How To Improve Your Mood: Things To Keep With You To Keep Spirits Up

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IMPROVE YOUR MOOD
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By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers; Medically reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD

You’ve got your life’s essentials tucked into your tote, but do you have the right good-mood boosters in there as well? When the weight of a bad mood has you feeling down and out, your day can feel like a disaster. Stop the blues in their tracks with these simple proven tricks that will have you feeling better in a flash.

Natural Mood Boosters To Keep With You
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Bad-Mood Buster: Flash Your Favourite Painting
A study by researchers at University College London revealed that viewing beautiful images can act as an instant mood booster. Study participants underwent brain scans while they were shown 30 paintings by some of the world’s greatest artists. When subjects gazed at the art they considered the most beautiful, blood flow to parts of the brain increased by as much as 10 per cent, creating a good-mood boost equal to the positive effect of gazing at a loved one.

Try turning a photo of your favourite piece of art into the wallpaper on your cell phone, or carry a miniature version of the artwork tucked into your wallet to stomp out an unexpected bad mood.

Bad-Mood Buster: Blast Your Favourite Tunes
Researchers in Finland have found that music therapy is an effective remedy for depression. In a study featuring 79 participants diagnosed with depression, about half attended three months of regular therapy plus 20 biweekly music therapy sessions; the other half received depression therapy without music therapy. At the end of the study, those who’d attended music sessions had fewer depression and anxiety symptoms than those in the other group.

While it might not be practical to enrol in music lessons to bash a temporary bad mood, tuning into a favourite song on your MP3 player, and tuning out negative energy, may prove to be an effective mood booster.

Bad-Mood Buster: Savour a Piece of Dark Chocolate
You know it from your own unofficial research — sometimes just the smell of chocolate can put you in a good mood. In addition to healthful flavonoids, dark chocolate contains two saturated fatty acids (palmitic and stearic acids) that may stimulate activity in the regions of your brain associated with pleasure and reward. A study reported in the journal Appetite warns that the effects may be short-lived, and that the chocolate must be yummy to work. More research is needed on chocolate as a mood booster, but in the meantime, it certainly can’t hurt to stash a few small squares in your purse in case you feel a bad mood coming on.

Bad-Mood Buster: Laugh It Up
A recent study from Oxford University explained the elated feeling that comes from a hearty laugh. Researchers found that laughter triggers brain chemicals called endorphins that put you in a good mood, ease pain, and may have other health benefits. Participants in the study watched a TV sitcom or live comedy performance to get their giggles, but you can create bad-mood-busting laughter just by talking about a funny scene in a movie, getting yourself a desk calendar or phone app with a daily funny cartoon or video, or telling a friend or co-worker an amusing thing your kid said, says Tina Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist in Long Beach, Calif. Anything that tickles your funny bone can act as a mood booster.

Bad-Mood Buster: Crack a Smile
It may seem like common sense, but there’s some science behind this good-mood booster, too. According to James Laird, PhD, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and author of Feelings: The Perceptions of the Self, a smile is an instant mood booster. On the flip side, a frown is equally as powerful in eliciting a bad mood. Laird says we simply tend to remember happy times when we smile and stir up angry emotions when we frown.

Bad-Mood Buster: Pop Some Peppermint
If you feel blue, sniffing peppermint may induce a good mood in as little as three minutes, according to researchers at Chicago’s Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. In addition to its power as a mood booster, peppermint may also help reduce feelings of stress. But be careful where it wafts: The smell of peppermint can stimulate sexual arousal in some men (which also could be an additional good-mood bonus in certain situations). Carry peppermint candy or a baggie of peppermint-scented potpourri to quickly squash a bad mood.

Bad-Mood Buster: Harness a Hug
“Touch can soothe you and get your good-mood hormones going,” Tessina says. So get tactile — if you feel a bad mood coming on, give someone a hug, touch a pet lovingly, or even sneak a little soothing rub on your own skin. All these touchy-feely experiences will help put you in a good mood, she says. So go ahead, give yourself a hug for a mood booster any time, anywhere.

Bad-Mood Buster: Phone a Friend
The Girl Scouts advise us to “make new friends and keep the old.” When it comes to battling depression, or even just a temporary bad mood, their motto definitely rings true. Renewing contacts with old friends and family members and forming new relationships can boost oxytocin, the "attachment" hormone that bonds mothers to newborns, says LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, psychologist in Sarasota, Fla., who specializes in women’s issues. To induce a good mood, try sending a friendly e-mail or birthday card, swap photos on Facebook, or pick up the phone and call a trusted friend, she says.

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