We all have days when we feel a little low. Some mornings you wake up and life doesn’t have its usual bright sparkle. Everything seems like an effort.
Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to shift gears from flat to fabulous! Next time you’re feeling under the weather for no particular reason, try these easy tips to boost your feel-good factor.
1. Start Your Day With A Tryptophan Fix
There’s a neurotransmitter in our brain called serotonin, which has also been called the ‘happiness hormone’. Serotonin helps to regulate our mood, behaviour and memory.
In order for the brain to produce serotonin, our bodies require an amino acid known as tryptophan. Therefore, tryptophan helps to regulate our feel-goodness by ensuring our brain can make enough serotonin.
You can top up your tryptophan intake by including plenty of the following natural foods in your diet; cashews, legumes, lentils, whole eggs (free range), grass fed red meat, tofu, tempeh, chia seeds, organic cheese, oily fish, buckwheat and oats.
2. Go The Good Carbs!
Can you relate to that warm, happy and contented feeling you get after eating a freshly baked banana loaf or fruit muffin? No doubt some of that feeling is triggered by the pure joy of eating yummy food. The other reason could be the serotonin spike that carbohydrates help with!
Research has found that carbohydrate foods increase our serotonin levels and improve mood. Essentially, carbohydrates help our brains to uptake tryptophan and therefore make more happy hormones!
We suggest eating your carbohydrates from nutritious and low glycemic index sources, such as oats, bananas, blueberries, brown rice, sourdough spelt fruit loaf, homemade muffins, gluten-free pasta and buckwheat pancakes.
3. Soak Up Some Sunshine
Vitamin D deficiency is well known for its connection with Seasonal Affective Disorder; a type of depression that affects people who experience long, dark winters. In other words, it’s harder to be happy without sunshine!
A little bit of sunshine goes a long way. Most of us only need short, regular sunlight exposure to help our bodies synthesize Vitamin D and keep us in bright spirits. Although Vitamin D is found in oily fish, liver, egg yolks and some full fat dairy products, it’s difficult to get our daily dose without sunshine or a supplement to help.
So next time you’re having an ‘Off Day’, and want to switch on to a good day instead, go for a brisk walk outdoors. You’ll top up your Vitamin D and feel better for having the fresh air too!
4. Get Moving
There’s few faster ways to increase your feel-good chemicals than with exercise. Movement floods your body with endorphins that boost mood, regulate sleep and clear the mind. Endorphins furthermore block our perception of pain, which also enhances happiness.
Ideally, our body will benefit best from 20 to 30 minutes of exercise on a regular basis. However, always listen to your body and take it easy if you’re just starting out. For extra Happy Points, try to pick a form of movement that you enjoy!
5. The Natural Perks Of Chocolatey Goodness
As it turns out, cacao doesn’t just make us happy because it tastes good. This amazing superfood contains a bunch of goodies that contribute to our smile on a chemical level, too.
Good quality dark chocolate is a rich source of plant chemicals that offer powerful mood boosting properties. These include anandamide, theobromine, tryptophan and serotonin; some of the same molecules that your brain produces when you’re in love!
Again, a little bit goes a long way… Stick to a couple of squares of the good stuff and slowly savor the treat. You can also use cacao in powdered form to make a smoothie or healthy hot chocolate.
6. Schedule In A Holiday - Before You Actually Need It
How often do we eagerly anticipate our holiday, only to come down with the flu only a few days into it? Sometimes, we’re so strung out and used to running on stress mode that we don’t unwind until the vacation’s almost over.
The best time to book a holiday is before you actually need one. Think of it as your preventative mental health policy; regular rest keeps us refreshed, balanced, positive and happy. Leaving a holiday until you’re burned out means you’ve left it too late.
Plus, the additional excitement of planning your next break can help your Happy Levels in the lead up!
7. Fake It Til You Make It
The mind is a powerful machine and mastering its secrets can go a long way towards increasing your happiness.
Next time you’re in a funk, try the very simple exercising of faking a good mood. Research has shown that forcing yourself to smile can actually trigger the same brain signals for joy that a genuine smile induces. Try it for yourself - how long can you hold a fake smile before it begins to feel real?
Try to also dress and act as if you’re starting an exciting day. What would you wear? What would your vocabulary sound like? How would you approach your morning routine? It’s very hard to stay down if you’re starting the day like it’s an adventure!
8. Catch Up On Some Zzzz’s
Few things zap your joy the way fatigue can. Even when life is going swimmingly, you may not feel the benefits if you’re exhausted.
Plan to have a ‘catch up’ sleep night. Clear your schedule to create a relaxing afternoon and evening that’s conducive to sleep. Have a meal cooked in advance, turn off your phone, burn some lavender essential oil and settle down with a nice book… Anything that helps you to slow down and unwind.
After some calming rest and a good night of shut-eye, things will look so much better the next morning!
9. Play With Your Pet
There’s pretty rigorous science to indicate that pets are good for our health and happiness. Pets can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve loneliness and lower negativity.
Watching and interacting with animals also helps us to ‘get out of our heads’. In other words, they are so engaging that they give us a break from thinking about anything else!
If you don’t have a pet, you could volunteer at a animal refuge, take a walk in a dog park or visitor a friend’s furry companion.
Meditation and mindfulness have long been recognized for their benefits to our mental health and happiness. These practices can improve anxiety, depression, pain, focus and the physical side-effects of stress. Meditation can also foster resilience in stressful circumstances.
Hitting pause on a bad day and taking ten minutes out for meditation and mindfulness practice can totally turn your day around. Breathing deeply, with particular emphasis on each exhalation, will also help your body to lower your levels of stress hormones.