day to mix myself a "happiness cocktail." After indulging in my happy hour, I felt more than ready to take on the day! Just in case you’re wondering why a wellness coach is reaching for a cocktail at the crack of dawn, let me explain.

While getting dressed, I thought about the many natural ways I could lift my spirits and then realized that I was already combining many of the approaches behavioral psychologists tell us are beneficial: I went outside for my morning exercise and listened to my favorite music on my iPod—all with my labradoodle, Ozzy right by side. Exercise, nature, music, my pet— these are the ingredients of my personal happiness cocktail. Any of these things alone help to lift my spirits when I’m feeling down, but together they can put me in a euphoric state. Talk about crisscross effects! No matter what may be weighing on my mind, an outdoor run with Ozzy always improves my mood and increases my optimism (not to mention all the other great things this activity does for my body).

As a professional wellness coach, it is vital for my mind to stay calm, open and curious when meeting with a client. A bad mood can certainly be detrimental to the session. And although I have a fairly sunny disposition by nature, even I feel down sometimes and need ways to improve my mood quickly and easily.

At times, we all need to lift our spirits in an instant. Luckily, some environmental and situational factors are easy to control. If you have a grumpy friend, you can simply walk away and call up an optimistic friend. If sad movies usually leave you feeling badly long after watching, you can stick to comedies or other uplifting genres. But if you are made to deal with a difficult individual who is a co-worker or family member, escaping may not be so simple. And you certainly can’t control the weather.

But we don’t need to be victims of circumstances—and we certainly do have control over our choices. If keeping your moods on an even keel and staying relaxed are things you would like to pursue, you’ll be happy to know it’s much easier than you probably think. Behavioral scientists are studying how we can improve our moods by taking control of our daily behaviors. The expression, "you are what you eat" has proven to be true—not just for disease management but our overall state of mind. If you find yourself irritable, fatigued, unfocused or even blue, it may be your diet. What you eat, how often you eat, and how much you eat are all factors that can dramatically impact your mood. So, if you can keep your blood sugar stable, your mood may follow.

We also know that exercise stimulates the chemicals in our brains that lead to feelings of tranquility and well-being. The release of endorphins are responsible for things such as the "runner’s high" or the incredible surge in creativity fitness participants often report. Even a leisurely stroll can increase the oxygen flow to your brain leading to a sense of calmness, greater energy and focus.

According to common sense, feelings are what cause our behavior. When we are sad, we cry. When we are angry, we rant and rave. However, a large and growing body of research shows that feelings often follow our behavioral choices. In other words, if we force ourselves to smile, we feel happier. And if we pretend to be excited, upbeat and energized, we begin to actually feel that way. This again proves that we are more in control of our moods than just the circumstances around us.

Here are a few more natural mood lifters you can try.
  1. Eat often and eat light. When you eat at regular intervals throughout the day you will prevent dips in your blood sugar that can negatively affect your mood. Plan your meals and snacks to prevent yourself from getting overly hungry, aiming for three to six eating episodes (total meals plus snacks) each day.
     
  2. Limit refined carbohydrates such as soda, candy, cookies, and white flour, which are concentrated sources of sugar. These foods may give you an immediate rush of energy, but they will cause you to crash and fatigue soon after.
     
  3. Include a small amount of lean protein at every meal and snack. Protein will leave you feeling alert and productive for hours.
     
  4. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fats. These foods have been shown to lift moods and can possibly alleviate depression. Omega-3 fats are found in oily fish like salmon or sardines, canola and olive oils, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts.
     
  5. Ramp up your B-12 and folate (folic acid). Scientists believe these nutrients help the body produce a neurotransmitter called serotonin—a known mood stabilizer. Shellfish, fortified cereal, oatmeal, wheat germ, and vegetables are some of the many foods rich in these nutrients.
     
  6. Get your daily dose of exercise. Whether it’s a formal session at the gym, a walk with the dog, engaging in a sport or just playing with your kids, getting up and moving will boost your mood and energy level.
     
  7. Stick to a regular sleep schedule—even on the weekends. Although most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, you might need slightly more or less to function optimally. The important thing is that you consistently get the sleep you need.
     
  8. Go outside and breathe in the fresh air. Take a break from your home or office to get some air and sunshine. Even stepping out into cold weather will wake you up and refresh your mind.
     
  9. Listen to music you love. When your mood is spiraling downhill and the little voice in your head is anything but positive, turn on your favorite tunes and sing along. Soon, sweet music will fill your mind instead of negative thoughts.
     
  10. Indulge your senses. Sights, smells, sounds, tastes and tactile sensations can quickly change your mood. Light a scented candle that evokes memories of the holidays, bake cookies to remind you of happy times at your grandmother’s, buy your favorite flowers and revel in the smell (and sight) of them, or soak in a scented bubble bath while listening to soothing music.
     
