Reviving your mood and building up a sense of intrinsic happiness doesn’t have to be a struggle. We seek out the energy boosters and mood enhancers that can really change the way you feel.
Revive your mood with mindfulness
Who better to explain how to revive your mood and move towards the kind of happiness that gets into your bones and stays there than Dr Danny Penman, co-author of bestsellers Mindfulness for Health and Mindfulness.
“Mindfulness quite simply means ‘awareness’,” he says. “Becoming more mindful, more aware of what’s going on in your mind and body, dissolves anxiety, stress and unhappiness. It works by broadening your awareness of what’s going on around you. It puts everything in context so that all of your worries simply lose their hold over you.”
“One of the easiest mindfulness exercises to help improve your mood is to spend a few minutes focusing on the breath,” says Danny. “Close your eyes and focus on the rise and fall of your chest. Explore the sensations the air makes as it flows through your mouth or nose, down the throat and into your stomach. Each time your mind wanders, bring the focus of your awareness back to the breath. You can do this anywhere: in an office, queue or waiting room. You can even do it with your eyes open while you walk or drive.”
Feed your mood
What are the key foods and supplements that will boost your energy levels and perk up your mood? Naturopath and nutritionist Rhian Stephenson has the low-down, and advises seeking out food-state vitamins and supplements from brands, like the aptly-named Foodstate range, available at Dis-Chem.
These play a vital role in energy production, and are easily depleted by stimulants, sugar, birth-control pills and other medications, so we often need a little extra added to our diets. You’ll find them in wholegrains, beans and dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, Swiss chard and spinach.
Chromium can improve how the body responds to insulin, resulting in more consistent blood-sugar levels and sustained energy. You can find it in broccoli, barley, oats and green beans, but Rhian recommends taking a food-state chromium supplement if you’re sensitive to energy dips from fluctuating blood sugar.
Vitamin C, vitamin B5 and magnesium
These are precursors to the production of cortisol, and support the adrenal glands. Including them in your diet will help your body withstand stress. Find them in Brussels sprouts, pineapple, broccoli, kiwi fruit, quinoa, oats, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
As well as helping our skin, brain and heart health, omega-3 fatty acids have a role to play in keeping our moods on an even keel. Oily fish like salmon and mackerel are a great source or try supplements. Just look for an omega-3 concentrate.
Avoid caffeine, sugar and processed foods
These will drain your body of vitamins and minerals, while creating false peaks of energy. Instead, try natural alternatives, such as Yerba Mate Tea, R76 for 20, which comes from an Argentinian plant. This tea gives you antioxidants and minerals, along with a kick of caffeine.
You can also try caffeine-free ginseng tea – we like Freshpak Ginseng, R29,95 for 20, which has been shown to improve energy, reduce fatigue, regulate blood-sugar, and boost mental concentration.
Instant bathroom boosters
Body scrubs, body mists and moisturisers made with citrus oils act as instant tonics on your senses, as well as cleansers and exfoliators for your skin. One of our favourites is the Body Shop Mandarin Energising Face Mist, R95
Start with a smoothie
Try a nutrient-rich smoothie as a restorative of your emotions, as well as your energy levels, suggests juicing expert Sarah Cadji.
Her choice for a smart smoothie
- Coconut water
- Matcha powder
- Coffee beans
“Walnuts have an edge over other nuts as they contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a particularly beneficial form of omega-3 fats,” says Sarah.
“The coffee beans give a caffeine boost, and the matcha powder, made from premium-grade green tea, helps boost alpha waves in the brain.” Try more in your mix next time you whizz up fruit or veg! And, if you’re ever too heavy-handed with the liquid in your smoothie, and are in need of a quick thickening fix, simply add avocado, bananas, a tablespoon of nut butter, or some chia seeds for texture.
Smile, even when you don’t feel like it
Laughter is always an excellent mood enhancer, but if that’s not about to happen, research has shown that stretching your face into the semblance of a smile – or just holding a pen in your mouth, which produces much the same effect – can improve feelings of happiness. Even better, smile at yourself in the mirror; it’s almost as good a pick-me-up as when someone else smiles at you.
Pick a project
Find something to put your energy into; you’ll find it gives you a lot back, along with a feeling of achievement, which can be a great tonic. Those old photographs that never made it into an album; that flower-arranging course you once thought of joining, but didn’t get round to; sorting out the jumbled contents of the “cupboard that time forgot” (every home has one)… any of these will help raise your spirits with the sense of achievement they bring.
Brighten up with a burst of colour
Bring colour into your life as a pop of fashionable bright-pink lipstick, or in your clothes or home furnishings, to brighten up your outlook considerably and instantaneously. “Colour can affect your mood and your energy levels profoundly and has a great impact on your general sense of wellbeing,” says Veronique Henderson, co-author of Colour Me Beautiful (Hamlyn; kalahari.com).
“Seeing a flash of colour emerge from a largely monochrome crowd is energising, like a breath of fresh air, and will make you smile. Red is energising and assertive; and yellow and orange – the colours of sunshine – will make you feel happy, playful and joyful. Just think how much happier we are when the sun is shining.”
A scent of happiness
Our sense of smell has a remarkable power to lift us, and some essential oils enhance our mood. “Oils such as bergamot and pink grapefruit are fantastic stimulants,” says Geraldine Howard, aromatherapy expert. “Smell is the most primitive of our senses and is linked to the deepest parts of the brain, which govern instincts, memories and emotions. When we smell an aroma, it triggers an emotional and physiological response, and can improve our wellbeing.”
You could light a scented candle, or put your favourite scents in an oil burner – try Soil Soy Wax Melts Uplifting Lemongrass Organic Room Aroma (R45 for eight pieces, soil.co.za) to add zing to your space.
Some gentle exercise can also help to enliven your mood. “In yoga, we talk a lot about ‘santosha’,” says yoga instructor Chris Carmona. “It is that gentle feeling of contentment that is not dependent on others, but comes from within.”
To nurture this feeling, he suggests a supported Savasana pose. Roll up a blanket and place it at the bottom of your shoulder blades as you lie on your back. Let your shoulders soften into the floor, close your eyes, and breathe slowly for at least 20 breaths.