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5 Natural Mood-Boosters

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Updated June 04, 2014

1) Go for a walk
Not only is walking a great mood-booster, but walking can burn calories and reduce body fat.

A study by researchers at Dalhousie University found that 30-minute walks were effective at reducing tension, anxiety, and mood disturbances and increasing energy and vigor.

What you can do:
  • A pedometer can help you get motivated, make walking fun, and help you stick to healthy new exercise habits. It keeps track of the number of steps taken, total distance traveled, and number of calories burned.

    And if you hate the idea of having a gadget strapped to your ankle, not to worry. Omron makes a pedometer that can be slipped into your pocket, purse, or clipped to your belt.
     
  • Going for outdoor walks has an added benefit: the natural light stimulates the brain to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood.

2) Go to bed early

If late nights are a regular way of life for you, it may be affecting your mood and outlook on life. Getting less sleep than you need can increase anxiety, tension, and sadness.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep reduces emotional and physical well-being, reduces optimism, and even contributes to the onset and worsening of physical pain.

What you can do:
  • Try to go to bed 30 minutes earlier every night.
     
  • Make your bed a restful haven. Splurge on good pillows. Also consider treating yourself to soft sheets with at least a 300 thread count.

    Sheets made of pima, supima, or better yet, egyptian cotton, which tend to be softer than muslin or percale.

3) De-clutter your space

It's almost impossible to relax and feel great when everywhere you look, there are bills, papers, and appointment cards piled on workspaces and spilling out of drawers. Organizing your home and office is a great way to start off the new year. Having everything in order can help calm anxiety, and some people find the actual cleaning part therapeutic.

What you can do:
  • Each weekend, tackle a different area of your home or office.
     
  • Turn to home stores for help. There are many types of organizers available to store your things in a neat, easily accessible way.
     
  • If you don't have one already, consider getting an agenda or notebook to help you organize your thoughts.
     
  • You can also make to-do lists (rather than memorize them) – it can really help to calm anxiety and checking off each task as you accomplish it provides a sense of fulfillment.

4) Listen to music

Music has a powerful effect on mood. It activates areas of the brain involved in the feeling of happiness.

Research has shown that it can lower blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormone levels, and may even improve cognitive abilities.

What you can do:
  • Listen to music while traveling to work, during your lunch, or before you go to bed.
     
  • What is most important is that you listen to music that you enjoy.
     
  • Try music especially designed for relaxation or nature sounds.

5) Consider aromatherapy

Aromatherapy involves the use of concentrated, aromatic plant oils called essential oils.

If you've never heard of it before, you may have seen it before in the form of naturally-scented bath salts, body lotions, and massage oils.

A study in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that people exposed to the scent of lavender or rosemary essential oils felt more content than people who didn't use essential oils.

What you can do:
  • Lavender essential oil is thought to have calming properties. Try it in an essential oil diffuser (a table-top gadget that lightly scents the surrounding air.
     
  • Other options are body lotions, massage oils, and bath salts. Make sure that pure essential oils are used, as many products are made with artificial scents.

Sources
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Brown S, Martinez MJ, Parsons LM. Passive music listening spontaneously engages limbic and paralimbic systems. Neuroreport. (2004)15.13: 2033-1037.

Haack M, Mullington JM. Sustained sleep restriction reduces emotional and physical well-being. Pain. (2005) 119.1-3: 56-64.

Menon V, Levitin DJ. The rewards of music listening: response and physiological connectivity of the mesolimbic system. Neuroimage. (2005) 28.1: 175-184.

Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci. (2003) 113.1: 15-38.

Osei-Tutu KB, Campagna PD. The effects of short- vs. long-bout exercise on mood, VO2max, and percent body fat. Prev Med. (2005) 40.1: 92-98.
 
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