says Alan Hirsch, M.D., assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago
What you can do: Play-Doh, peppermint, oatmeal cookies... "You'll need to find what works for you," says Dr. Hirsch.
A recent study endorses freshly baked garlic bread: Family members felt so much more content when the aroma of garlic bread was in the room, they made 23 percent fewer negative comments at the dinner table.
How it works: "Eating chocolate really is a mood elevator for some people," says Mary F. Morrison, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia.
That's because chocolate contains phenylethylamine — a mood-regulating chemical found naturally in the brain. And researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson say it may also boost the brain's production of serotonin, a natural antidepressant.
What you can do: "This is a good mood booster to use in moderation," warns R. Murali Krishna, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma. "Try nibbling a little chocolate while you pamper yourself with something else you enjoy, like a funny movie or a good book."
Your Favorite Tunes
How it works: "Listening to music has a powerful effect on people's moods," says Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C. In one study, listening to music reduced stress-hormone levels up to 41 percent.
What you can do: "It's the music itself — not the lyrics — that affects mood. So listen to something with an upbeat rhythm and melody."
How it works: "Spending time outdoors is ideal, but just living in a bright home with a lot of sunlight streaming in can make a dramatic difference," says Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
When light enters the eye, it stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This triggers a cascade of chemical changes in the brain that significantly improve mood.
What you can do: You can make a room feel brighter just by washing the windows inside and out, says Dr. Rosenthal. "Also, try trimming your hedges, changing to higher-wattage lightbulbs, pinning back the curtains, and using light-colored throw cushions," he advises.
How it works: Folic acid is a B vitamin that's essential for proper nerve function in the brain; a Harvard Medical School study showed that 38 percent of depressed women are deficient in it.
"In many cases, the only sign of a folic acid deficiency is a feeling of sadness," says R. Murali Krishna, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
What you can do: In addition to taking a vitamin supplement, eat folic acid-rich foods so you'll get a good balance of B vitamins, suggests Mary F. Morrison, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia.
One cup of beans or peas, plus four to five servings of fruits and green leafy vegetables daily, is often enough to correct the deficiency.
How it works: When women get two short massages a week, they show a significant reduction in anxiety and sadness, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The change can happen in as few as five weeks.
Touch causes measurable changes in brain-wave activity, making people feel more relaxed and alert, explains Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the Touch Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
What you can do: Ask a loved one to give you a 20-minute massage twice a week, suggests Field. Then go to a professional occasionally to learn new techniques and vary the experience.
How it works: If your bouts of sadness are cyclical — more frequent or more intense during your premenstrual week — a shortage of bone-building calcium could be involved.
In studies, women who took just 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily (in Tums or other supplements) reduced their premenstrual sadness, mood swings, tension, and anxiety by 45 percent.
What you can do: The key is patience: It can take three months — or longer — to see the full benefits of increasing calcium intake.
How it works: "During sleep, your brain rebuilds its stockpile of mood-elevating hormones, plus it sorts through the day's experiences and decides how to deal with them," explains Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Getting less sleep than the amount you need can significantly increase anxiety, stress, tension, and sadness.
What you can do: "If you can't set your alarm later because of children, work, or other obligations, try to get to bed at least thirty minutes earlier every night," suggests Dr. Barnard. "You'll feel the improvement in as little as four days."
Lending a Hand
How it works: When researchers analyzed 37 studies on volunteering, they found that people who offered their time had a better sense of well-being, were happier with their lives, and were less likely to feel sad and anxious.
"Helping others gives people an emotional bond, a chance to communicate, and a feeling of connection," explains R. Murali Krishna, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
What you can do: You don't need to join an organized volunteer group to enjoy the benefits. A study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor showed that informally offering help — to a friend, family member, or neighbor who needs it — is just as effective.
By Brenda Kearns
Article source: goodhousekeeping.com