Emotions are funny things, aren’t they?
They can pop up at the most inopportune of moments and some of the stronger ones can actually shape the outcome of your day.
If you’re angry for instance, you’ll find that the events you encounter seem to “feed” that anger, giving you one reason after another to escalate your explosive mood. Ditto for feeling sad, frustrated, and just plain gloomy. It stands to reason then, that you’d want to limit those negative emotions and instead, adopt a happy mood to attract some of the “good stuff” into your life.
But how do you change your mood? How do you make yourself feel better when you’re already feeling bad?
The good news is, it’s easier than you might think. Contrary to popular belief, your mood is more than just a mysterious emotion; it’s actually the result of a combination of physical and psychological reactions to a given event.
When you’re happy for example, it’s because your body has released some powerful chemicals that create the sensation of happiness. Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin flood various receptors in the body, making you feel calm, comforted and yes, optimistic about your future.
And while getting good news is certainly one way to induce the production of these chemicals, you don’t have to wait on fate to put you in a good mood – you can trigger these chemicals whenever you want… and here’s how you do it:
Yes, exercise and we’ll count some of the many, many ways here. For starters, exercise triggers the release of both endorphins and serotonin, as well as norepinephrine, all of which can elevate your mood instantly. It’s also a fantastic way to work through (or at least release) stress, so when you’re feeling like you’ve had it “up to here,” a good workout can be a solid outlet to let off some steam.
And, if that weren’t enough, exercise increases your energy levels, strengthens your muscles and bones, and promotes both blood flow and the production of antioxidants, meaning you’ll feel stronger and healthier or, more to the point, powerful. And when you feel great physically, it’s much easier to feel great emotionally too.
The latest buzzword is re-wilding, and it refers to the concept of reconnecting with nature at a deep and spiritual level. And no doubt about it, re-wilding will do wonders for your mood. Maybe it’s the peaceful surroundings, maybe it’s the beauty of your environment. Or maybe it’s just getting unplugged and out of your usual routine.
But you don’t have to go for a full re-wilding to reap the benefits. Simply getting some sunshine triggers the release of serotonin, getting you closer to that mellow, life is good mentality.
When we’re kids, playing comes naturally but as we grow up, we tend to forget about this essential ingredient to happiness. And that’s a shame… because taking time to have fun – to just play – can work wonders on a bad mood.
Whether it’s tossing around a football or working a jigsaw puzzle with family or friends, the social interaction that typically comes with leisure activities is crucial to your well-being. And if, by chance, you don’t have anyone to play with, not to worry… there are many great hobbies you can do on your own. If you are unsure where to start, community colleges usually have all sorts of recreational and hobby classes in the evenings, open to anyone (and no you don’t have to be a student). It’s cheap, it’s creative, it’s social, and it will soothe your grumpy soul.
This is “fake-it-until-you-make-it” in its simplest form and yes, it really works. The mere act of smiling triggers a dopamine release in the brain and, according to recent research, smiling also appears to have an effect on heart rate and stress levels.
So, even though you might not be happy at the moment, forcing a genuine smile can trick your brain into thinking you are.
There’s a reason we instinctively reach out to hug the people we love. Hugging someone – even a pet – releases oxytocin, making you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And because the oxytocin hormone also encourages the release of dopamine and serotonin, hugging can help ease anxiety, meaning that you can literally hug your way into feeling better.
Good Mood Food
You’ve heard the saying – you are what you eat – so, it makes sense that if your mood is suffering, a change in diet could offer some relief.
Oily, fatty fish – like salmon, sardines, and tuna – provide you with essential Omega-3’s and that has a direct effect on both serotonin and dopamine levels. Dark chocolate reduces cortisol, a hormone related to stress, fruits and vegetables protect your body with antioxidants, and both carbs and the spice, saffron trigger the release of serotonin.
If you would like to learn more, read our article on Good Mood Food: The 7 Best Mood Boosting Foods.
So, while eating an apple won’t magically make all of your problems go away, sticking with a healthy, whole-foods diet can make it easier to tackle those challenges without losing your cool.
Mood Boosting Supplements
And finally, since we’re talking about the nutrients your body needs, let’s go one step further and talk about mood enhancing supplements. The right supplements can enhance your sense of well-being and make it easier to stay objective about the challenges you might be facing.
Ginko biloba for example is being studied for a variety of potential benefits, including everything from reducing anxiety to inducing mood-boosting chemicals.
B vitamins help your body convert amino acids into serotonin and Folate (B9) actually stimulates the serotonin receptors in the brain. Vitamin D may produce similar results to spending time in the sun and in fact, is often used to ease occasional depressed moods.
Other beneficial supplements include Vitamin C, Magnesium, Ginseng, St. John’s Wort, Magnolia Bark, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, L-Tyrosine, and many others. To learn more about mood boosting supplements, read our list of 10 scientifically supported mood enhancing supplements. Just remember to check with your doctor before mixing supplements with prescription medications and if the idea of taking a handful supplements every day sounds overwhelming, consider a mood-boosting “multi-supplement” option instead.
Just remember that your occasional bad moods are temporary, regardless of the event that caused it. Life is a series of up-and-down moments, so rest assured, you will feel better. It’s just a matter of time.