How are you feeling? As we descend into Autumn and the days get a little shorter, it’s common to feel those Summer-fuelled endorphins begin to wane. If you tend to suffer from low mood levels throughout the darker months, this time of year can be challenging, but thankfully, there’s an abundance of practices we can adopt to help ourselves through. From the way we breathe to the way we eat, and even the way we think, everything we engage with throughout the day can have a huge impact on our mood levels. Whether you want to raise your mood levels to support your wellbeing throughout Autumn and Winter, or if you simply want to optimise your happiness, read on for five ways to boost your mood today!
What controls our mood levels?
Before we dive in, it’s useful to consider exactly what it is that controls how we feel. Of course, this isn’t medical advice at all, and if you do suffer from severe depression or anxiety, it’s important to reach out and get support from a healthcare professional. If you’re curious as to what might be influencing your mood on a daily basis however, there are three key players; norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. The delicate balance of these three neurotransmitters is what helps us feel energised, happy and calm. If any of these chemical messengers is a little lost, we can experience fluctuations in our mood or anxiety levels. Knowing that these three aspects are key to a balanced mood can give us a clearer idea of how to boost mood levels by simply asking; ‘What can I do to boost dopamine?’; ‘What helps raise serotonin?’; or ‘How can I enhance my norepinephrine?’ The answer? With simple daily practices and easy self-care methods, read on to discover them:
Ways to get more light exposure and sunshine
There’s a reason we often feel uplifted in Summer, and much of it has to do with the amount of sunlight we’re exposed to. Most of us tend to assume that sunlight gives us vitamin D and a bit of a tan…. But the truth is that sunlight does SO much more for us, including helping us metabolise carbohydrates more efficiently, as well as having a huge impact on mood levels. The key to using sunlight to help your mood is getting a big dose of it in the morning, soon after waking up. Research shows that when we get out into natural sunlight in the morning, we get a boost of dopamine, and dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps us feel motivated and fired up for the day. The later we get this dopamine hit from sunlight (i.e. if we hit the snooze button or simply don’t go outside) the more likely we are to feel low and groggy for the rest of the day. To help boost your mood with sunlight then, simply step outside as soon as you can after waking, perhaps whilst sipping your morning cup of organic Pukka ‘Joy’ tea, or by taking your journaling or meditation practice outside. If you spend a lot of time indoors, it’s also worth investing in a light box to get you through the darker months.
Easy ways to add more movement to your day
Movement helps specifically boost norepinephrine and dopamine, which is part of the reason we feel so good after going for a run, or practicing a dynamic yoga class. Movement is also one of the things we can forget to prioritise when it’s cold and rainy outside. The thing is, it is when the weather is most grey and dreary that it’s important to raise these mood-boosting chemicals in our brains, but that doesn’t mean we have to head out for hours of hiking or jog for miles. According to research into how humans have evolved in alignment with the changing seasons, Summer is a time when we are most suited to long hours of walking and exercising outdoors, whilst Autumn is more about balancing movement and rest. What this means for us today, is that whilst we may be tempted to snuggle on the sofa under a warm wool blanket, we benefit from firstly heading outside for a burst of exercise, or visiting your local yoga class for an hour of movement and breathing. Slip on your organic cotton jumper and give yourself the gift of a morning walk, or pack your yoga kit bag and head out to class…. Then you can sit back and relax afterwards in a better mood.
Foods to help with concentration and brain focus
There are certain foods that can have a profoundly positive impact on our minds, and whilst a big bag of sweets might give you an instant boost, that’s not what I’m referring to…. Foods have a direct impact on our cells’ ability to communicate well, and a huge influence on brain function. When it comes to food and mood, specific foods like turkey, salmon, nuts and seeds, and pineapple are all high in tryptophan, which then gets converted into serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm, relaxed and happy, so these are great foods to include in your evening meal. In terms of supplements, there’s a lot of evidence showing that omega 3s and fish oils like krill can be incredibly effective for raising mood levels too. Try some mood-balancing and adaptogenic herbs:
- Menopause Serenity
- Rested Resilience
Define your Dharma: finding a renewed sense of purpose
Having a reason to get up in the morning is important for everyone’s mindset, but if you need an extra helping hand in the mood department, having a real sense of purpose is key. In Japan, this sense of purpose is known as ikigai, which translates as ‘reason for being’. It’s important to note that this ‘reason for being’ definitely doesn’t have to be your job or profession; it’s simply something you care about that gives you a sense of purpose in the world, like growing your own food, contributing to your community, or looking after a family. If you’re not sure what your dharma is, try the Kartotek guided journal to write down one list of things you love doing, one list of things you know you’re good at, and one list of things the world needs more of; is there one aspect in these lists that links together? For example, if you love creating recipes, if you’re good at cooking and you feel the world needs to know how to eat healthier, maybe your purpose lies in nutrition or recipe creation.
Embrace the change of the seasons: coping with the cold
Whist it’s important to keep yourself warm if you’re spending a long time outdoors in cold weather, a quick burst in a cold shower can actually help raise mood levels significantly. When we treat ourselves to a few seconds of cold water in a shower, this raises norepinephrine, and boosts our energy and mood levels. For an extra boost, use the Malin + Goetz peppermint shampoo, as the scent is said to help with motivation and mood. If you tend to feel anxious and low, this is a great way to lift you out of feeling ‘stuck’, is known as a ‘hormetic stressor too, which means it’s a ‘good’ kind of stress that can help us become more resilient.
As well as these tips, you can raise your mood levels with self-care products like the Scentered Bee Happy Balm. Or try lighting an Aery Aromatherapy Happy Space candle to shift the energy of your home.
How do you keep your mood elevated in autumn and winter?