As the dark and chilly days continue, and you start losing sight of what day it is (Blue Monday FYI *screams internally*), it’s easy to fall off the positivity wagon. But here are some sure-fire ways to boost your mood, all backed by science.
1. Have a cup of tea
It’s an age-old saying that tea fixes everything, and there’s certainly some truth in it. An article published by Nature talks about how tea can lift your mood and improve focus. It goes on to say that drinking tea lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol — something we could all use less of right now.
Added bonus? According to a study, drinking at least three cups of tea a day could add years to your life.
2. Go for a walk in nature
It’s no news that a walk in the park is good for you, but it’s always worth reiterating. There have been thousands of studies which prove that being out in nature has a positive effect on our mental wellbeing. This includes a study published in Landscape and Urban Planning, which found that Londoners who live near trees typically have better mental health. Basically, urban areas with more trees had lower antidepressant prescription rates.
3. Phone a cheery friend
A study carried out by the University of Warwick found that happiness is quite literally contagious. The research discovered that having a positive social circle is associated with good moods. So, if you’re feeling down, make some time to Zoom your cheeriest friend — it’ll be an instant pick-me-up.
4. Introduce more fruit and veg into your diet
Evidence consistently shows that a healthy diet can enhance mental well-being. Amongst that evidence is a study published in 2019 in Social Science & Medicine, which specifically links eating plenty of fruit and veg to better mental health. Vegetables and fruit contain lots of minerals, vitamins and fibre, which we need to keep us mentally and physically healthy. The study found that frequency and quantity are also important, so that one banana bread isn’t going to cut it, I’m afraid.
5. Exercise regularly
Here’s another pretty unoriginal mood-booster, but you know it’s a goodie. It is common knowledge that when you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are categorically Good. Aerobic exercises, such as jogging, swimming, cycling and dancing, are proven to reduce anxiety, supposedly caused by an increase in blood circulation to the brain. According to Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health: “Any type of exercise is useful, as long as it suits you and you do enough of it. Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.”
6. Have a hot bath
According to a study reported in the Guardian, regular soaks in a hot bath every afternoon or evening can seriously lift a person’s mood. In the study, researchers at the University of Freiburg asked 45 people who struggle with depression to take a 30 minute bath in 40°C water, before wrapping themselves in blankets and hot water bottles for 20 minutes. The results showed a significant improvement in mood.
If you’re looking to burn some calories, another study says that taking a hot bath is just as good as exercise in this regard.
7. Do something nice for a friend (or a stranger)!
In a study carried out by Iowa State University, researchers found that “offering kindness to others… reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connection”. The study realised that people who practised kindness felt less anxious and more happy and connected. So smile at someone in the supermarket, send your mum some flowers, or text a friend to let them know you’re thinking of them. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel.
After some inspiration? This lovely initiative lets you send postcards to loved ones while donating to the NHS.
8. Do something you’re good at
Whether it’s running, baking or hula-hooping, doing something you’re good at is a quick and easy way to improve your mood. (Unless the only things you can think of are eating junk and drinking beer, of course.) Doing something you know you kick arse at will give you a sense of achievement — and it’s near impossible to feel down when you’re proud.
9. Wear some lipstick
I’m speaking from experience here: lipstick is a 30 second fix for a shitty day. A British Heart Foundation study poll once found that 26% of women felt more confident while wearing red lipstick. But the trick is finding a shade that suits you, and one that you feel fabulous in. Ultimately, if you feel like you look good you’ll feel good in general. So, who cares if you’re not going out anywhere? It’s all for you.
10. Get enough sleep!
Get some quality sleep, for goodness sake. I’m sure you’re partial to a temper if you don’t have enough pillow time, and there’s science in that. Without enough sleep, you can become irritable and moody, and long term sleep deprivation is proven to lead to depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that many people who suffer with anxiety or depression sleep for less than six hours a night.
11. Listen to upbeat music
A study published by the University of Missouri discovered that playing upbeat music can boost your mood, in both the short and long term (over a period of two weeks). Lead author of the study, Yuna Ferguson, said that, in order to improve your mood, it’s important not to constantly ask yourself, “Am I happy yet?” — instead people should focus on enjoying the experience and not get hung up on arriving at happiness.
12. Laughter is the best medicine!
Studies show that laughter increases the levels of dopamine in our brains, which is a chemical that elevates our mood. So find a funny dog video, or watch a stupid Will Ferrell movie… you’ll be feeling elated in no time.