While a good diet, plenty of sleep and regular exercise improve health and regulate moods, sometimes we need a little extra boost to keep us going. But that shouldn't always mean having a snack, especially since eating our feelings can quickly show up on the scale. There are plenty of ways to give ourselves a treat without piling on the calories.
Coffee is definitely one. A sugar-free cup is just the right amount of caffeine to perk things up.
You could also try using more saffron in your recipes. Its bright orange color is a mood-boost for the eyes and the aroma elevates your cooking. The spice also contains elements that act a little like an antidepressant, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health, and with no side effects.
Tea is not only a relaxing treat, but a cup of caffeinated black, green or oolong tea can clear the mind and boost alertness, according to results of a study in the American Journal of Nutrition. It's not just the caffeine doing the work, though. Researchers believe it may have something to do with an amino acid, theanine, that works with the caffeine for these positive effects.
You can also sniff lavender to feel good. In fact, using lavender oils or setting up dried lavender sprigs around your house can instantly lift your mood. Lavender lowers anxiety and aids in the calming process. One British study found that it helped dental patients face procedures with less tension.
Coconut and coconut oil are calorie dense, but a little goes a long way. The effects are almost instant. Even just smelling the fruit eases the brain's fight-or-flight response, a Columbia University study found.
We tend to associate TV-watching with lethargy, but watching a couple of shows when you need a boost often does the trick—but only if you choose to watch (not because there's nothing else to do).
Getting out in the sun, even for just a few minutes, is a quick, calorie-free mood-booster. Natural light prompts your body to produce more vitamin D and can leave you feeling refreshed, centered and just a little bit better—without resorting to snacks.
Our bodies are more than willing to let us know when we haven't had enough H2O. We feel thirsty, hungry and blah. It's an easy fix to drink a cold glass of water when you need a little extra boost. No caffeine necessary!
Regular workouts are a great way to keep up our moods, but even if you stick to a tight regimen, a short burst of exercise in addition to the usual will get endorphins to your brain and give you the little extra something you need.
Nothing clears negative emotions like chatting with a friend. A quick phone call, text or spontaneous coffee date will turn around your darker days in an instant.
Peppermint is a natural way to bring clarity and focus. A little peppermint oil—or deep breaths of fresh leaves—will improve concentration and alertness. A Wheeling Jesuit University study found that infusing peppermint into rugby players mouth guards even gave them a competitive advantage.
If you're really in a slump, don't try to shop your way out of it. Instead, plan a trip. In fact, you don't even have to take the trip if you just want the mood boost. A 2010 study found that planning or anticipating a trip makes you even happier in most cases than actually taking it.
Singing makes us feel fantastic, even if we're not very good at it. If you need a quick pick-me-up, head to a private area and dust off those pipes. Your car is a great place to belt out favorite tunes. The shower is, too (and the acoustics make you sound amazing).
You can also scroll through old pictures if you need a little happiness. Or, page through baby, wedding or dusty albums with yellowing pictures from your childhood. Researchers from the The Open Psychology found looking at personal photos boosted subjects' moods significantly more than eating chocolate or having a stiff drink, watching television and listening to music.
Rip open those curtains! Dark rooms are depressing and natural sunlight is the antidote. If your home windows face in a naturally low-light position, turn on lamps and get the room as bright as you can. Even for a few minutes, you can turn your mood around with light.
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