Introduction: Natural Mood Enhancers

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Ever have that feeling when you're zapped of all energy, and have no idea how you'll get through the day, with all its mundane activities and cumbersome responsibilities? You would love another shot of coffee but you just downed the last cup 30 minutes ago. If this sounds all too familiar, than this is the instructable for you! With the help of slight alterations to your surroundings, sipping natural energy boosters, and the company of friends, we will explore some ways to naturally enhance your mood! Caffeine free, and non addictive, these tips may turn you into an enthusiast junkie- naturally!

Let's get started!

Step 1: Dance/ Sing

So you're not usually the kind of person that sings in the shower or dances in their car at a red light, but try it and it may just help improve your mood.

Rigorous physical activity releases endorphins, or functioning neurotransmitters that resemble opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being. They are produced by the pituitary gland during exercise, excitement, pain, some food consumption, love, and sexual activity. But it doesn't stop there; for dancers who exert themselves for long periods of time, their brain releases even more mood-lifting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine.

Dance therapy has long been used to fight depression and anxiety. But if you're not much of a dancer yourself, watching other people dance may be beneficial as well. According to Robyn Flaum Cruz, president of the American Dance Therapy Association. MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you yourself were doing the moves. So when one dancer's movement expresses joy or sadness, others often get to experience it as well, spreading feelings and fostering empathy. Hopefully the mood of the person your watching dance is contagious and you get up and bust a couple of moves!

So crank up that song that its practically impossible not to dance to and sing along while dancing like your life depended on it! If you're not in a better mood within a couple minutes, you might possibly have fallen asleep.

Step 2: Chocolate

The number one food craved by American women now seems to have legitimate science backing the popular candy! Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain, giving credence to the claim that chocolate is a comfort food. The endorphins work to lessen pain and decrease stress. Another common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate is serotonin. Serotonin is known as an anti-depressant. One of the chemicals which causes the release of serotonin is tryptophan found in, among other things, chocolate.

But it doesn't stop there. According to Adam Drewnowski of the University of Michigan. "We want chocolate in times of stress, anxiety, pain and so on. Chocolate is a natural analgesic, or pain killer."

So, do we get happy because we eat chocolate or does the chocolate make us happy? Go and find out!

Step 3: Apple Cider Vinegar

An apple a day keeps the Dr. away. But some apple cider vinegar (ACV) everyday keeps the depression away! Thats right, ACV helps to improve mood tout suit! Much different than its cousin, distilled white vinegar, ACV is fermented from pulverized apples.

ACV taken before meals will help break down proteins into amino acids, which are instrumental in the creation of tryptophan. Tryptophan plays a critical role in the release of serotonin, one of our "feel-good" neurotransmitters found in the brain. It elevates mood and helps us to feel relaxed, both of which are extremely important for fighting off symptoms of anxiety and depression. The more we can assist in the creation of serotonin, the better. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and anxiety.

So, the next time you need a natural boost of energy and a mood lifter, forget your go-to caffeinated beverage, and grab an 8 ounce glass of water mixed with 2 tbls ACV.

Chug it down fast because it doesn't take awesome and give it a couple minutes to work before you begin to feel an awesome mood enhancement!

Step 4: Yoga

You've seen the mats, and have tried the poses, but did you know how yoga helps to improve your mood both in the short term and in the long? Many yoga styles teach meditation and deep breathing techniques to focus the mind completely on holding form, thereby shutting out any other thoughts that may otherwise be preoccupying us, thus creating a physiological and psychological unison. One of the goals of yoga is to augment positive mood states and decrease feelings of anxiety.

Researchers studied the effects of an Iyengar practice of yoga and found there was an increase in positive mood, a decrease in negative mood, and an increase in energy level regardless of the pose practiced. It was also noted in the research that back bending poses specifically increased positive moods in individuals who were hostile and/or depressed.

When you do yoga or any other exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Yoga, like many other exercises, helps lower blood pressure, reduces stress, improves sleep, and even burns calories. Whats not to love? Your mood will brighten, and your body will feel well-stretched

Step 5: Sunshine

Rise and shine and greet the sun! We usually take that large orb for granted, having to spear on loads of sunscreen to protect against it or spearing on oil to bathe in front of it. Whatever your personal uses of the sun may be, add "mood enhancer" to that list!

