5 Surprising Mood-Boosters

Julie Johnson’s secret to sanity? Instant smoothie gratification. The Extreme Allstars coach brings her Nutri Bullet blender everywhere she goes for that quick fix she craves—and needs. After all, Johnson is often working in the Melbourne, FL-based gym past midnight.

“I know it sounds funny, but it’s true,” Johnson says. “It gets fruit into my system really quickly. I add a little peanut butter. That gets me going for a few hours.”

Desert Elite Mavericks program director Amy Grey splits her days between the gym and Rancho Mirage High School, where she coaches cheer and teaches English. She gets one hour to herself every day, which she fills with The Beatles and the rest of her favorite musicians. “I use my prep during the school day to listen to music and decompress and not have to deal with stresses,” says Grey.

Most coaches and gym owners have their own Nutri Bullets and Beatles—life hacks that boost their moods. They know what a slew of published research has confirmed in recent years: happy people work smarter.

Not surprisingly, a positive mood has positive side effects. It encourages broader, flexible and more creative thinking; increases openness to new information; affects the manner in which professionals interact with customers; and has been linked on a broad scale to economic success.

Here are five ways to add some pep to your step.

Reach out and touch someone. Those heartfelt hugs after a tough routine hits might be more meaningful than you know. Touch has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, relieve pain and anxiety, and increase happiness. And, of course, the benefits continue at home—when we hug or kiss a loved one, we release oxytocin, which is a powerful hormone. No loved ones nearby? Grab Fido, as petting animals lowers blood pressure.

Retrain your brain. While no one is happy 100 percent of the time, thinking positive thoughts can actually get you one step closer to genuine bliss. Researchers urge the cultivation of positive emotions, which can help people—women especially—through a rough patch. Focusing on things that make you happy such as loved ones, trips to Worlds, pets, favorite activities or funny memories just might improve your mood for real. (One caveat: don’t fake it. Fake smiles are proven to actually worsen your mood.)

Lose the ‘blue’ jeans. What a woman wears is heavily dependent on her mood. (Yes, someone researched this.) The wardrobe choice de jour among the sad: blue jeans. Psychologists suggest wearing clothes that express happiness if you’re feeling down. Happy clothes were defined as “ones that made women feel good,” such as anything well-cut or figure-enhancing or made from bright and beautiful fabrics. (A great excuse to shop at Lululemon or splurge on Juicy Couture for gym wear!) Twice as many women wear a hat when happy and five times as many are more likely to wear their favorite shoes.

Let there be light. Make more excuses to get outside—whether it means holding practice outdoors or planning a team bonding picnic. Sunlight improves mood, thanks to the release of serotonin, a natural mood-booster inside your body. Humans evolved outdoors, and it’s unnatural for us to spend so much time inside. Another natural activity for humans: exercise. Getting in a good workout boosts serotonin levels. Exercising outside? Now you’re in serotonin city.

Let the music play. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Music has charms to soothe the savage beast.” Let’s face it: everyone has days when they’re the savage beast. Listening to happy music not only improves mood, but also changes the way we perceive the world. And it’s not just listening that helps: singing alone or in a group also induces positive physiological reactions. So crank up the “Glee” music or another favorite for a sing-along stretch—and watch your practice go that much better.

Check our blog Thursday for more great tips on “mood food” that can give you a much-needed boost!

-Joe Donatelli