Avoid the emotional dip that often comes with the shorter days and cooler nights of September by naturally boosting your endorphins — the valuable anti-stress hormones. Follow Natasha Turner’s easy tips to boost your mood and make the last few weeks of summer great:
1. Get a little nostalgic
Though focusing too much on what’s happened in the past isn’t good for anyone, there is something to be said for reminiscing about positive memories. According to an article in Psychology Today, researchers from Loyola University reported that thinking of good memories for just 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful than they were the week before. Even the anticipation that you’re going to be sharing happy memories with someone can prolong and magnify joy. Perhaps you should go to that high school reunion, after all. Or at the very least, connect with some old friends on social media.
Need more proof? Researchers at the University of Southampton confirmed that nostalgia is a potent mood booster.
2. Start a gratitude journal
Psychology researchers have zeroed in on some concrete tools to make you happy, and topping that list is a gratitude journal. In fact, according to a paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical ailments, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week.
There’s even more good news when it comes to gratitude. Studies show you should be feeling better by the time you put down your pen and you’ll be closer to reaching your goals. “Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period,” says the Georgia Psychological Association report.
3. Get needled
I’ve always been a huge fan of acupuncture for everything from fertility, to pain management, to digestion and stress reduction. Experiments with acupuncture have shown that there are higher levels of endorphins in cerebrospinal fluid following acupuncture.
It’s also been shown to significantly reduce levels of a protein in rats linked to chronic stress, according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center.
4. Spice it up
I’ve discussed how spicy foods can help you boost your metabolism, however they can also give you a rush of feel-good endorphins too. As a result it actually helps to improve your pain threshold — from decreasing the itch of psoriasis to reducing the pain of arthritis.
To reap the full benefits, fill a glass with warm-to-hot water and add fresh lemon juice and a touch of cayenne pepper.
5. Try scent therapy
The perfume and cologne industry has known for years that scent can bring you back to a positive time and place in moments. Personally, anything coconut scented reminds me of the beach and I’m sure I’m not alone. I had a real estate agent tell me years ago that whenever you’re trying to sell your house, simply place vanilla-scented candles throughout and you’ll be surprised how quickly it comes off the market.
A classic study, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, found that the scent of vanilla made patients report a significant reduction in anxiety while undergoing MRIs.
A similar study published in the International Journal of Aromatherapy found that patients who received a foot massage with neroli (orange oil) following open-heart surgery experienced reduced anxiety. A good a reason as any to stop and smell the roses.
6. Get moving in a group
It turns out that exercising in a class format can unleash a flood of endorphins, similar to dancing and laughing.
Researchers in an Oxford study found that college crews who rowed in synchronization had an increased rush of these feel-good hormones compared with those who rowed alone. Whether it’s the rush of having a shared goal, having accountability to others or good old fashioned social bonding, it may explain why some people become “addicted” to their exercise classes and science shows us why: it takes the natural endorphin-rush of exercise to a whole other level.
7. Prescribe laughter
I don’t think anyone can argue that laughter is good for you. Spending time with friends or watching a funny movie can be the equivalent of a mini-vacation when it comes to your health. Researchers Dr. Lee Berk and his colleagues were the first to establish that laughter helps optimize the hormones in the endocrine system, including decreasing the levels of cortisol and epinephrine, improving the immune system, and of course – enhancing your mood.
This weekend I recommend heading to the theatres to watch a funny movie, or catch Bridesmaids on DVD with a few friends, and prepare to boost your endorphins through laughter.
Comment below on some of your favourite ways to boost your endorphins and keep smiling.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.