Eat yourself happy
Ditch ready meals and processed foods: A recent Spanish study of 15,000 people discovered that eating a Mediterranean diet boosts mood and reduces the risk of depression. Aim to eat lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts and olive oil.
Forget low-carb diets: Research has found that when you stop eating carbohydrates your brain stops regulating the “happy chemical” serotonin. But choose wholegrain varieties of bread, pasta and rice to balance blood sugar levels.
Play. As playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing is fun and rejuvenating, whether it’s cards, board games, sports, hobbies or arts and crafts.
Listen to your favourite music: Research published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that upbeat music can have a positive effect on mood and wellbeing.
Buy yourself a bunch of flowers: A study at Rutgers University in New Jersey showed that people became less depressed, agitated and anxious after getting flowers, and have a higher sense of enjoyment and satisfaction with life.
Book a massage: Whether you choose Swedish or shiatsu, massages may ease depression, according to a report in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Massages reduce stress hormone levels, heart rate and blood pressure, and they boost mood and relaxation by triggering the release of oxytocin and serotonin.
Give yourself something to look forward to. It could be a night out with pals, a new lippy or simply a posh coffee with a friend.
Savour a square of quality dark chocolate: The feel-good sensations of chocolate are due to a natural chemical in cocoa called phenylethylamine, which researchers believe can create a feeling of mild euphoria, similar to the experience of being in love.
Get sweaty: Studies have found regular exercise to be as beneficial as antidepressants for mild depression, because it releases feel-good chemicals such as beta-endorphins and dopamine.
Add a 30-second sprint to the end of your walk: This doubles endorphins and increases levels of buzz-making noradrenaline, boosting your mood for up to 90 minutes afterwards, say sports psychologists at the University of Essex.
Enrol in a weekly stretching class, whether it’s t’ai chi, yoga or Pilates: Boston researchers found bending and stretching decreases anxiety, by increasing levels of the brain chemical GABA, which acts as a natural antidepressant.
De-clutter your mind and your home: A good old clear-out, even if it’s just one kitchen drawer, gives satisfaction. In fact, get rid of all the bits and pieces that have been lying around the house gathering dust and give to charity or make a few pounds on eBay for a double-boost.
Read a bedtime story to your kids as though it’s the most exciting book in the world.
Book a holiday: There are always good deals to be found for long trips or mini breaks, or even a day trip.
If all else fails…
Dress in cheery colours: Avoid black or grey as they have a psychological effect on your mind and mood, says body language expert Judi James. “Instead try calming but uplifting shades like blue, turquoise, amber or violet – but not red, which exacerbates feelings of anger.”
Sing out loud: It increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin and is proven to improve cognitive function and reduce depression.
Do something for someone else. Whether it’s sharing something on social media for another business, complimenting someone or offering to do an elderly relative’s shopping.
“Walk tall and put a smile on your face (not an inane grin, you will scare people),” advises Andy Cope, co-author of The Art of Being Brilliant (£9.99) – See Bookshop on page 81. “Your brain will immediately think you are happy and you’ll feel a lot better.”
“Practise the 10/5 principle,” he adds. “For instance, smile at everyone who comes within 10ft of you and make eye contact – and say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5ft (except on the Tube in London. I tried it and nearly got arrested).”
Watch out for the 90/10 principle: This states that 10 per cent of your happiness depends on things that happen to you, while a whopping 90 per cent depends on how you react to these events. Make a conscious choice to be and think positive.