After a stressful and challenging year, many of us are looking for ways to boost joy, gratitude and happiness heading into 2021. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the typical outlets for socializing and entertainment are limited or unavailable. Substances like caffeine and alcohol provide a temporary boost in energy and feelings of well-being, but they often come with unwelcome side effects.
Luckily, there are many natural and healthy ways to boost levels of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin in the system, leading to feelings of calm and happiness. Here are five easy ways to feel better, quickly and naturally.
- Get some sun. The lack of sunlight contributes to low serotonin levels. This may be a factor in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), in which people experience depression and lower moods during the winter season. A 2002 study found the rate of production of serotonin was directly related to the duration of bright sunlight.
- Try an ice bath or cold shower. Cold exposure can help reduce inflammation and support your nervous system. It also helps strengthen your vagus nerve, which can reduce stress and the effects of stress on the body.
- Eat more fish and nuts. Certain foods can trigger the production and release of serotonin, contributing to an elevated mood. These foods are typically those high in tryptophan—a precursor to serotonin— and include salmon, poultry, spinach, eggs, soy products and nuts.
- Reduce screen time. Try taking a day off from social media, television and your computer. This can allow your nervous system to take a break from processing information and gives your eyes a rest as well.
- Try mindfulness practices. Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga improve self-awareness and acceptance, which can calm the nervous system and improve mood.
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