We all get the blues from time to time: periods when we feel low and demotivated and can’t seem feel positive about the world. The French call it “le cafard” – “the cockroach” – which makes one long for some mental Mortein. While anyone suffering from anxiety or depression should see their doctor, it’s also worth trying some natural ways to give your happiness a boost and turn your mood from blue to in-the-pink.
1. Get some sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation is one of the most serious ailments of our time: it’s wrecking our mental and physical health, and shortening our lifespans. If you make any resolution for 2015, vow to get more sleep. You’ll feel better, you’ll work better, and you’ll be better.
2. Try exercising
While the blues may see you heading for the couch and a tub of ice-cream, consider going for a brisk walk or some other gentle exercise. Exercise can give you a “runner’s high” – it stimulates your endorphins, brain chemicals that lead to feelings of relaxation and well-being. A single workout can boost your mood for up to 12 hours.
3. Bask in some sunlight
Sunlight boosts Vitamin D and our general sense of wellbeing. The problem is that Australia’s sun is very strong and increases skin cancer risk, so you have to be careful with the amount of exposure you get. Don’t overdo it, but try to step outside for a few minutes at least a couple of times during your working day.
4. Use a daylight box
If you don’t get a lot of sunlight where you live, or work nights, light therapy or phototherapy may help. It’s used to treat seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, so if your blues are seasonal it may be of use.
5. Pet your dog or cat
Research by the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that petting a companion animal for 15 minutes releases feel-good hormones including serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin, and lowers cortisol, a stress hormone. Therapy dogs have been used to visit nursing homes, help traumatised children and ease the pain of physical rehabilitation.
6. Glitter and glue
If you haven’t messed around with arts and crafts since your schooldays, now is the time to give it a go. Try a local art class or a ceramic-painting café. It focuses your mind in a different way, and can even help you express your negative feelings.
7. Go blue
We describe a low mood as “blue”, but being surrounded by the colour blue is considered to be soothing and help reduce anxiety, according to colour therapy or “chromotherapy” practitioners. There’s not a lot of formal research to support the theory that different colours can enhance your mood, but repainting your room in a warm orange or a sunny yellow will at least distract you from your doldrums.
8. Read a book
Burying yourself in an absorbing book can lift your spirits. It’s probably best to avoid a bleak and nihilistic tome about the futility of human endeavour or a terrible tragedy, but a gripping detective story or happy-ever-after romance novel could be just mental pick-me-up you need.
9. Let it go!
Try singing the blues to beat the blues. Research shows that singing in a choir can help improve well-being and ease the symptoms of depression, increasing oxygen in the blood and the release of hormones such as oxytocin.
10. Eat well
A healthy, balanced diet is good for your overall wellbeing, and good food is both comforting and enjoyable. Some research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, can help fight depression. Try to cut back on the alcohol: drink in moderation, but don’t rely on it to pick up your mood.
How do you raise yourself up when you have low spirits? Share your mood boosters with us.