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8 two-second tricks to instantly boost your mood

By Sarah Holt

In the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly talked about ‘The Mean Reds’ – a feeling of fear and anxiety that went beyond the mere blues.

If you’ve had a bout of the Mean Reds recently, you’re not alone. One study by The University of Oberta de Catalunya has found that one in two people in the UK have felt down, depressed or hopeless during the Covid crisis.

While true depression isn’t something that can be cured overnight, a temporary low mood is a little easier to fix.

Try one – or all – of these two-second tricks to swap those mean reds for more of an in-the-pink feeling.

Spritz your favourite perfume/aftershave

Multiple scientific studies have shown that scents can affect our mood. EEG monitoring studies have found that scents like lemon and lavender can have a sedative effect and chamomile and sandalwood can make people feel more comfortable.

Further scientific studies at Harvard have found that the brain sends the olfactory signals of scents straight to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain related to emotions and memory. In layman’s terms, this means that scents can easily stir up fond memories, that can boost mood, too.

Light a candle

In Denmark, a country that consistently ranks as one of the happiest in the world, the average person burns six kilos of candle wax every year. In his book, The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking from The Happiness Institute suggests that candles contribute to the happiness levels of the Danish people. He suggests that candlelight is an important part of the Danish approach to life known as Hygge. In a nutshell, Hygge is about living a life that’s cosy, mindful, balanced and rich in self care – and it’s this outlook on life that keeps the Danes so chipper.

Fake a smile

A research study from The University of South Australia has found that merely faking a smile can cheer you up. In their experiment, psychologists from the university got participants to unwillingly fake a smile by asking them to hold a pen between their teeth. The researchers found that the brain then interpreted the smile-like facial movements induced in the participants as a genuine smile and the moods of the subjects were boosted.

“When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way,” lead researcher Dr Marmolejo-Ramos told the journal Experimental Psychology.

Have a handful of something crunchy

According to some nutrition experts, eating crunchy foods like carrot sticks and nuts can reduce stress levels. Jodi Greebel from Citrition nutritional counselling told Cooking Light magazine:

“Eating crunchy things reduces stress because it releases tension from your jaw, face, and neck simply by the act of crunching. Being able to release some of that tension is very beneficial.”

Look at the sky at night

Research by the University of Coventry suggests that looking at the stars for as little as 10 minutes at a time can stir up positive emotions. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to see a sky that’s not light polluted from their home. However, if you can see the heavens from your garden or even a doorstep or window in your house, take a peek at it on a cloudless night and you should feel what the researchers describe as ‘enhanced’.

Make a brew

Science says there are multiple ways a good cup of cha can calm you down and therefore improve your mood. Firstly, research has shown that regular tea drinkers tend to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood after a stressful incident. Plus, tea contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to make people feel calmer when consumed on its own.

Think about Old Tjikko

Old Tjikko

The Swedes claim that Old Tjikko is the oldest tree in the world. It’s located in Fulufjallet National Park and the park’s naturalist team claim that the spruce is 9,565 years old. What’s this got to do with your mood? Just imagine – this tree has weathered more than 9,000 years of storms. The park’s team report that, at especially cold times, the tree has survived as a bush, before growing back into its former tree shape for warmer climes. It’s proof that, even in the harshest conditions, things survive.

Run a bath

So, this trick might take slightly longer than two seconds, but if you can spare an extra 29 minutes or so, having a bath should definitely boost your mood. Researchers at The University of Freiburg recently asked patients with moderate depression to take a hot bath every day and follow the bath up with 20 minutes relaxing in a warm blanket or cosied up to a hot water bottle. After eight weeks of this ritual, the researchers found that the average mood of the group had gone up by six points on the Hamilton Scale for Depression.

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