Gemma McCaw's 10 steps to lift your mood

Doing even just one little thing for yourself every day can amount to a happier life.

By Gemma McCaw
Everyone needs a little pick-me-up sometimes. Our mood plays an important role in the quality of our life as it affects our health, relationships and how we see the world. While the long-lasting effects on a positive mood involve changes to our lifestyle and habits, sometimes a quick fix is all we need to feel better. If you're feeling a little low, give these mood boosters a go.

Just breathe

Take five minutes to notice your breath. Inhale through your nose to a count of five, then hold for another five seconds. Now exhale for the final five seconds. Repeat this exercise five times. Notice what it does to your body and how much better you feel.

The great outdoors

Fresh air and sunshine are good for the soul. While a lack of sunlight has been linked to depression, sunshine has been found to boost levels of seratonin, the chemical responsible for regulating your mood. Exposure to natural light during the day will also assist your body to produce melatonin, helping you fall asleep at night.

Sweat it

Exercise gives you endorphins, which in turn make you happy. Being active also helps combat stress and boosts self-esteem. Whether it's a walk, run or quick bodyweight workout, you really can't help but feel good after breaking a good sweat. A recent study showed exercise was more effective than drugs for overcoming depression.

Power naps

Feeling grumpy? If you're routinely getting less than seven hours' sleep a night, this could be the cause. Getting enough sleep is top priority and the less you get, the more stressed, exhausted and sad you feel. A 20-30 minute afternoon nap is enough to leave you feeling refreshed, without any drowsiness when you wake.

Stay connected

Humans are social beings hard-wired for connection and you can feel low when disengaged. Try a five-minute phone call, a short visit to a friend or sending an email to a loved one. These simple acts will leave you feeling less alone, and you can share in positive emotions such as laughter and fun.

Smart snacks

To avoid feeling "hangry", make time for snacks and never skip meals. Regular healthy snacks will boost energy levels and make you feel good. Try a handful of walnuts, a square of dark chocolate or some blueberries to give your mind the nutrients it needs.

Clean up!

Clear out the clutter in both your work and home spaces. Spending just a few minutes throwing away unneeded items can help you feel more productive and in control.

Hug it out

When you hug a friend, partner, family member or even a pet, your body releases the love hormone oxytocin. By embracing your loved one, you will feel calmer, happier and connected.

Success story

When you focus on positive events, you can change your perspective and boost your mood. Try Dr Martin Seligman's "What went well" exercise, where you think of three things that were successful in your day. Relive these in your mind and feel the related good feelings. It's a one-minute mood lifter that has been proven to increase life satisfaction.

Smiley face

It might feel a little silly at first, but try intentionally smiling for a few minutes. The body influences the brain and even a forced smile can change the chemistry to create genuinely positive feelings.

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