Even some of the healthiest, fittest people live with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. While nothing can replace professional help, you do hold some of the power when it comes to your wellbeing. Here, five ways you can boost your mood and relieve anxiety in your regular day-to-day.
If you typically train solo, you should consider going with a group. Out of 75 types of movement, team sports were most closely associated with positive moods. Not only do they tick the social box, but they also hold you more accountable. Join a local running or cycling group or pick up a new sport altogether, like volleyball, softball, or tennis.
Researchers in New Zealand found a unique benefit to eating produce in its natural state: People who ate raw fruits and vegetables were more likely to report positive moods, greater life satisfaction, and fewer symptoms of depression than people who ate cooked or canned versions. Even one raw serving per day can significantly boost your mental health, says study author Kate Brookie, Ph.D., a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Otago in New Zealand.
In the moment, the power to relieve anxiety is literally in your hands. There’s a spot in the center of your palm about an inch below the base of your pointer and middle fingers called the Palace of Anxiety. When stimulated, it helps regulate circulation in the major blood vessels that run in and out of the heart, says Kelly Baker, regional manager of The Spa at Equinox in New York City. Massaging it can “create feelings of joy or pleasure, calm the mind and body, and bring awareness to your breath.” To do it, press your right thumb onto the Palace of Anxiety on your left hand, then close your left hand around your thumb. Hold for 10 seconds or until your anxiety subsides, then repeat on the other hand.
It turns out, there really is an adult version of a lullaby. When researchers asked people to listen to yoga music, pop songs, or nothing at all before going to sleep, they found that yoga music was best at reducing anxiety and steadying their heart rates. Listen to songs with minimal lyrics, a consistent rhythm, and a cadence of 60 beats per minute (the lower end of a healthy resting heart rate) whenever anxiety sets in, says Dena Register, Ph.D., board-certified music therapist and associate professor at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
To truly manage stress, you have to look at all of its sources. Even a wonderful event like a vacation, race, or wedding can elevate stress hormones in the same way work can, says Alicia Clark, Psy.D., a psychologist in Washington, D.C. To keep tabs on good stress, train less during super busy weeks and schedule meetings for the afternoon (not the morning) when you have plans the night before.
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