Health

11 Natural Ways to Instantly Improve Your Mood and Relieve Stress

Find joy in the little things.

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Constantly worrying about a pandemic can seriously affect your sleep and mental health. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get out of your rut and improve your mood. Feel more joy every day with these natural strategies proven to boost energy, relieve stress, and calm aches.

1. Gargle with Tea to Cuts Viral Infection Risk

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To ward off spring viruses that can dash your spirits and leave you sidelined, gargle with a cup of cooled green or black tea for 30 seconds once a day. Researchers reporting in the journal BMC Public Health found that doing so cuts your risk of falling ill by a whopping 87 percent. Credit goes to unique antiviral compounds in tea (called catechins) that quickly kill off infectious germs.

2. Outsmart Stress with Sky Gazing

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While longer days mean more time to enjoy the things you love, extra sunlight can disrupt your body clock and its production of the mood- regulating hormone melatonin, making you edgy. Luckily, just looking toward the sky melts anxiety in minutes. Watching birds flit about curbs the production of the stress hormone cortisol while also making you feel more connected with nature, a known tension buster. Researchers reporting in BioScience say if you take a mini “bird break” daily, you’re three times less likely to feel anxious and 70 percent less likely to be highly stressed than if you hadn’t paused to admire the winged beauties.

3. Go on an Email Diet

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Set an alarm to check your messages less often, and Canadian scientists say you’ll feel less stressed. Constantly checking your inbox spikes anxiety, while setting a reasonable limit dials down urgency tension.

4. Increase Energy by Standing Tall

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Breeze through your day with energy to spare simply by standing or sitting tall with your shoulders back. Researchers reporting in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychology found that women who kept an upright posture for five minutes felt 122 percent less fatigued. Credit goes to the increased production of thyroid-stimulating hormones that occurs when you stand up straight, which erases tiredness and amps up energy.

5. Enjoy a Beer

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Put your feet up and relax with 12 ounces of beer at the end of the day, and Harvard researchers say you’ll boost your energy by 35 percent within a week. Beer’s unique combination of antioxidants and alcohol work together to help your body’s cells better soak up and use energizing glucose for fuel.

6. Wake Up Happy with a Sleep Mask

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A later setting sun can it make it hard to get enough shut-eye to keep your mood bright. To snooze deeply and awake well-rested, slip on an eye mask. Research in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that slumbering in a dark room improves your sleep quality and makes you 65 percent less likely to feel blue. Why? Exposure to bright lights at night curbs the production of the sleep- and mood-regulating hormone melatonin.

7. Put Some Pep in Your Step

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Adopt a “happy” walking style, moving briskly with arms swinging, and a study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychology found you’ll naturally focus on the positives around you.

8. Sharpen Your Focus with a Cooking Class

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Feeling foggy? Research shows seasonal shifts in temperature, humidity and sunlight temporarily hamper thinking power. To heighten your concentration the fun way, sign up for a cooking class, explore a new local art exhibit or try your hand at photography. University of Texas at Dallas researchers say engaging in new experiences encourages your body to churn out energizing acetylcholine, a brain chemical that cuts your risk of mental blips by 50 percent.

9. Massage Your Scalp

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A 60-second scalp rub along your hairline reduces brain fog by up to 65 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Applying pressure to key points in your scalp stimulates the release of focus-enhancing endorphins.

10. Quiet Muscle Aches with a Cherry Nightcap

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When spring’s go-go-go days leave you sore all over, pour a refreshing glass of Montmorency tart cherry juice. This fruity sip is packed with painkilling compounds called anthocyanins that dampen ache-triggering inflammation in as little as 20 minutes. What’s more, if you enjoy a glass daily, you’ll cut your risk of being sidelined by future bothersome muscle aches in half.

11. Ice Your Muscles

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A study in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases shows icing the muscles that cover your shoulder blades, upper back, and the back of your neck calms body-wide aches by 62 percent. Chilling this muscle group triggers a relaxation response throughout the body.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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