Boost Your Mood: 5 Pick-Me-Ups That Are Absolutely Free

If you're like many busy families, the advent of September means an end to the lazy, hazy days of summer and a return to the stressed-out, hustle and bustle of back-to-school (and back to work). But if you're lamenting having to vacate your hammock and start worrying about things like homework and band practice, there are ways to relieve your anxiety without a pricey spa day. In fact, here are five pick-me-ups that are absolutely free:

1. Music

If you're looking for a cheap thrill, just click on your favourite playlist, throw on some headphones and crank up the tunes. As reported in Science Daily, a study published earlier this year by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University revealed that pleasurable music induces dopamine release in the same way that tangible rewards like food, drugs and sex can. The results, which were published in the journal, 'Nature Neuroscience,' showed that even the anticipation of pleasurable music (that is, music that induced "chills" in the study subjects) prompted dopamine release. So whether your tastes run to Robyn or Zeppelin or Josh Groban, kick out the jams and feel your bad mood melt away.

2. Laughter

Maybe it's Louis CK for you. Or 'Jersey Shore.' Or stupid YouTube videos. Or Seinfeld reruns. Whatever it is that makes you giggle, get to it – STAT. According to, laughter can be a great stress reliever. For one, it enhances your intake of oxygen, which stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. It also stimulates your circulation, helps relax your muscles and induces a "stress response," which increases your heart rate and blood pressure, all of which results in a "good, relaxed feeling." And laughter is healthy for you long-term as well, boosting your immune system and relieving pain the natural way.

3. Deep Breathing

Remember that time when you freaked out about something and someone smart (probably your mom) told you to "take a deep breath"? It was good advice. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax, says WebMD. One of the exercises you can do to relax is to belly breathe. Put one hand on your belly below your rib cage and one on your chest. When breathing in, let your hand be pushed out by your belly, while not moving your chest. As you breath out through your mouth, feel your belly push back in. More breath, less distress.

4. Kissing

No doubt, kissing is good for your libido. But the benefits aren't limited to your sex life – According to FitSugar, kissing is a stress reliever, " because in a way, it's kind of like meditation. It replaces negative feelings with an intensely happy buzz that can help you (briefly) forget about work deadlines, the fight you had with your sister, or the missing muffler on your car." True -- it's hard to stay mad during a Grade-A liplock (especially if it's a good long one). And just as an added bonus, FitSugar says kissing will fight tooth decay, allergies and boost your immunity too.

5. Water

Most of us probably don't know how dehydrated we are. According to WebMD, getting more water can actually help keep stress at bay, and in fact, being only half a litre dehydrated can increase cortisol levels. It's a vicious cycle: You're stressed, so you forget to drink enough water, then being dehydrated causes you to become even more stressed. Here's WebMD's take on how much water you should be getting: "In general, you should try to drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water for every pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces of water a day." So drink up! And relax.

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