  11. Do something that brings you joy. Whether it’s going to a movie, reading a novel or having lunch with your best friend, take a well-deserved break from work or stressful situations and do something you love. The change in mood will lead to better concentration and efficiency once you return to the task at hand.
     
  12. Play or cuddle up with your furry friend. Just petting your dog or cat has been shown to lower blood pressure and evoke a sense of calmness, happiness and well-being. If you don’t own a pet, visit a pet store or volunteer at an animal shelter to get your furry fix.
     
  13. Volunteer. There is nothing like the act of giving to those in need to make you feel appreciative of the life you lead. Walk dogs at an animal shelter, feed the homeless at a food shelter, teach English at a literacy program, or assist in programs for special needs children. Do your research and you will surely find a group that can use your talents and skills. If time is an issue for you, contribute through donations and you could evoke the same feelings of happiness.
     
  14. Fake it till you make it. Researchers have found that the simple act of smiling seems to activate happiness centers in the brain. Keep smiling and in time, your mood will match your facial expression.
     
  15. Create a list of natural mood enhancers that will work for you. Feeling angry? Write in your journal. Stressed? Try a yoga class. If you're exhausted, take a 20-minute nap. And if you’re feeling down, rent a funny movie. Remember, you have a choice and the ability to change your mood. With some trial and error, you will figure out the best strategies that work for you.
It’s quite natural for all of us to wake up on the wrong side of the bed now and again. If your self-care skills are optimal and you try some tips listed above, your pleasant disposition will shine through. However, if you still find yourself moody, angry, excessively tired or unhappy for an extended period of time, talk with your doctor. He or she will want to rule out any medical or nutritional causes before considering treatment for depression.

And if you would like, feel free to try my happiness cocktail. It just may work for you as well!

The nutrition information presented in this article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople's head dietitian, Becky Hand, M.S., Licensed and Registered Dietitian.

Sources:
Seasonal Affective Disorder, from Science Daily
Sleep and Mood, from Get Sleep: A resource from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Bauer, Joy. Food Cures: Treat Common Health Concerns, Look Younger, and Live Longer. 2007. New York: Rodale, Inc.
Laird, James D. 2007. Feelings: The Perception of Self. New York: Oxford University Press
Somer, Elizabeth. 1999. Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well & Feeling Your Best, 2nd Edition. New York: Henry Holt & Comp. LLC

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Member Comments

  • This was a great article. Sometimes I need to be reminded of the little things in life that make me happy.
  • I like this. In many ways, we each make our own happiness.
  • This is a great list ! I would like to add just one more thing that would enhance any mood. Since we are all magnesium deficient wether we know it not..like it or not... A 100% absorbable magnesium in liquid form that goes straight into your cell without causing the laxative effect. I discovered Dr Carolyn Dean after reading her book the magnesium miracle. This is one of many of her articles on how magnesium is so amazing...
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  • Great article! Dogs do make wonderful therapists & exercise partners. Mine get me off the couch & out the door whether I'm in the mood or not!
  • What a very helpful and informative article. Thank you!
  • LCERTUCHE
    Very interesting. Music definitely can change your mood. The song Tears in Heaven always leaves me feeling depressed but Aretha Franklin leaves me thinking I can take on the world.
  • Good article! An article in the newspaper stated that there is a medication prescribed for depression that can bring about Alzheimers! Basically for every action there is a reaction, so it's a good idea to really become a detective about any medication (LONG TERM or SHORT) that you may be taking. I love these natural ways.
  • OLEJA99
  • Nice article and I fully agree with the ideas, however, like others, when I get down, the motivation to get up and do those things is what is causing the problem. It's not clinical depression, but just lifestyle issues, and overcoming them can seem overwhelming and exhausting. Once I get going I'm ok, but sometimes I need to address a deeper issue to get out of my funk...
  • ETHELMERZ
    Good Common Sense, but if someone really struggles, talk to a doctor about depression, please.
  • I look for all types of articles to help with my low mood swings since being diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2 and gaining 60lbs. I have stopped my walking program due to serious health problems and as you can see with the enormous weight gain, its been like a domino effect on me and now my family. I loved being social, going outside and being active and now I am home everyday and not getting out but, watching my diet and going to dr. appts. I know I MUST CHANGE, its not always my choice to stay home, I just sometime's can't get myself out the door. I am a work in progress. Thank you for this article.
  • These are great suggestions for improving moods temporarily. I found more permanent relief from depressing moods through the Solutions method of learning some basic skills to rewire the brain developed by Laurel Mellon, author of The Pathway. Highly recommend her Solutions training!
  • Great article. I agree with them all and do them myself.

About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen founded EllenG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a certified professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at http://www.ellengcoaching.com/. Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at www.endtheweightlossbattle.com.

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