Did you know that being happy can actually improve your health?
It’s true! Research has shown that not only is happiness good for your emotional health, it’s good for your physical health too. Happiness can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 20-25% and reduce your risk of death by 15-18%. Even your immune system gets a boost when you’re happy, making you 3 times less likely to catch a cold.
Being happy also reduces your cortisol level (a stress hormone) by 30%. Cortisol has been linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep problems. So happiness inadvertently decreases all of these!
As a busy Pediatrician AND mom of five, this is something I see evidence of every day–both for my patients and myself . When I’m stressed out and unhappy, my body generally doesn’t feel great. Just the other day, I had a rough day, and my schedule was completely thrown off course. My morning quiet time alone was thrown out the window when my toddler son woke up early right along with me. I was late for work, and had a full schedule of patients, and piles of paperwork. Within a few hours, I ended up with a headache that I couldn’t kick and I just felt awful. I knew in order to feel better physically, I needed to do something about my mood.
And if you’re having a day like this, here are 12 surefire ways to feel happier and improve your mood right now!
1. Drink Water
Water has been shown in several studies to improve mood and overall health. Drinking water can decrease feelings of anxiety and fatigue. It can also decrease headaches and improve concentration and productivity – which also makes you happier! So, grab a bottle of water the next time you’re feeling down.
2. Get active
My favorite line from the movie Legally Blonde is “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” This is actually true! When you’re active, your body releases endorphins. These are chemicals that help to reduce your pain perception, and gives you a generally positive feeling. This explains the “high” that many people feel after they go to the gym – I see it in my husband all the time! When you’re down, go for a walk or run to get those endorphins pumping. Going outside for sunshine and fresh air has also been shown to be a mood-booster.
3. Slow down/Take a Power Nap
As busy women, we tend to get so wrapped up in our to do list. We focus on what needs to get done, and what’s coming up next. Our stress and anxiety build up because we’re always in the midst of a balancing act and we’re worried about how everything is going to fit together. Make yourself happier and relieve some of that stress now by slowing down. Take deep breaths and don’t worry about your task list – even if it’s just for a few minutes. Sleep is a huge mood booster, and has tremendous health benefits. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep per day has been linked to obesity and heart disease, and other health complications. So squeeze in a quick power nap if you can. Find time to rest your mind and body.
4. Change your diet
Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day, and include good protein sources (chicken, turkey, seafood, pork, eggs, yogurt, tofu). Also, limit caffeine, and simple sugars and carbs. This includes candy, soda, juice, etc. These diet changes can reduce drastic changes in your blood sugar throughout the day (going too high then too low too quickly), which also reduces mood swings and emotional changes (i.e. being “hangry”).
5. Take a supplement
While supplements may not be as useful for immediate mood-improvement, some research has shown that they are beneficial for long-term happiness. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in salmon and fish oil. Vitamin D can be found in dairy products. Other mood-boosting supplements that can be taken in tablet or capsule form include S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e), St. John’s Wort, Magnesium and B12. For us, as women, Magnesium and Vitamin D have also been shown to decrease symptoms of pre-menstrual (PMS). I caution, though, that nutritional supplements can interact with other medications, so it’s important to check with your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.
6. Play with your kids
There’s something about sitting and playing with kids – or just watching them play – that can really raise your spirits. When they’re out, free, on the playground, it’s like they’re in another world. Watching my kids play usually reminds me that there is still some innocence left in the world. Their care-free “Hakuna Mata” (no worries) attitude when they’re playing is amazing. Nothing else in the world matters. This happiness is contagious! Kids, many times, act out just to get our attention. Research has shown that sitting and playing with a child – even for a few moments – can really make a positive change in their behavior. We just need to show them that they don’t need to act out in order to get mommy’s attention. The plus for us is that happier, better-behaved kids usually means a happier mommy!
7. Call someone
It’s so helpful to have someone that you’re close enough to, who you can call when you’re feeling down. Sometimes it takes that outside person to give us the boost we need. The conversation may not even need to be “uplifting”. Many times, it helps to just think and talk about something other than the issues that are ruining your mood. So, make a phone call or reach out to someone that you can rely on the next time you need a boost. Contact a counselor, if necessary.
8. Read or watch something funny
Laughter is good for the body and soul! Laughing – like exercise – triggers the release of endorphins, which reduce pain and gives a generally positive feeling. Laughter also helps your immune system to work better, which helps you to fight infections. So, get out a joke book and tell some knock-knock jokes with your hubby or kids. Watch a comedy or stand-up comedian performance.
9. Beautify yourself
As busy women, we tend to focus on everyone else and leave self care for last. I know I tend to dress my kids up, but forget about myself. When was the last time you got a new hairstyle, or really dressed yourself up? Taking care of your outer appearance has been shown to boost your mood as well as your productivity. So, get up, take a shower, paint your nails, put on your favorite dress or hairstyle. Even doing one of these things can help to boost your mood.
10. Do something you’re good at
Think of something you’re good at. Whether it’s cooking, drawing, writing – at least one thing! The next time you’re feeling down, do that one thing! Go all in. Give it your all. When your world seems to be crashing in on you and you feel like you’re doing so much but failing at everything, you need a reminder that you’re still good at something. Being able to look at a finished product or to know that you did something well can really boost your mood.
11. Do something nice for someone else
As busy women, we don’t always recognize the people who are in need around us. But, research has shown that “pleasure” areas of our brains light up when we give. Surveys have also shown that regular givers tend to be happier. Speaking from experience, when I know that I’ve made someone else’s day, I get all happy and tingly inside! So, the next time you’re having a bad day, do something nice for someone. Pay for someone else’s meal or groceries. Babysit for another mom for free, without the need for payback. Fill an emptiness in someone else’s life – even something small can make a difference. You never know when that kindness will return to you! There’s no better way to boost your mood or improve your self esteem than by helping others. Check out these 18 simple ideas that will make a big difference.
12. Affirm yourself
Sometimes we just need to talk to ourselves and build ourselves up. I pour so much into my husband, my kids, and my patients every single day, but I may not always get poured into. Don’t rely on anyone else! Start talking to yourself (not in a crazy kinda way!). Remind yourself how smart, beautiful, creative, caring, and awesome you are! We all need affirmations, and the best ones usually come from within.
On my crazy day, I ended up needing a good nap to boost my mood – and that’s exactly what I did! The reality is that life isn’t easy, especially for us as women. We have so much on our shoulders, and the stress of it all can be bad for our mental and physical health. But, it’s still possible to be happy in spite of your situation! You can do it! We all deserve it! Try any of these simple tips the next time you’re feeling frazzled or having a rough day, to boost your mood and feel happier instantly!
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