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Ten natural ways that will help you lift your mood

Jane Murphy / 05 May 2015 ( 04 October 2019 )

Feeling down in the dumps? We've found 10 proven ways to help you feel happier – and some of them may surprise you...

Gardening couple
Doctors are now being encouraged to 'prescribe' gardening projects to help people boost their physical and mental health

1. Give mindfulness a try 

Mindfulness can mean different things to different people, and may be practised in a number of ways. But put simply, it means paying attention to the present moment without getting stuck in the past or worrying about the future. It may sound easier said than done – but once you've mastered the art, it will come as second nature.

One recent study, published in The Lancet, suggested mindfulness-based cognitive therapy could be as effective as medication in treating depression.

How to practice mindfulness

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2. Get out in the garden

Doctors are now being encouraged to 'prescribe' gardening projects to help people boost their physical and mental health. A spot of pruning or weeding can help lower blood pressure and combat symptoms of stress and depression, says research from Growing Health. Need another excuse to get the mower out? A chemical released by a freshly-mown lawn makes people feel more happy and relaxed, according to an Australian study.

The health benefits of gardening

3. Go for a walk in the park

Just five minutes of gentle exercise in a green space, such as your local park, is enough to significantly lift your mood, according to research published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal. The effect was particularly strong in people with mental health problems, such as depression.

10 benefits of spending time outdoors

4. Listen to some 'happy music'

Listening to an upbeat song really can boost your mood, says a study from the University of Missouri. The caveat? You have to be actively trying to cheer yourself up, as opposed to just hearing a happy tune playing in the background.

How music can help boost your health

5. Come dancing

Any kind of physical exercise releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins. And dancing is a great form of exercise. Still, you knew that already, didn't you? What you may not know, however, is that the tango in particular appears to offer asignificant mood-lifting effect. Just one month of tango lessons was enough to help alleviate symptoms in 41 people with mood disorders, according to a recent Australian study.

Easy guide to start dancing

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6. Have salmon for dinner

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, are vital for healthy brain function. In fact, people who eat a fish-rich Mediterranean diet are significantly happier and suffer less stress, according to a recent study at the University of South Australia. Don't fancy fish? Walnuts are a good source of omega-3s, too.

Sources of omega 3 for people who don't like salmon

7. Give yoga a go

Yoga is a great way to relax the mind and body. And no, you don't have to be super-fit and bendy to feel the benefits. Need more persuading? Three sessions of yoga each week can boosts levels of a brain chemical - the amino acid BAGA - which helps promote a state of calm, say researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine.

How yoga benefits body and mind

8. Join a choir

Singing in the shower could be enough to lift your mood – but it pays to go one step further and join a choir. That's according to a recent study from Oxford Brookes University, which looked at 375 people who either sang alone, sang in choirs or played team sports. All three activities were found to be significant mood-boosters - but the choristers enjoyed the greatest benefits. It's thought the choir's sense of social cohesion may account for this.

9. Phone a friend

Connecting with other people is a proven mood-booster, partly because it stops you focusing inwardly on your problems. But rather than email or use social media, it's preferable to chat with a friend or relative over the phone – or even better, face to face.

A word of warning, though: some research suggests that using social media may actually increase feelings of loneliness and low mood. A University of Michigan study involving 82 people found that the more they used Facebook, the less happy they felt over time.

15 ways to deal with loneliness

10. Smile!

It's very simple – but it might just work. When you smile, you can trick your mind into believing you're happy and positive, even when you're initially feeling low. The reason? The act of smiling triggers mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. Go on - give it a try!

Why laughing is good for your health

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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