A healthy mind and body are the two main features that play a vital role in a positive mood.
Your mood is a reflection of your thoughts and your environmental influences, such as where you are and who you’re with and life events, as well as your physiological state. A change to one or more of these factors could quickly affect your mood, but there are some simple habits and practices which can put you into a better headspace.
To explain more, Dr Lola Tillyaeva, Doctor in Psychology, Wellbeing Activist, Entrepreneur, Author, and Humanitarian, shares her top mental health habits to quickly and effectively boost your mood:
1. Take deep breaths
The way we breathe affects our bodies in different ways. Practising ancient breathing techniques could help us bring balance into our bodies and activate our self-healing mechanisms. Breathwork is something that Western Medicine is slowly uncovering, trying to understand the science behind the effects of different breathing techniques and how they can help with everything from enhancing energy levels to easing anxiety and boosting immunity.
Our bodies were designed for us to breathe deeply whenever we want. Yes, we were born knowing exactly how to breathe deeply, but most of us forgot that knowledge as we grew up and daily life took over. The daily habit of deep breathing from the belly generates vast improvements in our overall health. It delivers fresh oxygen to cells, slows the heartbeat, lowers blood pressure, relaxes the muscles and cleanses the body by helping the lymphatic system eliminate toxins. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, the hormones produced by the central nervous system and pituitary glands, to provide pain relief and alleviate stress, which can help you to feel more positive and energised.
2. Prioritise sleep
Quality sleep is essential to our health and well-being. Our bodies and minds accomplish a lot while we sleep, and research shows that good quality sleep can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in our body.
If you are struggling to get good quality sleep, various practical steps can help recover good sleep patterns: avoid caffeine after 2 pm and remember that alcohol is the enemy of good sleep; try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, to instil a good sleep rhythm; keep the bedroom temperature between 18-22 degrees Celsius to induce deep sleep; and switch off all screens 60-90 minutes before bedtime, as the blue light interferes with your biological clock and circadian rhythms.
3. Gentle Exercise
Gentle exercise like yoga can help to ease stress, alleviate anxiety, and enhance your mood. Practising yoga can help to clear the mind and bring more calmness into your life. Yoga can also enhance the level of serotonin, the hormone of happiness, helping you feel better, calmer, and more positive.
If you’re feeling especially anxious, exercise might be at the bottom of your to-do list, but a bit of gentle exercise can help to boost your energy levels and connect the mind and body. Slower forms of yoga, like Yin Yoga, offer deeper access to the body’s functioning, making you feel more in control and positive.
4. Eat High-Frequency Foods
Our physical and mental health depends on the invisible energy we receive from food. On one hand, high-frequency foods, like fruits, green leafy vegetables, fresh herbs, seeds and berries, contain more prana, energy, and light absorbed from their surroundings and the sun. On the other hand, low-frequency foods—processed meals, red meat, alcohol, etc.—are thought of as dead foods devoid of prana, energy, and light. There is a body of evidence that illustrates that to maximize the nutritional value of our diets, it’s important to choose foods that contain high-vibration energy.
If you’re having a hard time adding high-frequency foods to your diet, you can start by trying to add more colours to your plate. A colourful dish isn’t just aesthetically pleasing but is also recommended for a balanced nutrition. Each colour of food contains a unique set of phytonutrients – chemical compounds that give plants their rich colours and aromas – meaning each colour has unique benefits for our overall well-being. This is why plant foods and their phytonutrients protect us from chronic diseases and fight inflammation which can be caused by stress and anxiety.
5. Cut the Caffeine
Anxiety naturally heightens your arousal, and so does caffeine. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, essentially “pulling the trigger” on our bodies to speed up the release of cortisol, intensifying our physiological stress responses which we rely on to make us react quickly when we’re in life-threatening situations. Cortisol is naturally higher in those who experience anxiety, and caffeine will exacerbate this, ratcheting up the heart rate, elevating blood pressure, and increasing muscle tension, which is the last thing you need, especially if you suffer from anxiety. Coffee is not the only culprit. You might also want to pay attention to other ways caffeine might be sneaking into your diet; think chocolate bars, protein bars, energy drinks, and even tea.
6. Consider your diet
There is a growing body of evidence which suggests your diet can help with mental health and, as a result, in reducing anxiety.
The arachidonic acid, found only in animal products like eggs and chicken, sets off multiple chemical reactions in the body that eventually lead to an increase in inflammation. When this inflammation reaches the brain, it can subsequently cause feelings of anxiety and stress, as well as depression. People who avoid foods with arachidonic acid and opt for a plant-based diet typically report a more positive mood and improved mental health, which suggests that following a plant-based diet to combat anxiety and improve mood can be useful.
7. Limit the stress from social media
Stress has become so common, and it’s almost accepted as the way we’re meant to live. For better or worse, social media has unknowingly added to the stress we feel daily, creating unhealthy competition and a constant tendency to compare ourselves to others. If you’re setting unreachable and exaggerated standards for yourself, limiting the time spent on social media can have a profound effect on your mood and self-confidence.
8. Create new, positive habits
One of the easiest ways to create a significant change in your brain and mood is to invest your energy in a new experience. New experiences will cause the brain’s nerve cells to fire and repeating the new experience causes the nerve cells to keep firing. Repetition over time strengthens the connections and communications within the neural circuitry. With enough repetition, we can rewire our brains and eventually cause the old neurocircuitry to weaken so much that it disappears. This can be used as a long-term strategy to boost your mood with the help of new experiences and good mental habits. You can start by devoting fifty minutes a day to activities that stretch and strengthen your learning skills, like gardening, learning a language or new musical instrument. It will make a huge difference, both short-term and long-term, in the health of your brain and body.
9. Embrace meditation
Meditation is the best way to transform your mind. The practice develops concentration, clarity, and emotional positivity. It helps us see clearly the true nature of things without the veil of a foggy mind. With regular practice, you can deepen a profoundly peaceful state of mind. It’s a transcendent practice that, with time and effort, will lead you to a new understanding of who you are and to the meaning of life itself. Meditation extinguishes fears, anxieties, and other toxic emotions. An important tip for beginners when it comes to meditation is just to start. Set aside three minutes a day for your sessions, preferably at the same time every morning or evening. Find a place where you won’t be distracted by external stimuli, sit in a position that’s comfortable for you, and relax while trying to keep your back straight.
10. Do one thing at a time
Ask yourself how long it’s been since you did just one thing at a time. How long has it been since you allowed yourself to be fully engaged in the present moment, and gave it your full attention? “Do one thing at a time” is one of the most rewarding disciplines you can teach yourself when it comes to stress reduction, boosting mood and reconnecting with the world. But just like the “one day at a time” discipline, it can be harder than it sounds because it’s contrary to the hyperactivity that our minds tell us we should be living. To prove to yourself that you can do this, and that it’s very much worth the effort, schedule every day in your calendar a “one thing at a time” activity. Writing it in your calendar is more effective than just adding it to an easily dismissed to-do list. Keep it simple. Write something like, “Just eat breakfast” or “Just walk.” Whichever activity you choose for that day’s exercise, remind yourself that even if the activity only takes five or ten minutes, your sole assignment is to be fully present and fully engaged in it.