It’s coming into winter here in Australia. But these tips work all year round. So even if it’s summer where you are, try them anyway.
Whether you embrace a cold day or grumble and hit the snooze button on your alarm for the third time, the depths of winter can result in many of us feeling low, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Winter blues are strongly linked with falling levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin that occur at this time of year. Here are some ideas to help boost your mood and your serotonin levels this winter:
Cultivate Gratitude: Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can benefit our lives in ways that seem truly miraculous. People who consistently practice gratitude report stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, and research shows that gratitude increases happiness and decreases depression. You can keep a gratitude journal and add to it everyday. Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them. Notice the beauty in nature each day. Nurture the friendships you have, good friends don’t come along every day. Smile more often.
Dance Yes,”Dance allows people to experience themselves in ways they didn’t know they could,” says Miriam Berger, a dance professor and dance therapist at New York University. “You can change your internal state through external movement.” Cardiac-rehab patients in a recent Italian study who enrolled in waltzing classes not only wound up with more elastic arteries, but were happier than participants who took up bicycle and treadmill training. Even watching dancing helps. MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you were doing the moves yourself.
Happy Foods: We don’t just “feel better.” To feel better, we manufacture serotonin using an amino acid called tryptophan as the precursor. You can add a serotonin-boosting food at each meal: eggs, turkey, salmon, bean sprouts, asparagus, nuts and seeds, cheese, pineapple, tofu, spinach and bananas are some good ones to try. You can also eat curry Turmeric has emerged in recent years as a powerful antidepressant, in many cases equaling or even surpassing the effects of prescription antidepressants. Turmeric (or curcumin) increases brain serotonin levels.
Go out for a walk and get some sun: While too much of the sun’s warm rays can be harmful to your skin, the right balance can have lots of mood lifting benefits. If you can get yourself out for a quick 10-15 minute walk in the morning it will set the tone for a happier day. Sun and exercise both increase your serotonin levels.
Get a Massage: We’ve heard about the healing power of touch, but now research backs it up! A study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) by 31%.
Pay attention to your Posture: Feeling taller tricks your brain into making you feel more confident. The next time you’re feeling sad and depressed, pay close attention to your posture. According to cognitive scientists, you’ll likely be slumped over with your neck and shoulders curved forward and head looking down. While it’s true that you’re sitting this way because you’re sad, it’s also true that you’re sad because you’re sitting this way. This philosophy, known as embodied cognition, is the idea that the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also triggers our mind.
I hope you try some of these tips to help boost your mood this winter. I will be teaching a FREE Workshop on Posture in Hobart on June 1st at the West Moonah Neighbourhood House at 10am. Come along and see how posture can affect your mood and relieve your pain.
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271