It’s no secret that health and happiness go hand in hand. University of Iowa researchers report that’s because the brain chemicals that keep us calm and upbeat — serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin — also steady blood sugar, slow cellular aging, and encourage tissue repair. Read on for tips to transform your health and score a major mood boost...
Stroll past a pond.
Spending at least one hour weekly near “blue spaces” — bodies of water like lakes, rivers, oceans, pools, fountains — cuts muscle and joint pain in half, plus brings tension and anxiety to a halt for 86 percent of women studied, according to recent UK research. The sights, sounds, and aromas of blue spaces prompt your brain to release dopamine, a soothing brain chemical that also tamps down pain-triggering inflammation and speeds the repair of damaged muscles and ligaments.
Crunch on a crisp salad.
Munch on a refreshing salad every day, and your heart disease risk could drop by 45 percent. You’ll also feel 72 percent happier, suggests research in the journal Social Science & Medicine. Study co-author Peter Howley, PhD, explains the carotenoids in raw vegetables heighten the production of brain chemicals that boost mood, plus lower blood pressure, and keep arteries healthy.
Try the "mood mineral."
Taking 400 mg. to 500 mg. of magnesium daily will help you sidestep blue moods, ending mild to moderate depression more effectively than prescription drugs. That’s the word from researchers at Burlington’s University of Vermont, who say magnesium switches on brain genes that produce body-healing and mood-elevating brain chemicals. Try: Life Extension Magnesium (LEF.com/ww). Note: Check with your doctor before taking supplements.
Portion out protein.
Enjoy at least 2 oz. of protein-rich eggs, yogurt, meat, or fish at every meal, and you’ll feel 55 percent happier in one week, plus your risk of brain aging and dementia could be cut in half, Australian researchers say. That’s because a steady trickle of amino acids gives your brain the building blocks it needs to make mood-steadying, brain-healing serotonin.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.