One-Minute Moves to Boost Your Mood (part 1 of 3)!

While it’s no secret that physical activity has a positive effect on our moods and has even been shown to be as effective or even more effective than antidepressants, often when I find myself feeling stressed, anxious or down it’s precisely when a workout is out of the question. Whether I’m about to walk into a meeting, sitting in the car line to pick up kids, or in the dentist chair, those times when I just don’t have the option to fit in a funk-busting fitness break, I rely on one or more of these 60-second (or less) mood-boosting moves:

We don’t give much thought to breathing since our autonomic nervous system takes care of it for us whether we’re behind our desk, behind the wheel or feeling behind the eight ball. This makes it easy to take for granted and not notice when our stressful state has resulted in shallow breathing. But deep breathing has been shown to have a great effect on improving mood – and you can do it anywhere.

One of my favorite ways to get a quick lift is to focus on “breathing in” joy, happiness, energy, peace, or whatever I’m in need of at the moment for a 4-count through my nose, then hold for 2 and “breathe out” anxiety, stress, overwhelm or any other negative feelings I’m having through my mouth. After doing this a few times, my mood is instantly boosted.

For other effective mood-boosting breathing techniques, check out this article on MindBodyGreen.

Mother does know best. Turns out all those times she told you to sit up straight not only improved  your posture, but your mood as well. “Embodied cognition” is the scientific name for what researchers (and moms)  have known for quite a long time: it’s a lot harder to feel depressed when we’re sitting up straight than when we’re slouched over.

Reports of a study at  Northwestern University reveals that changes in brain chemistry are affected by changes in body position. People sitting upright having more empowering thoughts and lower stress hormone levels than their bent over counterparts. Another study shows that positive thoughts are easier to recall when upright, with twice as many individuals recalling negative thoughts in the slouched position.

The digital age we live in can make it challenging to  sit up straight and take advantage of this quick & easy mood booster as we are often hunched over our devices. Setting an alarm or making a deal with ourselves to do a posture check before checking alerts on our smartphones, laptops and tablets can go a long way in improving moods.

If you have an extra minute, try the “power pose” Amy Cuddy teaches in her  TED talk.

We usually think of smiling as something we do when we’re already happy, but research shows that it goes both ways – yes, happiness creates smiles, but smiles also boost happiness. Even a fake smile can improve mood.

As far back as Charles Darwin and William James to as recently as Botox went mainstream, studies have pointed to the fact that affecting a smile will affect your happiness level. It has long been known that certain muscle movements elicit an emotional response, even if those movements are seemingly neutral.

Late Sanford psychologist Robert Zajonc had subjects pronounce a long “e” sound, which mimicked the motion of smiling, and a long “u” which created a pout. Not surprisingly, they felt positive emotion with the smiling motion and negative with the pout.

More recent studies on patients two weeks after Botox injections showed that with their ability to make facial expressions of anger and sadness limited, their ability to register those emotions was dampened, with no decrease in registering happy emotions.

A Psychology Today article shares a study in which 9 out of 10 subjects with treatment-resistant depression were no longer depressed two months after receiving Botox injections, suggesting that our facial expressions have quite an impact on our emotions.

It has even been found that people who smile through unpleasant experiences report experiencing less emotional distress and even physical pain in comparison to those who frown. So as the saying goes, fake it till you make it!

Let me know what kinds of results you get from trying these moves! I would love to hear any other quick pick-me-ups that you use, too ?


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Founder and CEO of Trulee Foods, Sherry Lee White speaks, blogs and contributes to national publications on the topics of mind-body and food-mood relationships as well as other aspects of wellness.