Happiness matters. It can add years to your life and life to your years.
However, many of us find this positive emotion elusive. It’s not always easy with the outrageous demands of modern life, but you can bring more joy to each day. Here are seven small adjustments I’ve made to my day to improve my mood.
1. I Move My Body
Exercise is one of the best natural mood-boosters in existence. It gets those juicy feel-good endorphins flowing, easing minor aches and pains and boosting your mood.
I’m a busy woman, so I double-dip on my daily attitude adjustment by taking my workouts outside whenever possible. Even looking at pictures of nature helps bump stress levels down a notch. Combining the goodness of immersing myself in Mother Nature while I go for a jog combines the mood-boosting benefits of endorphins with the natural world.
2. I Let Myself Smile
I try to smile whenever it feels natural and right to me. Smiling has the power to transform your emotions, even if you don’t otherwise feel cheerful. Furthermore, it could extend your life. A 2010 Wayne University study showed that baseball players who smiled in their card photos lived an average of seven years longer than those who wore a straight face.
You know what? These days, if I overhear a funny joke or spy a meme that makes me giggle, I break out in a grin without worrying who’s watching or where I am. Smiles are contagious — why not spread a bit of happiness?
3. I Nourish My Mental Muscles
What you eat — or don’t — influences your mood significantly. For example, if you’ve had a bad case of the blues for a while, you might want to go a bit nutty.
Why? Nuts and seeds contain high levels of the minerals magnesium, selenium and zinc. Magnesium alone can sometimes combat mild depression as effectively as a tricyclic medication. The three together in highly bioavailable food form further increase the mental health benefits.
Another way to boost your mood through diet is to consume healthy carbohydrates. The experience of “getting hangry” is so ubiquitous that you see it in television commercials — hunger makes you grumpy. Your brain reacts positively to the natural sugars in carbs from vegetables, fruits and whole grains, so stock your desk drawer with nutritious snacks.
4. I Connect With Those I Love
Loneliness increases mortality from all causes, and living in proximity to others isn’t enough. You need to make a connection.
When I make my weekly schedule these days, I include time to spend with friends and family in the equation instead of assuming I’ll get to it during my leisure hours. Prioritizing this connection has transformed several of my dearest relationships. I now feel closer to my sister and several friends than I ever did when I waited for them to call and invite me places — now I send out the RSVP requests.
5. I Work Toward Causes I Care About
Psychologist and neurologist Victor Frankl survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps by finding his purpose. If you feel lost in life, embracing a cause that matters to you can give you a reason to get out of bed.
Finding the right volunteer opportunity is as simple as asking yourself what changes you want to see in the world. Then, research organizations devoted to that cause and make a call or send an email to ask how you can get involved.
6. I Meditate
Meditation is like yoga for your brain. It removes you from daily distractions and gives you time to reflect.
You can use various techniques, from sitting still in mindfulness to listening to a guided recording. Whichever method you select, penciling in 15 minutes a day will work wonders for your overall mood.
7. I Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Did you ever sleep through the alarm and feel “off” for the rest of the day? You aren’t yourself when you’re tired, and science backs up this folk wisdom. Drowsy driving is as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after a few drinks because of what lack of sleep does to your cognitive state.
To improve my sleep, I keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. I reserve that space for slumber and sex only, winding down in the evenings with a good novel and a bit of meditation.
Could Making These 7 Adjustments to Your Day Improve Your Mood?
Making these seven adjustments to my day has significantly improved my mood. How can these tips benefit you?
Mia Barnes is a health and wellness journalist with a focus on mental health and chronic pain issues. She is the Editor in Chief at Body+Mind.
Image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio.