Self improvement: the little steps

We all have periods in our lives when we feel down in the dumps.
There is a distinct difference between being down or depressed - our article in the blue box below explains how to tell the difference.
If you are depressed it is important to visit your GP who will be able to help you treat the condition.
But for the many others whose mood is not severe enough for medical treatment there is much that can be done to improve the way they feel.
Scientists have found that some simple changes to your life could improve your mood. From increasing your exercise output and drinking more water to eating Brazil nuts and listening to your favourite music - there is plenty you can do to transform the way you feel.
Here is our guide to the top ten steps to improving your mood if you are feeling a little down in the dumps.

We already know that drinking water keeps us hydrated and can improve our skin, but water also has a role to play in lifting our mood. Early findings of a survey carried out by the Food and Mood Project founded by MIND, shows more than half of 200 people questioned found six to eight glasses of water improved their mental state.
Amanda Geary, who led the survey, says it is a well established scientific fact that insufficient amounts of water can cause confusion, irritability and poor concentration. This is because water carries nutrients into our body's cells and toxins out of them. If we become dehydrated, our cells can't function efficiently which can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes - ions in our body that cause movement of cells? causing confusion and poor concentration. 

Believe it or not, eating foods rich in the mineral selenium or taking a selenium supplement can improve your mood. Eating two Brazil nuts or a small-sized bag of nuts and raisins on a regular basis has been shown to improve mood.
A study published in Psychopharmacology showed that a supplement of 100 micrograms a day of selenium significantly improved mood and decreased anxiety among those patients who had low levels of selenium in their diet. Although more research is needed, it is thought that selenium is linked to thyroid function and if your thyroid is not receiving enough selenium it can affect mood and behaviour.
The recommended daily dose for women is usually 60mg and 75mg for men - that's around one-and-a-half Brazil nuts. Selenium is also found in grains, cereals and shellfish, particularly crab. If you want to lift your mood, have two nuts a day, but always consult with your GP if you want to increase this dose.

Early findings by Oxford's Brookes University suggest that listening to your favourite music while involved in tedious activities such as housework, washing and shopping induces positive mood change.
Not only this, but listening to classical music can help improve emotional problems. Research by Dr Susan Hallam of Brookes University found that youngsters with emotional and behavioural problems who listened to Mozart during lessons showed improved concentration and behaviour. This is because classical music was shown to lower body temperature, heart rate, pulse and calm breathing rates.

We've all heard the phrase 'laughter is the best medicine' but according to research laughing can really calm the mind and improve our mental wellbeing. And according to experts say we're not laughing as much as we used to. People used to laugh 18 minutes a day in the 50s. Nowadays it's just six minutes a day.
Several studies demonstrate that laughter produces endorphins, natural chemicals that ease pain and produce a feeling of euphoria, helping us relieve physical and mental stress. Research by Professor William Fry from Stanford University demonstrated the physiological effects that laughter has on lowering blood pressure, heart rate, muscle relaxation and oxygen exchange.
To up your daily laughter quote, try watching a funny film, spending more time with friends, or visiting a comedy club.

Ever wonder why you feel anxious after drinking several cups of coffee? A band of scientists think caffeine is the single most important cause of anxiety in our society and more than nine cups of coffee per day can lead to stress and panic attacks.
So, if you're feeling particularly anxious, avoid coffee.
According to Dr Peter Rogers of Bristol University, our body produces adenosine - a natural sedative that helps keep us calm - but drinking too much coffee has the effect of blocking adenosine, leaving us feeling overstimulated. Although there is no recommended daily allowance for most groups of people, pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to three mugs of coffee per day.


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