If you're looking to lift your mood, certain alternative therapies may act as natural mood enhancers. But while the following approaches may help enhance your mood, none should take the place of doctor-prescribed treatment for mood disorders (such as depression and bipolar disorder).
In a 2010 study of 82 college students, researchers found that those who took part in three one-hour mindfulness meditation sessions had greater improvements in mood compared to those who were assigned to a sham meditation training or a control group. Mindfulness meditation was also found to be more effective in reducing fatigue and heart rate.
Yoga may act as a natural mood enhancer for people with certain health problems. For instance, a 2009 study of 88 breast cancer patients found that those who practiced yoga prior to undergoing radiation experienced improvements in mood, stress levels, and anxiety. And in a 2005 study of 13 psychiatric inpatients, researchers found that participating in a yoga class helped improve mood and other "emotion factors" (including anger and confusion). Finally, a 2009 study of 45 professional musicians (a group prone to high levels of stress and anxiety) revealed that a two-month yoga program helped reduce mood disturbance (as well as relieve anxiety and anger).
Aromatherapy massage may serve as a natural mood enhancer, according to a 2010 study of 40 healthy volunteers. After receiving a massage with jasmine oil, subjects reported feeling more alert and more vigorous. The study's authors suggest that jasmine oil's stimulating effects may be responsible for the massage's mood-lifting benefits.
Should You Use Natural Mood Enhancers?
While meditation, yoga, and massage may have some beneficial effects on mood, self-treating mood disorders with these therapies is not advised. If you're experiencing mood disorder symptoms (such as persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, extreme mood changes, and inability to concentrate), consult your physician as soon as possible. You can also talk to your doctor and/or a mental-health professional about using natural mood enhancers to help manage mood disorders.
Hongratanaworakit T. "Stimulating effect of aromatherapy massage with jasmine oil." Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Jan;5(1):157-62.
Khalsa SB, Shorter SM, Cope S, Wyshak G, Sklar E. "Yoga ameliorates performance anxiety and mood disturbance in young professional musicians." Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2009 Dec;34(4):279-89.
Lavey R, Sherman T, Mueser KT, Osborne DD, Currier M, Wolfe R. "The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients." Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2005 Spring;28(4):399-402.
Vadiraja HS, Raghavendra RM, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR, Rekha M, Vanitha N, Gopinath KS, Srinath BS, Vishweshwara MS, Madhavi YS, Ajaikumar BS, Ramesh BS, Nalini R, Kumar V. "Effects of a yoga program on cortisol rhythm and mood states in early breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy: a randomized controlled trial." Integr Cancer Ther. 2009 Mar;8(1):37-46.
Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Gordon NS, Goolkasian P. "Effects of brief and sham mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables." J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Aug;16(8):867-73.