Studio 5 contributor and family therapist, Julie Hanks, says small changes in the way you think and act can boost your mood.
Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of Positive Psychology’s top researchers estimates that 60 percent of your moods are impacted by a combination of genetics and environment. The remaining 40 percent of your happiness is within your control and can be altered by intentional activities. Here are a few simple changes that you can make today to feel happier and lighten your mood.
1-Listen to Music
Small changes in your environment can improve your mood, like listening to music. Music activates the pleasure center of the brain, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology at McGill University. Music can improve moods and intensify positive emotions–it doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to, as long as you like it. I recently blogged about music and mood Music & Mood-Musings from a Songwriter and Therapist which includes playlists for when you’re stressed, lazy, frustrated, down, or lonely.
Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without — Confusious
In addition to adding music, other small changes in your environment can elevate mood. Nancy Etcoff, director of the Program in Aesthetics and Well-Being at Harvard found that there are many emotional benefits to having fresh cut flowers in your home. If you don’t have a special someone, send flowers to yourself.
Emotions are contagious. Smiling makes you feel better inside and appear more attractive to others. Several research projects demonstrated that even forced smiles improved moods. Even when subjects held a pencil in their teeth causing facial muscles to simulate a smile they reported feeling happier.
Laughter is also contagious and helps reduce tension, promote relaxation, diminish pain, strengthen your immune system, and boost your mood. Watch a funny movie, play a zany game, do something silly, or hang out with hilarious people and you’ll feel happier.
3-Get Some Sun
Who doesn’t feel more cheerful when the sun is shining? Researchers agree that thirty minutes of sunlight daily can improve mood, improve sleep, and increase Vitamin D production. In fall and winter months when the days are shorter exposure to sunlight is even more important. If you tend to get the fall or winter blahs start planning now for a January vacation to a tropical island! In response to my Facebook post on asking what is a simple thing you do to improve your mood, many responses included outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, laying on the grass, and going to the beach.
Individuals who suffer from clinical depression during specific months may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a seasonal depression that can be diagnosed and treated by a health or mental health professional. One treatment for SAD is phototherapy which is exposure to sunlight or to an artificial light for a specific amount of time each day as prescribed.
4-Talk to Strangers
Your mother may have told you not to talk to strangers but researcher Elizabeth Dunn, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, found that talking to strangers has a benefit — boosting your mood. We are used to being more cheerful around people we don’t know. So, next time you’re in an elevator or standing in line at the grocery store strike up a conversation and see what happens.
Reaching out to others in small, kind ways can help you feel happier. According to a University of California, Riverside study, participant who performed 5 acts of kindness in a single day reported feeling happier.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion — Dalai Lama.
Many research studies found that in addition to kindness, an expression of gratitude also has a positive impact on mood. Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside found that participants who wrote down what they were grateful for once a week felt significantly happier. Try this by keeping a gratitude journal and write down all that you are thankful for each week.
5-Change Your Mind
When you’re feeling low, your thoughts slow. Emily Pronin, assistant professor of psychology at Princeton University found that when research participants read statements quickly their mood and energy level improved, even if the statements they read were negative. Next time you’re feeling blue, try brainstorming solutions to a problem, playing a fast paced game, or engaging in witty banter with a friend to speed up your thoughts.
Another effective mood booster is to challenge your negativity. Just because you may think something doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. If you’re thinking “I’m dumb”, “I’m a slob”, or “I’m not lovable” challenge the negative thought by asking yourself, “Is it true?”, “Where did I learn this?”, “What is a healthier thought to replace this negative thought?” Changes in your mind translate into changes in your mood.
6-Move Your Body
Even if it’s only a brief walk, moving your body elevates your mood, especially if you’re outside. At Duke University researchers found exercise to be as effective as antidepressant medication for treating depression. For additional information on benefits of exercise watch my previous Studio 5 segment on exercise and mental health.
In addition to aerobic exercise, practice deep, rhythmical, and repetitive breathing and experience the benefits of elevated mood, reduced stress, and calmness. If you’re new to deep breathing read Dr. Weil’s article The Art and Science of Breathing for excellent beginning breathing exercises.
If you struggle with thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, feeling of guilt or worthlessness, disturbances in eating or sleeping, and experiencing low moods seek help immediately from a medical or mental health professional. Visit www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com for help with low moods, and to learn about my therapy clinic and individual, couple, family, & group counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and adults.
For additional self-improvement & relationship resources connect with me at www.juliehanks.com.