We’ve all had those days where it seems like nothing we do gets us out of our slump.Nothing, from a sip of our favorite blend to cute cat videos on the Internet, can get us out of our bad mood. If you need a quick pick-me-up, though, you can use your own body chemistry to make it happen. All you need to do is a bit of exercise!
While it might sound like the last thing you want to do when you’re in a bad mood, exercise actually jump starts your brain, and gets your body to produce a slew of different chemicals. Adrenaline, serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine all work together to lift your mood and make you feel better, according to Very Well Mind. And what’s really great is that you don’t need to take an hour at the gym to reap the benefits… you can get them in minutes, pretty much wherever you happen to be! All you have to do is know the right stretches that will get your blood flowing, and start your body chemistry churning. So whether you’re at home, at work, or just out and about, there are all kinds of simple exercises you can do to help elevate your mood, and give your spirits a much needed lift.
Stretch #1: The Downward Facing Dog
This is one of the most iconic yoga posts. Your hands and feet are both flat on the floor, and you’re bent in the middle with your head down, and your hips up. And while it might look uncomfortable, getting into this position is a relatively easy thing to do. You start on all fours, and slowly raise your hips until they’re pointed at the ceiling. This stretches out your arms, your legs, and most importantly your back. It also takes pressure off your neck, which can be a welcome relief if that’s where you carry your tension.
The advantages of the downward facing dog is that it promotes flexibility, but it also sends blood flow to your head. As such, you should move slowly to avoid getting light-headed. Once you’re used to this pose, though, you only have to hold it for a few breaths in order to start feeling its effects on your muscles. And once your body is happy, it won’t take long for your mind to follow.
Stretch #2: The Forward Bend
Perhaps one of yoga’s simpler poses, the forward bend is fairly easy to do. You start with your feet hip-width apart, standing straight. You raise your arms up over your head, and inhale. This gives you plenty of extra oxygen, and fills your lungs to capacity. Then, as you exhale, you bend forward. You want to keep your back straight as you bend down, and to go as low as you can (the more you do this stretch, the lower you’ll be able to go). You should move slowly, and stretch, holding this pose for a few breaths before coming up.
Just like downward facing dog, this pose gets the blood flowing to your head. More importantly, it stretches your back and your hamstrings, which can be difficult places to get in your day-to-day. If you free up the tension in these areas, and get some slow, concentrated movement going on, then that should kick your feel-good neurotransmitters on.
Stretch #3: The Warrior II
The warrior II pose is tough on your muscles, but what you get in return is more than worth the sweat. While standing with your feet together, step one foot back about four feet, and turn your foot 90 degrees. Adjust your other foot so it’s turned in slightly. Then turn your torso toward your back foot. Extend your arms in front of you and behind you, with your fingers stretched out. Keep your palms down. Then bend your front knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor.
This is a tough pose to hold, especially if you’re not used to it. Remember to take deep breaths, and to concentrate on them as you maintain the pose. It gets your muscles flexing, which is just what you need if you want to sweat out a bad mood. For a little extra boost, you can do your right side, then your left, ensuring that all parts of your body are equally stretched and worked by the time you’re done.
Stretch #4: The Bridge Pose
This one is fairly easy to get into, even if it isn’t always easy to hold. You start lying on your back, with your feet near your butt, and your arms at your sides, palms down. You then flex your legs, pushing your hips up. Pull your hands under you, until you can grab them together, and walk your shoulder blades closer together until your weight rests on the back of your shoulders. At this point, you look a little bit like an on-ramp.
This stretches out your back, and it opens up your hips. The longer you hold this pose, the more work you have to do, but as long as your weight is comfortably sitting on your shoulders you’ll be just fine.
Stretch #5: The Child’s Pose
The child’s pose is usually the one you end your routine with, but it can also provide a lot of benefits all on its own. You start on your hands and knees, with your arms underneath your shoulders. Pull your hips back until your butt is resting on your feet, and your torso is on your thighs. Your arms will be stretched out in front of you, and you’ll feel the pressure stretch your back, as well. You should be pressing your forehead to the floor, which is why a mat is a good addition to this pose.
The child’s pose reaches a lot of problematic muscle groups, and helps you take the tension out of places you might not otherwise reach. It’s easy to get into, easy to maintain, and it lets you reset your breathing and energy. Even if you only have a few minutes, this one can give you a quick mood boost.