Health

11 Good-Mood Tricks That Stop Stress in Its Tracks

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These good mood tricks are simple yet powerful ways to help you stop stressing and feel great. Whether you want to boost joy, calm yourself down, or be more optimistic, here are the easy, study-backed good mood tricks to get more positivity out of life.

1. Turn up happiness by turning down the lights.

If you sometimes feel sad for no apparent reason, try turning off extra lamps and dimming the screen on electronic gadgets two hours before bedtime and see if your mood doesn’t soar. Why? Late-evening exposure to light bulbs or blue light from electronics throws off the internal clocks of brain cells that manage emotion, resulting in down moods, new research from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Ohio State University shows. Synchronizing the amount of light you’re exposed to with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle—more light by day, less light at night—resets these brain cells, which improves their function, making you happier.

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2. Feed the birds.

Hang a bird feeder outside your window or set up a bird bath in your yard. Watching the robins, blue jays and other birds use them relaxes you and connects you to nature, lifting your mood.

3. Send stress packing with two supplements.

Is nonstop stress at work or at home stopping you from enjoying your day? Even if you can’t change the cause, you can slash the stress nearly 23% within one month just by taking a multivitamin with magnesium (such as Centrum Multivitamin Multimineral for Adults in drugstores) and a probiotic that contains Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum (such as Kyolic Kyo-Dophilus 9, $15.80 per 90 capsules, Vitacost.com). The B vitamins in the multi ramp up the release of the stress-busting brain chemicals serotonin and GABA, vitamin C curbs the output of cortisol, magnesium has a relaxing effect and probiotics reduce tension—all significant steps for keeping stress in check, reports the journal Panminerva Medica.

4. Get moving.

Still worrying or on edge? One of the best good mood tricks is to get active—take walks, hop on a bike or do other types of exercise you enjoy. A new review of six studies proves that being regularly active balances out-of-kilter brain chemicals that impact nervousness, reducing anxiety as much as 50%.

5. Activate optimism by catching those zzzs.

Envious of folks who find it easy to focus on the positive? You, too, will see the glass as half-full if you regularly snooze the recommended seven to eight hours nightly. Good sleep regulates brain chemicals in charge of how optimistic you feel, shows new research in the journal Chronobiology International. Have trouble falling asleep or toss and turn at night?

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6. Eat more asparagus, oatmeal and legumes.

Research in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience reveals that the non-digestible fiber in these foods reduces the nighttime worrying that can keep you awake by altering messages sent from the gut to the brain, so you awaken with a rosier outlook.

7. Munch a rainbow.

Eat three or more daily servings of colorful fruits and vegetables—including cantaloupe, carrots, red bell peppers, spinach and tomatoes—and you’ll soon realize that you’re feeling more hopeful, reports the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Though researchers aren’t sure why, they suspect that the antioxidant pigments that give these foods their vibrant hues repair a type of damage to neurons that triggers pessimistic thoughts.

8. Ease anger with a photo of a hug.

Put a photo of yourself being hugged by someone you love—such as your husband, kids or kitty cat—on your phone or desk. Then, whenever you feel frustration start to rise, look at it for 30 seconds and your anger will melt away. It works! Seeing yourself hugged by a loved one reminds you that you’re cared for and safe, explain researchers at Canada’s University of British Columbia, which helps you past whatever was upsetting you faster.

9. Have more zinc.

Does your anger sometimes erupt over little things that don’t really matter? You could be low in zinc. Even mild shortfalls in this essential mineral can cause mood imbalances that shorten your fuse, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports. The easy fix: Eat a serving of fortified cereal for breakfast (such as Total or Product 19) and you’ll take in all the zinc you need each day.

10. See the world as friendlier by smiling.

It’s a fact: You can “catch” a bad mood from others who are frowning around you. Turns out, we all have “mirror neurons” in our brains that automatically “mirror” other people’s emotions. Fortunately, you can catch a good mood from others just as easily—and it all starts by putting a smile on your own face. Smiling activates muscles and nerves that send a message to areas of your brain that the world is a friendly, inviting place, reports the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. As a result, you zero in on the happy faces around rather than the frowning ones.

11. Swing your arms.

Walking with a straighter posture, swinging your arms and speeding up your gait slightly makes the world seem like a better place, shows a study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. This style of walking revs self-confidence, triggering an overall sunnier attitude.

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