We all have days when it seems there’s an invisible black cloud hovering overhead. Here’s how to banish that bad mood and put a smile back on your face
From exercising for twenties minutes a day to snacking on chocolate and having a clear out, we reveal 15 things that can help you beat the blues.
Walk Barefoot On The Grass
The earth has a slightly negative charge so, when barefoot, we receive a surge of electrons from the ground (called the grounding effect). And being in nature can help lift your mood, according to a 2010 Japanese study.
Work up a sweat
‘Exercising for 20 minutes a day can make you feel better by stimulating the release of mood-lifting endorphins,’ says Emer O’Neill, Chief Executive of the Depression Alliance.
And get outside – fresh air and vitamin D produced in the body by exposure to sunlight will also help. In some studies, physical activity was found to be as effective as medication.
Scoff some chocs
Findings published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience suggest that chocolate not only boosts mood but can even help reduce the symptoms of depression.
That’s because chocolate increases levels of several brain chemicals, including tryptophan – a chemical converted to serotonin in the brain to lift mood and increase euphoria – and theobromine, a stimulant that peps you up.
‘The same physiological effects happen when you fall in love, which is why dark chocolate is often claimed to be an aphrodisiac!’ says Laila Lewis, nutritional therapist at Nourishing By Nature (nourishingbynature.co.uk).
‘During sex, the body releases happy chemicals known as endorphins, which improve your mood, slash stress levels and boost self-esteem,’ explains Julia Cole, co-author of How To Have Great Sex for The Rest Of Your Life (£9.99, Piatkus).
And research by the American research scientist Dr Debby Herbenick found that those who made love first thing in the morning were upbeat for the rest of the day.
Let off some steam
Sometimes you just have to find a release for that pent-up tension – particularly if you feel ready to blow.
Safe outlets include vigorous exercise (sprint to the postbox or the nearest tree and back again as fast as you can), punch a pillow, or shout loudly into the washing machine (so you don’t scare the neighbours!).
Bake a cake
Baking soothes the soul. John Whaite, who won The Great British Bake Off in 2012 and author of John Whaite: Bakes (£20, Headline), subtitled the book Recipes For Every Day And Every Mood, with a chapter dedicated to lifting the spirits.
Whaite has experience of depression and describes baking as his escape. Novelist Marian Keyes has also used baking to help her deal with depression.
And, when you get to enjoy your creations, savour every mouthful. ‘Pleasure is a signal that your body has what it needs,’ says Stefan Klein, author of The Science Of Happiness (£12.99, Scribe).
Turn up the volume
Psychologists at McGill University in Canada have found that the neurochemical benefits of music can boost the body’s immune system, reduce anxiety, and help regulate mood.
A favourite track that you associate with a happy time in your life will help draw you out of your bad mood. And singing along to it will boost the benefits, blocking internal negative self-talk which can prolong negative moods.
Clear out your clutter
Clearing cupboards clears your mind.
And if you pass your unwanted clothes and goods on to charity, you have the added bonus of the ‘helper’s high’ – a release of feel-good endorphins triggered by altruism.
Get lost in a book
Particularly the right book. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (£7.99, Penguin) is one of many included in the Reading Well Mood-boosting Books scheme – a promotion of uplifting titles including novels, poetry and non-fiction.
The books are all recommended by readers and reading groups. They are also part of a programme called Books on Prescription. Find out more at reading-well.org.uk
Brush it off
If work colleagues are stressing you out or you’re having murderous thoughts about loved ones, just wipe away their negative energy. ‘Picture it as a physical substance, like a red powder that’s coating you.
Then, using vigorous sweeping motions, dust it off every part of your body,’ says Neil Shah, of the Stress Management Society. ‘It sounds daft, but our subconscious mind is very literal so this sends a powerful message to it. It’s like taking a mental shower.’
Phone a Friend
Most people have friends they haven’t contacted for a while – so give one a call or put pen to paper. ‘Don’t wait and talk yourself out of it – just do it,’ says Laura L Smith, co-author of Depression For Dummies (£14.99, John Wiley & Sons).
Research shows that social connections can help with all kinds of ills, including bad moods.
Pat a pooch
‘Petting animals has been shown to release oxytocin, which boosts a feeling of joy while decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer, author of Live Longer, Look Younger (£11.99, Connections).
And walking a dog will mean you get some exercise and daylight, further enhancing your good mood. No pet? Why not offer to walk a friend’s or neighbour’s dog?
Eat a banana
‘Research shows that a healthy diet can have a big impact on mood,’ explains Emer O’Neill. Foods that naturally boos levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, such as bananas, can lift our mood.
Conversely foods that interfere with its production – such as junk food and alcohol – can increase levels of anxiety and depression.
A Spanish study involving more that 1,00 people found a diet loaded with fruit, vegetables, fish, beans, buts and olive oil, but low in processed meats, could help keep the blues at bay.
And if all else fails…
Climbing under a soft blanket for a few minutes can make us more relaxed. Researchers found there’s something about contact with soft things that just makes us feel better.