From SELF Magazine: Five Easy, Natural Mood Lifters

By Kelly Harold

Jul 6, 2010 10:40am

We’re making progress – personally and for Haiti – and it feels fantastic! Our pals at SELF have shared their list of 5 easy, natural mood lifters, and the great news is that working out is #1 on the list.


#1: Sweat to smile. Exercise may be as effective at relieving mild to moderate depression as the antidepressant Zoloft, reveals a study from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Physical activity stimulates the feel-good chemical dopamine, which increases our sense of well-being.

#2: Tweak your diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish help the brain respond to signals from the mood chemicals dopamine and serotonin. The antioxidants and flavonoids in colorful fruit and veggies work in combination with omega-3s to protect the brain from harmful inflammation that can trigger depression.

#3: Sleep off sadness. People who have insomnia have a fivefold risk of developing depression compared with those who are well rested, according to a study from the University of North Texas in Denton. Aim for seven to eight hours of shut-eye per night.

#4: Just say om. Some studies suggest that regular meditation reduces the recurrence of depression as effectively as medication. If sitting and chanting aren't appealing, start with baby steps by focusing on your breath. If your mind wanders, let your thoughts go and refocus on inhaling and exhaling.

#5: See the light. Sunlight is key for regulating your biological clock, which affects mood, sleep and energy. Depressed people exposed to bright light for an hour upon waking for five weeks experienced a 54 percent improvement in symptoms, finds a study from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Get outside!

#6: Lean on a friend. Research from the University of Chicago suggests that having a close circle is critical; people who are lonely have increased levels of depression. Curling up on the couch with a pal can be restorative, too. A friendly touch puts the brakes on the brain's stress-response signals. Give someone you love a hug.

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