By Loren Chidoni, Women’s Health
Early spring grays giving you the blues? It’s no surprise. Lack of sunlight can cause a serious drop in your level of serotonin, a feel-good chemical that’s found in the brain. And without enough serotonin, our mood descends into darkness or, at the very least, an unpleasant crabbiness (you know, the bad temper we typically blame on the rain). Fortunately, you can outsmart wicked weather patterns with these mood-boosting tips as you await the arrival of sunnier days.
Light Up Your Life
If a Miami mini-break isn’t an option, seek out a light box. A strong one that emits at least 10,000 lux can have the same effect as basking in the early-morning sun—minus the cancer-causing UV rays. Place the light box on a table near you—you need only 30 minutes of exposure to increase your serotonin levels and leave you “more alert and energized, two factors that contribute to a good mood,” says Michael Terman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at New York City’s Columbia University Medical Center. For more info—such as where to buy a light box—visit cet.org.
Devour Chocolate Daily
It’s true: One small square a day can keep the blues away. Chocolate contains a pleasure-promoting, mood-regulating neuro-transmitter called phenylethylamine, which stimulates a rush of endorphins, the same compounds released during an orgasm. Studies show that cocoa has almost twice the amount of antioxidants as red wine, so it helps lower blood pressure and wards off wrinkles. When snacking, stick to dark chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa; it’s healthier than the milk-infused variety.
Find Bliss in the Bedroom
During foreplay, your brain gets a healthy dose of the natural chemical dopamine, which “boosts your feelings of desire and makes you want to have sex,” says Kimberly Flemke, Ph.D., a sex therapist at Philadelphia’s Institute for Sex Therapy at the Council for Relationships. A quickie can be an uplifting double whammy. If you have an orgasm, your body will also release oxytocin, the so-called cuddle hormone that lets you feel more emotionally connected to your partner. Just one romp in the sheets will get you to your happy place.
People who eat foods containing omega-3 fatty acids—like salmon and tuna—have a better handle on their emotions and are more likely to be upbeat and agreeable, says Sarah Conklin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. The American Heart Association recommends eating two four-ounce portions of fish twice a week. But don’t overdo it: Stick to one can of albacore a week to avoid mercury poisoning. Walnuts and flaxseed are also packed with the get-happy proteins, which have been proven to prevent heart disease.