Well, you’re reading this, so you might be a bit cranky. The testosterone, estrogen and progesterone shifts we experience during menopause and andropause (AKA manopause) have a way of messing with our moods, explains Tasneem Bhatia, a board-certified integrative medicine physician and author of Super Woman Rx. A less-than-dreamy night’s sleep can put the screw-face on you, too. And the energy it takes to be irritable, sad or pissed off is getting in the way of your focusing on what you want to do. If you can pinpoint what that is. Sometimes, lack of focus or boredom is the buzzkill. No worries. AARP surveyed the science on attitude adjustment. Any one of these proven tricks below can scrub that scowl off your face pronto. C’mon, get happy!
1. Pop a vitamin and “B” happy. Regularly taking a B-complex vitamin can help boost mood, Bhatia says. No, this won’t take effect immediately. But walking to the wellness cabinet will get your blood circulating and your mind off your worries.
2. Breathe s-l-o-w-l-y. Stanford University scientists have identified a group of nerve cells in the brain stem that “spy” on our respiratory rate. These cerebral sentinels relay messages to the locus coeruleus, a structure that drives brainwide arousal, including stress and panic. Slow, controlled breathing signals to your nervous system that all is well, which triggers tranquility — even if you’re faking it until you make it.
3. Try aromatherapy. Use lavender or sandalwood oil, Bhatia suggests.
4. Push “play.” Multiple studies show that enjoying music enhances self-awareness, a sense of belonging and regulation of mood and arousal. Researchers pinpointed that tunes helped mature listeners to feel less lonely, reminisce about happy times and relax.
5. Dance it out. It worked for Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy Dancing “has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety and stress, and boost self-esteem, body image, coping ability and overall sense of well-being, with the benefits lasting over time. In one study, it even helped control emotional eating in obese women who eat as a response to stress,” according to the Berkeley Wellness website, in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.
6. Replay what went well today. Write down three things that turned out positively since you woke up this morning. Oh! You woke up this morning. There’s one right there. This simple daily exercise, from leading positive psychology expert Martin Seligman, is a one-minute mood lifter that has been proven to improve life satisfaction levels.
7. Watch a cat or dog video. Assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, of the University of Indiana Bloomington, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of cat videos and how it affects their mood. Participants were more energetic and felt more positive after watching cat-related online media. They also reported fewer negative instances of anxiety, annoyance and sadness. The pleasure they got from watching cat videos was greater than any guilt they felt about procrastinating. If LOLcat memes and videos aren't your thing, there is recent evidence that the popularity of online felines has been surpassed by dogs. Either way, it’s instant pet therapy.
8. Beat boredom with a puzzle. Think fast! The cerebral supercharge you get from quick problem-solving may trigger the brain’s novelty-loving reward system, according to a joint study by Princeton and Harvard university researchers. Check out games.aarp.org for free jigsaw and crossword puzzles, plus solitaire, mah-jongg, card, arcade and other games.
9. Click here and Create the Good. You’ll access AARP’s volunteer portal and find an opportunity worth looking forward to. A large study of British adults linked volunteering in middle age and beyond to emotional well-being. Subjects younger than 40 didn’t enjoy that mood boost.
10. Perk up with coffee. Harvard research associated coffee drinking with a lower risk of depression among women.
11. Step outside and get some sun. A recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders took six years of archived patients’ records from therapists and analyzed what the weather was on each date that the 16,000-plus patients attended the therapy sessions. On sunny days, they reported less emotional distress.
12. Focus on what you can control. Once, we might have been rattled by a crying baby or a hellish commute — stressors that blow over. As we journey through our 50s, 60s and 70s, some sources of distress may be lasting: chronic pain, sadness about a lost loved one, a disability, diminished connection with adult children who’ve moved away, or a lost sense of purpose or structure after retirement. Acknowledging and grieving a loss frees energy for you to boot up your coping strategies, focus on what you can control and embrace joyful new activities, psychologists say. But if the blues persist, get screened for depression.
13. Smile. Our facial expressions can reverse-engineer our moods. That’s why researchers in Wales discovered that people who’d had Botox treatment for frown lines — which made it harder to look sad — actually felt less sad. Conversely, people who’d had Botox for crow’s feet, which made it harder to crinkle those eyes into a smile, felt more depressed. Want a reason to smile? Studies show we get happier with age.