Beat the Sunday Blues (And 3 Other Energy-Boosting Tricks)
Illustration by Chris Silas Neal
You've got the Sunday blues, and you can't escape the force field that is your couch.
The cruddy thoughts you're having about Monday? Feel free to keep thinking them, but speed them up—way up. A study by psychologists at Princeton and Harvard found that asking people to read statements two times faster than they normally would left them feeling happier and livelier. Speeding up the inner talk even helped when people had to read depressing statements like "I can't go on" or "I want to go to sleep and never wake up!" Lead study author Emily Pronin, PhD, has a theory about why: "Fast thinking means lots of novel stimuli in your brain," she says, and that novelty increases dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good. If it's hard to set your mind racing on its own, pull up a random article on your phone and read it to yourself at double speed. Remember, quickness counts as much as content.
You're exhausted from answering emails and fielding Gchats and tweets.
Believe it or not, you can stay online and get a productivity boost—just hop over to a site like Attack of the Cute to scroll through a few wildly adorable photos. A recent study by Japanese researchers revealed that college students were more focused and precise while performing tasks after looking at pictures of cute creatures—baby animals in particular. You might think of it as a virtual version of pet therapy, a treatment that has been shown in studies to decrease anxiety, boost mood, and even ease physical pain.
Photo: Owen Price/istock
An intense morning at work has your brain saying "I quit!" by noon.
Get outside. Research shows that being outdoors, no matter how briefly, makes us feel more alive. Nature's effect is so strong that even imagining yourself in the wild can pep you up, says Richard M. Ryan, PhD, who has studied nature and mood with his colleagues at the University of Rochester in New York. "The key is to immerse yourself in the moment, whether you're imagining it or you're really outside," he says. "It won't work if you're on your phone or ruminating about something. Paying attention to the scenery—the bird on the tree or the sunset—seems to be a big part of why we're more relaxed in nature." (Even, apparently, when it's all in our head!)
You're so tired and bored, you can barely stay awake on the elliptical.
Sniff some lemon. Though most aromatherapy studies have had disappointing results, the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health confirms that there's good evidence that the scent of lemon may energize you. In one study at the Ohio State University, researchers found that inhaling the smell of lemon oil boosted subjects' moods and feelings of vigor by up to 20 percent compared with plain water or the scent of lavender. Throw a small bottle of lemon essential oil in your gym bag. When you need a break, put a few drops in your palm, rub your hands together, take a whiff, and keep going!