THERE MUST BE something strange going on lately… maybe a low pressure or a full moon. There are three small children dragging their feet around the house today, with mournfully slouched shoulders. I have already had two phone calls from friends, ringing for a chat as they need some cheering up. To be honest I am not exactly ‘full of the joys’ myself.
So how can we cheer ourselves up when we are low… and is there a science to it?
Most people have their own ways of shaking off the blues. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Here are a few suggestions that might be worth considering.
1. Become an avid sports fan
2. Have a cup of tea
I have always found the mere process of stopping and making a cup of tea can calm me down and change my state of mind. According to some scientific studies, if I change my regular brew to a cup of green tea I will get the added bonus of an increase in dopamine production. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that can increase our sense of pleasure and wellbeing.
3. Head to the gym
No big surprises with this one – the endorphin release we get from exercise makes us calmer, more productive and happier people. If you combine exercise with being in the great outdoors you can increase your happiness quotient even further.
This leads me nicely into my last point, and the one that works best for me. Being in the outdoors, or more precisely…
4. Get digging
This always works for me. No matter what mood I’m in, getting my hand stuck into the soil seems to put me in greener pastures. Not to mention the fresh air, exercise, the therapeutic effect of being among nature, and the distraction of a project. It also appears there is even more to it; the presence of a non-patoghenic bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae within the soil itself. M. vaccae has been shown to increase serotonin levels in mice and create responses similar to treatment with antidepressants. Treatment with this friendly bacteria has been shown to increase mood in cancer patients and has been linked with improvement in cognitive function.
I hope these tips help you get out of your annoying funk this summer.
So, I’m off to dig a hole in the garden, while jogging on the spot, drinking a tea and cheering at the chickens to see which “team” makes it to the coop first. I figure even if it doesn’t cheer me up it will certainly get the rest of the family laughing… and laughter has to be the best cure of all for beating the blues!
What cheers you up?
Dr Naomi Lavelle is a mum to three junior scientists who are always asking “how”, “why” and “what if”. She blogs at Science Wows where she aims to answer all their questions, one post at a time. She can also be found on Facebook and as @sciencewows on Twitter.