Have you ever felt like you caught someone’s bad mood? It might sound odd, but a scientific study from the University of Chicago has demonstrated how easily and quickly we can take on the emotions of friends, family and co-workers.
Researchers call it an “emotional contagion,” and it describes the way emotions are passed between people. In a matter of milliseconds, people can take on the moods of others by unconsciously mimicking their expressions, body language and speech. It’s something we are all naturally hardwired to do. “The more expressive someone is, the more likely you are to notice that expression and mimic it,” explains John T. Cacioppo, psychology professor at the University of Chicago. “The muscle fibers in your face and body can be activated unbeknownst to you, at much lower levels than if you were to perform those movements yourself,” he adds.
The good news is joy and enthusiasm are passed as easily as negative emotions! We can also help protect ourselves from “emotional contagions” and our own bad moods by building up a wonderful little molecule in the brain called serotonin. It’s one of the keys to a good mood and also sleeping well. Here are some helpful tips for boosting serotonin.
The significant benefits of massage are now supported by science. A recent University of Miami Medical School study suggests that massage increases serotonin by 28%.
This vitamin is particularly important for serotonin production. Vitamin B6-rich foods include spinach, garlic, cauliflower, mustard greens, celery, fish and poultry.
Sunlight and serotonin are closely linked. Especially in winter when sunlight is harder to come by, spending at least 20 minutes in the sunshine in the morning or during your lunch hour is essential for the body’s production of this precious molecule. At night, serotonin converts to melatonin, which is essential for a good night’s sleep. The HappyLight®, called a sunlight lamp by some, provides full spectrum light that can substitute for sunshine when it’s unavailable. So, for lots of serotonin in the day and plenty of melatonin at night, get your rays or be sure to have your HappyLight® bright light therapy session daily.
Grains like millet, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. The high protein and small amounts of nourishing carbs in these grains help increase serotonin.
Regular movement, even gentle exercise like walking, will boost your serotonin levels. Stay as active as possible every day.
Fermented foods and beverages enhance nutrient assimilation, which is essential for serotonin production (and pretty much everything else in the body). Drinking kombucha and kefir as well as eating yogurt with live cultures are great ways to support healthy digestion.