October 18, 2021

When you are feeling a bit out of sorts, as we all do from time to time, try improving  your state of mind naturally by practicing these proven natural mood boosters.

Move your body.

Research in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience has shown that physical activity can increase our brain’s serotonin levels. These neurotransmitter mood boosters are often referred to as the “happy chemical.” Next time you feel sad, angry or stressed try getting some exercise for an emotional lift. Even short bouts of 10 minutes or so of activity during your day can boost a declining mood, reduce stress and make you feel better. Taking a walk with a friend, enjoying a yoga session or riding a bike can help you to feel better.

Keep a gratitude journal.

The world’s leading expert on gratitude Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology from the University of California, examined the effects of a keeping gratitude journal. His research found that identifying things to be grateful for each day seems to be beneficial to improve mood, an optimistic outlook and life satisfaction. Try keeping a blank notepad next to your bed and document five things you are grateful for at the end of each day. If you are struggling with identifying things to be grateful for, go simple. It can be as basic as having food in your refrigerator, getting a call from a friend or hearing a bird sing outside your window. This practice only takes a few minutes each day, and when done over time has been shown to retrain the brain toward focusing on the positive aspects of one’s life.

Get outside in nature.

Research on mood has identified that as little as five minutes of time spent in nature can improve self-esteem and mood (Barton and Pretty, 2010). It can also lower tension and anger, and allow for the absorption of vitamin D, which is another important factor for managing depressive symptoms. Doing yard work or taking a hike are a few options to get the blood flowing while enjoying nature and improving your frame of mind.


Research suggests mindfulness meditation deserves a place among the therapies shown to lift mild depression symptoms without medication.  Though based on ancient Buddhist traditions, mindfulness meditation is secular, not religious. Anyone can practice it, and it doesn’t conflict with religious faith or spiritual beliefs. Learning to observe your mind, thoughts and emotions without judging yourself can be challenging when starting out, so finding a class can help. Your primary care provider or a local hospital can often help with identifying classes.

Vanderbilt’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine offers a variety of mindfulness classes, many which are now offered online. Visit the website to register or learn more about how to get started with meditating your way to a better mood.

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