It’s a new year, but if you feel a little blue, you’re not alone. Dwindling sunlight tamps down the mood-boosting hormone serotonin, making 75 percent of us struggle with the blahs. Happily, these simple steps raise serotonin so you feel cheerful fast.
Linger in the shower.
A steamy, 15-minute morning shower can set you up for all-day joy and is a way to boost happiness. An increase in body temperature prods the brain to release serotonin, says Christopher Lowry, PhD, of the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. Also smart: Add a few drops of orange essential oil to a washcloth and place it on the shower floor. Scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation say the scent cuts the risk of blue moods by 50 percent.
Boost an amino acid.
Swiss scientists say taking a daily dose of 100 mg. of 5-HTP, an amino acid that acts as a building block for serotonin, can correct a shortfall of serotonin four times faster than antidepressants—minus the negative side effects. The result? Improved mood in as little as three days. One to try: Natrol 5-HTP Fast Dissolve Tablets (Buy on Amazon, $10.99).
Note: Check with a doctor before supplementing.
Turn the music down.
We think of turning up fast-paced tunes to give us a hit of happy, but Canadian scientists say the opposite delivers an even bigger lift. They found an hour daily of soothing background music (with a tempo of 60 beats per minute or less, such as classical music by Mozart and Bach) elevates mood and stamina by 55 percent in 72 hours. Calming music spurs the release of serotonin, which not only shakes off the blues but encourages the thyroid to churn out revitalizing hormones to boost happiness.
Bite into a juicy burger.
That burger you sank your teeth into helps boost your happy. So say Australian researchers who found women who enjoyed 14 oz. of beef weekly slashed their risk of seasonal doldrums in half. That’s because high-quality beef has the ideal mix of protein and fats to boost the production of serotonin. And those fries? Research shows their carbs help convert meat’s tryptophan into serotonin for an added pick-me-up.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.