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Ways to lift your mood

There's a book my son loves to me to read: 'Oh, the places you'll go!'. In fact, he loves most Dr Seuss books, but what I find about so much of his work is that they're as entertaining for us adults as they are to a four year old. Here's an extract:

You'll come down from the Lurch

with an unpleasant bump.

And the chances are, then,

that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,

you're not in for much for fun.

Un-slumping yourselfis not easily done.

There are times in life when we can feel in a bit of slump; when things just don’t seem to flow and we feel a bit low. So today I thought I talk about how to 'un-slump' yourself. Not surprisingly, it is hard to feel motivated when this mood envelopes us, but of course it is action that will support us in improving that state of mind.

Here are some tips on how to feel better.

1. Socialise with a good friend

It may seem obvious, but taking a bit of time out to meet up with a good friend will often make you feel better. Especially those who are good listeners or better still, those that can bring a smile to your face.

2. Playing a with a pet – especially a dog

Studies have shown that when we interact with animals, blood levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and oxytocin—both mood elevators—rise, and therefore our mood improves.

3. Massage helps

Getting regular massage can also enhance our mood, even 15 minutes a few times a week. It can help reduce stress levels and ease out tension.

4. Boost your mood with food

There are is wealth of mood-boosting foods out there that can make you feel better. These foods are all naturally high in serotonin: Walnuts, kiwi, bananas, sour cherries, pineapple, tomatoes, and plums. And these protein foods contain an essential amino acid called Tryptophan, which our bodies convert to serotonin: chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, cheese, eggs, and beans. Various studies have also shown that you can further boost your brain and avert depression by consuming foods high in omega-3s fatty acids, such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, kidney beans, and black beans.

5. Supplements

Studies have shown that people with atypical depression taking 600 milligrams of chromium picolinate a day can boost their mood and reduce their carbohydrate cravings and other symptoms of depression – such as mood swings, weight gain, lethargy, carbohydrate cravings - when they began supplementing their diet with chromium. (Check with your GP before you take supplements or vitamins.)

6. Breathing

Often, when we’re anxious or low, we take shallow breaths and it’s often only when we exercise, do yoga or meditate that we encourage our bodies to take proper lung-fulls. According to Bob Prichard, a biomechanist and director of Somax Sports in Tiburon, California, “The most common unrecognized source of mild depression is restricted trunk flexibility that interferes with full respiration.”

7. Smile more

There are many studies to show that smiling switches on certain chemical processes in our brain that help improve our mood and sense of wellbeing. Even fake smiling and forced grins can lower heart rates. The Duchenne smile, which is when you use your eyes as well as your mouth to smile, was first identified by Guillaume Duchenne in the 1800’s, and since then many mental health researchers have found that smiling can increase your levels of happiness. The Duchenne smile uses two muscles: the zygomatic major (which you activate by raising the corners of your mouth) and obicularis oculi (raising the cheeks to produce crow’s feet by your eyes), the latter of which is harder to voluntarily contract so to help you, try practising in front of a mirror and imagine a really joyful situation. Concentrate and focus on the eye area so you can remember what that feels like and engage these muscles every time you smile.

8. Music and rhythm

Playing an instrument, banging a drum or listening to your favourite music can all lift your mood.

9. Good sleep

It is well known that good sleep is vital to our well-being. Getting better quality sleep will support you in feeling better so here are some tips:- avoid caffeine after 3pm- ideally eat your last meal at least four hours before you retire for bed- keep your bedroom free of electronics- avoid being on your phone, social media, computer, TV and so on at least half an hour before you go to bed- make sure you have a comfortable, supportive bed- try a relaxing warm bath with relaxing essential oils such as lavender

10. Try a new practice

Yoga, meditation, mindfulness practices can all support you tremendously and enhance your mood and well-being. And exercise is well known to raise serotonin levels so even a good walk in the fresh air will have you feel better. Taking up a new hobby can also create diversity and interest in your life and lift your spirits.

11. Change the routine

Sometimes just changing your daily routine can enhance shift your mood. Try a new route to work, cook from a new recipe book, read something you wouldn’t normally be drawn to, book yourself in to a weekend workshop or evening course. Change can provide stimulation, an opportunity to expand your mind or meet new people – and new perspectives can lift your mood and alter negative patterns of thinking.

So the next time you're in a Slump, the smallest of steps will begin to get you out of the goo. As the good Dr Seuss concludes:

And will you succeed?Yes! You will, indeed!(98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed)Kid, you'll move mountains!

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