The reason for this is that as sunlight hits the optical nerve (i.e eye) some of that transferred light is sent to the gland in the brain in charge of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. In response, melatonin secretion decreases. When the sun goes down, the body increases its secretion of melatonin. At the same time, when the body perceives sunlight, serotonin levels increase, the hormone responsible for feelings of well-being. And the more sunlight the human body is exposed to, the more serotonin the brain produces, the more potential there is to be in great spirits!

To further underline the importance of sunshine, let's talk about the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD,) a condition where people get clinically depressed in the winter because there is less sunlight. This happens because serotonin is not being produced in great enough quantities to maintain a cheerful mood. Sun lamps are used in light therapies to substitute the light our bodies need to create serotonin/happiness.

So go out every now and then when you're feeling down and basque in the sunlight for 5-10 minutes.

Step 6: Play

Think about this one for a moment: who are the happiest people you know?

If your answer included small children, then you know where I'm going with this one. Children tend to be the best examples of pure happiness, exhibited through their genuine curiosity, quickness to laugh, and their uncanny ability to live solely in the moment. The newness of a child is magical, but we could definitely learn a thing or two from these upbeat creatures by walking in their footsteps to see how happy people live.

The great philosopher, Plato, reportedly observed, “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Children are usually always preoccupied with what is directly in front of them, which is usually a play thing, but which in fact is an avenue to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided, self-healing process. Expression of this kind, be it physical or psychological, serves as a sort of therapy of the spirit, as it displaces internal energy outward into a productive channel.

Of the most popular variety is sand. At the beach or in a pit, sand's unique texture and manipulation capabilities are vast to say the least. Try running your hands or feet through some sand and see if your mood doesn't brighten a bit. You may not completely forget your stresses and anxiety, but you may, just for a moment even, enjoy what is in front of you, perhaps even finding therapeutic energy playing with the sand grains.

Step 7: Hug It Out

When is the last time you hugged someone? Can't remember? Then its been too long! Hugging/ kissing has both physical and psychological benefits by not only creating a greater sense of closeness and compassion, but also has been proved to reduce heart rates, improve overall moods, lower blood pressure, and increase nerve activity. The simple yet affectionate act releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol, a University of Missouri–Columbia study says.

Hugging relaxes muscles and releases tension in the body by stimulating our nerves through touch. Think of it as a mini-massage! Along these lines, they also soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues. Positive physical touch has an immediate anti-stress effect, slowing breathing and heart rate, reducing anxiety significantly.

Step 8: Chatting Catharsis

Talking to others or even to yourself is a phenomenal way to not only dramatically lessen stress levels, but can even promote stronger focusing skills.

Grab a couple of your best pals and hang out! Talking to friends about anything from the weather to a doctoral thesis is a simple yet unequivocal method to enhancing your mood! You may not even need to actually speak to one another to feel better, but since this section is about chatting, please talk away! Having a good support system be it family, friends, or complete (yet awesome) strangers, talking has an amazing ability to not only relate thoughts and emotions, but to allow ourselves to feel connected to others- and feelings of empathy have remedial benefits. Even if the people you talk to have absolutely no clue what you're going on about, the physical action of speaking serves as a stress outlet.

No one around to chat with? Talk to yourself!

Ever wonder why people who lose something begin to talk to themselves? And no, its not momentary insanity. Quite the opposite actually, according to psychologists Gary Lupyan of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Daniel Swingley of the University of Pennsylvania in a study they conducted that showed that when people who talk aloud to themselves it invariably increases focus and thought organization. But more that that, it reduces stress levels! Apparently talking to yourself has the same therapeutic advantages of journaling in so much that you can say pretty much anything on your mind without fear of judgement and contradiction. It also serves as a physical outlet of pent-up emotion. So go on, blah to yourself! - but be positive!

Step 9: Plants

Plants, either indoors or outdoors, have the ability to not only positively affect our mood but also our physical well being by enhancing creativity and increasing productivity. According to a University of Agriculture in Norway study, indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 percent, partially by increasing humidity levels and decreasing dust and removing toxins from the air around them.

House plants make people feel calmer and more optimistic, says Bruno Cortis, M.D., a Chicago cardiologist. Interestingly, he says that studies have shown that hospital patients who face a window with a garden view recovered more quickly than those who had to look at a wall.