The brain is in a constant state of trying to get away from pain and move towards pleasure. It’s a built in survival mechanism all humans possess. So when we feel depressed its natural to gravitate to unhealthy behaviors to feel good. This is not ideal long term. Behaviors such as indulging in drugs or alcohol, eating too much food, avoiding people and situations, shopping, may cause an immediate mood boost but it’s superficial.
Your brain powers your body and and controls everything you do. Doing the following activities will help you activate an immediate supply of positive brain chemicals. Stick to the list below for healthy activities you can engage in to help you feel better on-demand. They are all natural mood boosters!
Natural mood boosters for an immediate boost of happy
MOOD BOOSTER #1: PERFORM A HIGH INTENSITY AEROBIC ACTIVITY:
Why it works:
You’ve likely heard the term “endorphins” and that they get released when you exercise, which causes a positive mood. Well have you ever consider why this happens and how it all works? If you’ve ever wondered here is a quick explanation:
When you exercise your brain processes the information it receives from your body by recognizing it as a moment of stress. The brain does not delineate between good stress and bad stress it just sends a message to the brain that sounds like “I’m under attack. Time to deal with it”. The same built-in survival instincts humans have to cope with crisis (the fight or flight system) kick in to manage this moment of stress on the body.
Endorphins are stress fighting chemicals that are released in the brain when the body signals “threat”. So naturally they are released. The main role of endorphins is to counteract and minimize the pain so you can maintain function to deal with the situation. Endorphins are pain blockers, which means they do the opposite, activate feelings of euphoria.
In order to protect you from the “threat” your brain also releases a protein called Brain Derive Neurotrophic Factor, BDNF. It counteracts the body’s stress by sending more calming chemical signals to cope. This is why you often feel a high sense of clarity during and following exercise.
What to do:
Below are some high intensity aerobic activities to consider. If you don’t have the energy or fitness level to do some of these activities, start small with walking, yoga, tai chi, swimming, dance and other aerobic activities where you can gear up the intensity level when you feel like you can. Here are some activities to consider: Running, roller blading, ice skating, skiing, dance, swimming, plyometrics.
A minimum of 20 minutes a day is the magic number. This has been proven from many significant research studies. 20 minutes is all you need.
MOOD BOOSTER #2: SNIFF AN ESSENTIAL OIL:
Why it works:
The Olfactory system is the name for the chemical processes that carry information on smells in the environment to an individual’s cognitions. Their are many parts to how this system works. For the purposes of understanding how a human understands smell all you need to know is that nerve cells located in the nose carry information through a complex and speedy process to nerve cells in the brain.
Olfactory receptor sites send information to a part of your brain known as the limbic system. It is the oldest part of the human brain and a center for processing emotions. Information on smell sensations are driven to the limbic system first therefore they enact an automatic feeling response before being relayed to the cortex and entering a person’s level of comprehension. That means before you register what your smelling, cookies baking for example, you could be thinking about your grandma or feeling spontaneously happy.
This is also because the region of the brain that receives information about smell – called the olfactory bulbs – is linked to regions of the brain that process emotion and a correlated to associative learning. This is why smell is connect to memory. Smells are recognized, meaning you need to learn them to be able to recall and label hem later.
Because smell is so deeply linked to emotions, good smells can bring about positive mood states. And this is done simply and quickly by taking a whiff of your favorite scents.
What to do:
Purchase one or more essential oil sand take a whiff when you need a quick mood boost. Common positive mood enhancing scents are: Vanilla, Peppermint, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Rosemary and Cinnamon. Whatever you choose make sure you associate the smell with happiness by taking a whiff before you purchase.
MOOD BOOSTER #3: INTERACT WITH POSITIVE PEOPLE
Read Montague, a behavioral neuroscientist and professor at Virginia Tech studies how the dopamine system works in humans. His lab has learned that the same system in the brain that gets deployed when someone takes an illegal and dangerous drug that makes them feel good momentarily also fires when people interact with other people. The system involves the stimulations of the chemical dopamine.
What that means is, the same affects you can get from drugs and alcohol can be caused from simply interacting with other humans.
What to do:
Spend time with family members and friends you enjoy spending time with. Decrease your level of time with people that don’t make you feel good. At minimum, and if you don’t particularly feel like socializing, go be around people. Go to public place. Sit in a coffee shop or a restaurant. Go to a park. Walk through your city. Go be with people in any way you can.
MOOD BOOSTER #4: HAVE AN ORGASM
The euphoric feeling produced by an orgasm is linked to the nerves sent to the brain’s pleasure center, or reward circuit. The sexual arousal felt in the body floods the brain with a surge of happy brain chemicals.
The areas of the brain impacted by sexual arousal include the amygdala, nucleus accumbens, ventral tegmental area (VTA), cerebellum, and the pituitary gland. These brain regions are all connected to emotional regulation and hormone secretion. Over 30 brain regions are stimulated during an orgasm.
Dopamine is also released during orgasm. It is a feel good chemical. It’s the same chemical that some antidepressants target.
During orgasm a brain region call the lateral orbitofrontal cortex gets turned off. It controls self evaluation, reason and self control. It momentarily stops the brain from thinking the thoughts that are running as a results of anxiety and depression. It shuts down fear and anxiety for a short period of time.
When a woman experiences as orgasm the amgydala brain goes it to a state of relaxation. For men, relaxation to the same area reduces aggression.
Overall, the body experiences deep relaxation and pleasure. The heart rate slows.
What to do:
Have sex with a loving and trusting partner or masturbate if you feel comfortable doing so.
MOOD BOOSTER #5: BE GRATEFUL
Being grateful is a positive mind state. And when you focus your awareness on a memory, person, or object that you are grateful for, your brain activates blood flow in brain regions that increase production of a crucial “happy” brain chemical called dopamine. This quick release sends your body a quick flood of feeling good emotions.
In 2009, the National Institutes of Health examined brains of subjects thinking thoughts of gratitude. They had higher levels of hypothalamus activity and increased dopamine levels.
What to do:
Many experts suggest keeping a gratitude journal and logging what you are grateful for each day to help you cultivate this type of positive thinking, so it comes more naturally. This can be a useful practice. A study from UC Davis (2003) reported that adults who keep gratitude journals are more determined, attentive, enthusiastic and have higher energy levels than those who don’t.
But, being grateful doesn’t have to be even this complicated. It’s as simple as thinking about a memory, person, or object for as little as five minutes a day.