Are You Hungry?
Make yourself a mini Thanksgiving meal—a small turkey sandwich
and a big slice of pumpkin pie. Tryptophan, a chemical in turkey, can increase your levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone, but it needs help from carbs (hello, pie!) to make the mood-boosting magic happen.
Fancy a Snuggle?
Of the human variety?
Warm embraces are a way to be kind to yourself. Researchers have found that frequent hugs from a partner produce better heart rates and higher oxytocin levels—both of which are linked to lower stress and greater happiness.
Or something more fluffy?
Curling up with a pet has been shown to reduce blood pressure by up to 10 percent in as little as 15 minutes. Puppy love also prompts the release of serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin, hormones that trigger relaxation.
Are You Stuck at Your Desk, Feeling Grumpy or Stressed?
Doodle something happy. In a Boston College study, participants who watched a depressing video experienced greater mood rebounds after drawing things like flowers and the sun than viewers who were asked to draw something expressing their negative feelings. Whether you sketch your perfect beach day or your favorite heroine, a more positive outlook is at your fingertips.
Stuck in the Car?
Sing along to the radio. a tiny organ in your inner ear called the saccule registers only low frequencies, like the sound of your own voice, and it's connected to a part of your brain that registers pleasure. The catch: It doesn't respond to whispers—so crank up the Katy Perry and hit that high note.
How About a Bit of Exercise, Then?
Yoga has been lauded for everything from relieving stress to boosting the immune system, but the best benefit may be more subtle: As long as you're on your mat, you're focused on you—your breathing, your being, your strength and grace. If even the thought of downward-facing dog makes your triceps tremble, consider restorative or yin yoga, in which gentle poses are held for long periods.
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
Prefer a Bit of Pampering Instead?
The peaceful vibe you feel at a spa is fueled by the candles and soft music, sure, but it also emanates from your decision to put the world on pause. Re-creating that TLC at home can be as simple as making time for a DIY manicure. consider using Baker-Miller pink, a color shown to produce a calming effect. Sephora by OPI's Seeing Pink Elephants is a pretty formulation of the shade.
Are You Feeling Too Drained to Finish This Article?
If you can stay awake...
Close your eyes and say ommm. Recent research has found that meditation may increase gray matter in parts of the brain associated with both sense of self and empathy. The Mayo Clinic's meditation app offers a five-minute program.
If you can't...
Rather than drag your weary bones through the rest of the day, follow in the footsteps of notable nappers like Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Daytime dozing can give you instant energy and enhance cognitive performance.
How About Calling Your Mom?
Assuming the two of you get along reasonably well, hearing your mom's voice can give an unexpected lift: Research suggests that the sound of her voice can release the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin at levels that compare with those produced by an actual hug.
If you can spare a few dollars...
Take your coworker out for coffee. Research shows that spending money on others has a greater impact on your happiness than treating yourself. caveat: The life-is-good surge may not work if you're doing it to impress someone.
If you can't...
Recounting the things you're grateful for—the neighbor who watered your azaleas while you were out of town—makes you happier and healthier than focusing on daily irritations. One study found that people who delivered a letter of thanks for another's kindness reported feeling happier for up to a month.
Maybe a Movie?
If you want to see a tear-jerker...
The easiest way to start counting your blessings may be by watching a weepy movie. An ohio State university study found that tragic stories (think Atonement) naturally lead viewers to appreciate the good things and close relationships in their lives.
If you rather see a comedy...
When you laugh hard, the muscular exertion triggers a release of endorphins. According to research from Loma Linda University, even anticipating a yukfest can crank your endorphins and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, by as much as 39 percent.
Are You Up For Exploring Your Roots?
Studies show that people who appreciate and connect with their ethnic heritage have increased self-esteem and show a greater ability to cope with stress. Now may be the time to embrace a new cultural hobby—whether by
watching telenovelas, shopping in chinatown, or cheering at the hometown rodeo.
Next: 11 ways to lift your mood (or someone else's)