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All-natural methods to lift your mood

February 29, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The saying "smiles are contagious" may have more validity than you think. Researchers found it only takes milliseconds to subconsciously catch and feel emotions that are similar to people around you. But like any common cold, a bad mood can be cured naturally. Here are some top mood boosters.

Working long hours. Bad traffic. It doesn't take much to get into a bad mood.

Bad times come and go, but research is giving us new reason to leave our negativity at the door.

One study found employees who bring negative emotions to work stay in a bad mood all day and their productivity falls by more than 10 percent.

Another found each happy friend increases your own chance of happiness by 9 percent, and each unhappy friend decreases it by 7 percent.

While many medicate their moods with antidepressants, licensed mental health counselor Abeela Haq says some chemicals treated by these medications can be boosted naturally.

For a good dose of serotonin, include dark cherries and bananas in your lunch.

Next, grab some milk or a turkey sandwich. Both are rich in the proven mood-booster tryptophan.

"That's the happy food. You eat turkey, you fall asleep, you feel good," said Haq.

Also, chocolate. The comfort food helps release mood-elevating hormones called endorphins. A few squares will do the trick.

Another trick is to lower your breathing rate.

"You would take a deep breath in and then you would feel your stomach," said Haq.

It seems simple, but deep breathing is a proven way to calm your nerves. Try breathing deeply 15 times a day.

"You're bringing in more oxygen because you're breathing the correct way," said Haq. "We often breathe incorrectly."

Exercise: Not all workouts are created equal, but a 15-minute walk can work magic.

"The key is that we work, we can be physically active, but you have to do what you enjoy," said Haq. "If you do that, then you actually naturally start boosting those neuro-chemicals in your brain."

Haq says one of the best ways to affect your mood is to watch what you put in your body. Many simple carbohydrates such as soda and junk foods are downers, while protein and vitamin-rich foods improve stability.

Exercise is another important tip not to be ignored. Not all workouts are created equal, but experts suggest you take a 15-minute walk and try to enjoy it because that can help elevate mood-boosting neuro-chemicals.