International Happiness Day is on the horizon (20th March) so, when better to give your mood a healthy boost? We asked our experts for simple ways you can perk yourself up, which can easily be squeezed into your daily lifestyle.
Hook in that smile
Feeling down? Add tuna to your salad! “We’ve all heard of fish being great ‘brain food’ and there is a reason for this. Almost 60% of our brains are made up of fat, and about half of that fat is DHA omega 3 fatty acids, which really can only be found in fish. Omega 3 are known as ‘essential’ fats because we cannot make them in the body and therefore need to get through eating oily fish and taking a good high strength supplement. These essential fats are needed for the brain cells to actually ‘pick up’ our neurotransmitters (i.e. serotonin) so that they can be utilised by the brain cells and play their part in our mood, increasing happiness and reducing anxiety. Try NHP Omega 3 Support (£27.77, naturalhealthpractice.com)” (1) explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
Clean up your Facebook friends
Sick of seeing one sob story after another from your so-called friends on Facebook, who like to share their whole life story on the social media platform? You can ‘catch’ positivity from friends on Facebook and Twitter, according to research from the University of California, (2) so it could be time to do a spring clean and delete friends who only post negative content, bringing a downer to your mood.
Make time for your family
“Oxytocin is another ‘feel good’ hormone. Released when we bond socially and feel general trust, comfort and love, this hormone is just as powerful as serotonin. Whenever you feel low and need a lift, spend time with your family and friends to mellow down and feel instantly better,” says Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com, (3) the online shopping destination for all things health and well-being.
When we are feeling down, snacks high in sugar, such as cakes, biscuits and chocolate, seem like a quick and easy fix. However, this quick boost of energy will only last only an hour or two, before you face another sugar crash. “To achieve a healthier balance, go for snacks that contain a good combination of slow releasing unrefined carbohydrates, proteins and if possible some healthy fats. Try snacking on half an avocado on a slice of rye bread, raw carrots with hummus or organic plain yoghurt with pumpkin seeds or blueberries throughout the day,” advises Nutritionist, Cassandra Barns.
Still struggling to satisfy your sweet tooth? “It is entirely possible to retrain yourself to break old, bad habits and adopt new, positive ones, to help you curb your food cravings. You need to identify your behaviours and make a decision to stop them. Then replace them with a positive strategy for curbing old habit patterns. This may take effort and time, as we often hang on to what is familiar, but if you stick to it, you will soon be reaping the rewards for a little thoughtful decision-making, retraining and application of willpower – with a little help from your Slissie friend,” explains Psychologist, Corinne Sweet.
Slissie (from £39.99, www.slissie.co.uk), (4) is the first of its kind as it delivers appetite-suppressing flavourings that instantly help you resist snack temptation. Slissie releases tasty, appetite-suppressing flavours, from vanilla to chocolate, which can help you resist eating things you know you really shouldn’t.
Have more sex
“Having more sex can make you happier and more confident – those who have regular sex as well as plenty of hugs and intimacy, tend to be much happier than those who don’t. It seems that those who have greater emotional support have greater sense of well-being. Oxytocin is the love hormone that is released with sexual activity and orgasm, so it’s no wonder those having regular sex can feel happier!” says Shona.
Perk yourself up with puppy love
Feeling down? Show your pet some TLC, as pets are good sources of social and emotional support for everyone, according to research. (5) So, get sociable with your four legged friend.
Have some time-out
“Set aside regular time to do something that you love and that makes you feel good: reading a good book, watching your favourite television programme, going for a massage, or having a long bath. Doing things we love naturally lowers our stress hormones,” says Shona.
Up the protein
“Proteins are broken down in the body to make amino acids and these are then used to make neurotransmitters, which are responsible for keeping our mind and mood balanced. Try adding the likes of nuts, seeds, meat, fish, beans and lentils, whey protein and eggs to your diet.
“To ensure you’re getting your daily dose of protein try a plant based protein powder. They are easy to digest and can be kept low-calorie. They can be used to make smoothies or shakes, and also added to savoury foods such as stews and soups. I’d recommend Natures Plus Sunflower Protein (£22.50, naturesplus.co.uk),” (6) says Cassandra.
Stretch those legs
“Regular exercise is important as it lowers cortisol production, as long as it is not too intense. Exercise also increases the levels of those feel good brain chemicals called endorphins, which can improve your mood,” explains Shona.
Pop a happy pill
“Vitamin D can help with the symptoms of mild depression. The best way to get it is through sunlight on the skin. Although you can get some vitamin D from foods such as butter and oily fish, it’s not really enough. The best way to get vitamin D is from spending lots of time in the sun. Try taking a supplement, such as Vega Vitamins Everyday-D 10mg (from £5.95 www.vegavitamins.co.uk), (7) which is available in a tasty orange spray, or as blackcurrant chewable tablets (100s and 500s),” says Cassandra.
Think back to happy memories
Casting your mind back to happier times can give your mood a boost for the future, according to research. (8) So, when possible allow yourself to think back to fond memories. Embrace being nostalgic!
A quality snooze session is essential for well-being and happiness, as not sleeping enough (four hours per night) may lead to lower levels of optimism, according to research. (9)
“Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ and is needed to relax our muscles and nerves, which helps us to fall into a peaceful sleep. To ensure you’re getting enough magnesium try and include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish and leafy green vegetables. To ensure you’re getting your daily dose try Quest Vitamins Synergistic Magnesium (from £8.31, qnutrapharma.com),” (10) says Cassandra.
Get some daylight
“Bright light stimulates production of serotonin. However, standard electric lighting indoors is not strong enough to do this – daylight is many times brighter, even on an overcast day. Open the blinds or curtains as soon as you get up, and go for a 15-minute walk outside once or twice during the day,” suggests Marilyn.
“Ultimately, your mood reflects your thinking and state of mind, so a ‘quick fix’ is easier if you do something that stops you thinking your negative thoughts. This can include seeing a friend, doing something nice for someone else, watching something funny on TV, or engaging your mind in any other activity,” explains Shona.
Swap a soppy ballad for an upbeat tune
If you want to feel happier and switch up your playlist to more upbeat music then you are more successful in perking yourself up, according to research. (11)