When the days get longer and sunnier but you still still feel winter-weary, there’s a reason for that: Harvard Medical School researchers say our risk of blue moods actually peaks in spring because our brains are still in hibernation mode, churning out too much stressful cortisol and not enough mood-steadying serotonin.
Take a look at some spring mood-boosters that can help jump-start your inner-sunshine fast.
Lighten up with roses.
Sniffing an essential oil that reminds you of your favorite spring scent could help you feel 50 percent calmer and happier in five minutes, say scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation.
It turns out aromas that remind us of happy outdoor activities heighten serotonin production, plus they calm the amygdala, the anxiety center of the brain. To bring spring indoors, put two drops of essential oil on a light bulb, then turn it on so it gradually warms.
Sweeten with raw honey.
A review of eight studies suggests sweetening your tea or yogurt with 2 Tbs. of raw honey daily could help you feel 32 percent cheerier in four days, and not just because it tastes so good!
Explains study co-author Amira Ali, PhD, raw honey contains compounds that work like natural antidepressants in the brain, plus they reduce your adrenal glands’ production of mood-sapping cortisol.
Plump up pillows.
Spending 15 minutes doing a little spring cleaning, such as tossing pillows into the dryer to freshen them up or taking your throw rugs outside for a good shake, could boost your mood by 60 percent for four hours. According to UCLA researchers, the emotional boost that comes from seeing positive changes in your home — changes that you made happen! — prompts your brain to release a flood of energizing, mood-boosting dopamine.
Add mmm to warm drinks.
Sipping cardamom-scented coffee, tea, or warm milk could help you shake off a glum mood in as little as 10 minutes, British scientists say. Explains preventive medicine researcher Mira Park, MD, cardamom’s sweet, citrusy aroma encourages the formation of happiness-boosting brain waves, plus the spice contains a compound (cineole) that calms rattled nerves.
Try sipping this sweet recipe to cheer you up in minutes:
Warm Honey-Cardamom Spiced Milk
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 cup (2 percent) reduced-fat milk
- 1 Tbsp. raw honey
- 1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 star anise pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Crush cardamom pods. In pot, combine pods, milk, honey, ground cinnamon, 1 star anise pod, and cloves; over medium heat, cook until flavors blend, 5 min.; strain.
- Pour spiced milk into heatproof mug. Garnish with cinnamon stick and remaining star anise pod.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.