We all know life isn't actually like the glossy photos you see on Instagram and Facebook every day. People are only posting their best, most perfect selves—and things are always a smidge more messy than that. It's perfectly normal to feel stress and unhappiness sometimes. But if you notice it happening more and more often, it may be time to re-evaluate and hit the reset button. These quick tips can help you bust out of a rut next time you're feeling down.
1. Change your bedtime.
There's nothing more important than getting enough sleep. And neuroscientist Natalie King, Ph.D., says it's critical for our brains. "From a neuroscience perspective, sleep is great for the brain because it allows for the things you learned that day to be turned into memories," she says. "If you're not able to give your brain time to fully process the actions of the day, how can you make proper decisions for next time, or even recall necessary information during family gatherings or work meetings? Sleep studies have shown that those who only get a minimal amount of sleep per night exhibit decreases in cognition and overall performance."
2. Sweat it out.
Numerous studies have shown that exercise has a pretty significant mood-enhancing effect, so you know it's a good idea to get your sweat on when you're feeling down in the dumps. Yoga, for instance, can help center the mind and boost your body's detox functions. How? "Yoga does not necessarily 'detoxify' the blood directly, but like other exercises, it works to increase activity in your cardiovascular system and thus increase blood flow throughout the body," says King. "That not only helps detoxify a major organ of the body—your liver—but it also increases blood flow to the brain, which can improve your mood and enhance mood regulation."
And since yoga also tends to include meditation—which studies have shown can actually change your brain—if you're not feeling quite on point, a few trips to the studio could help you figure out what's going on. (Plus, meditation can seriously boost your workout game.) "Overall, our bodies and minds are closely linked," says King. "When we move through different types of activities like exercise, it can lead to huge physiological and psychological changes. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and vice versa."
3. Drink water all day.
Forget to down a glass when you woke up this morning? Time to grab one—stat. According to a study from the University of Connecticut's Human Performance Laboratory, even mild dehydration can alter a persons' mood, energy, and ability to think clearly. What exactly is "mild" dehydration, though? The researchers behind the study defined it as an approximate 1.5 percent loss in normal water volume in the body. But since you can't exactly measure that while you're going about your day, Nicole Petrocelli, R.D., says it's important that you remember to drink throughout the day—don't wait until you're thirsty. Feeling thirsty means you're already dehydrated. To get started on the right mental note, Petrocelli suggests starting your day with hot water and the juice of one lemon, as the hot water wakes up your digestive tract and the lemon helps your liver and flushes out toxins. Aim to drink at least half of your body weight in pounds to ounces before the end of the day. (For example, a 120-pound woman should aim to drink 60 ounces of water per day.) If you need help keeping track, this fancy water bottle could help.
4. Take a social media break.
Let's be honest: Social media can lead to serious FOMO, and that has the ability to crumble one's self-esteem and cause unnecessary sadness and jealousy. Science proves it, too: One recent study from the University of Pittsburgh found that the greater the reliance on social media, the greater the chances of becoming depressed. There's also a phenomenon called "Facebook depression," which is depression that develops from overuse of social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, and other platforms, says Joseph Volpe, Ph.D. If you need to, delete your social apps, or at the very least make it a point not to check them as soon as you wake up. "You want to make sure you are giving as much effort to real life and real life conversations as you are on social media," explains King.
5. Do the herbal thing.
Herbal tea has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes, and a study from Northumbria University Newcastle reveals that drinking herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile, and rosemary can offer happiness benefits, like a sense of calmness, aroused mood, and enhanced cognition and alertness. Another study shows that green, black, and oolong teas can decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases, so consider that a bonus every time you sip.
6. Get outside.
The American Psychological Association says green is good for you, as researchers found in a series of field studies conducted at the Human-Environment Research Lab. Not only does nature have the ability to soothe and heal us mentally, but it also allows us to get out of our own heads and connect to something bigger than ourselves. "Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is a hormone, and it's critical for good medical and psychological functioning," says clinical psychologist Dean Parker, Ph.D. "It helps to regulate the immune system and releases neurotransmitters in the brain associated with pleasure (dopamine) and good mood (serotonin), and it reduces the possibility of depression." In fact, research in the past decade has shown that being in nature increases creativity, improves problem-solving skills, helps short-term memory, and reduces acute stress, adds Volpe. And you don't have to go for a 12-mile hike or run a marathon—a quiet walk outside or a nap by the pool can help you calm down and hit the reset button.
7. Start a gratitude journal.
Mom may have said it, but science confirms it: It's all about remembering the little things in life. Research conducted at Harvard Medical School found that giving thanks can actually make you happier, especially when you get into the habit of writing in a gratitude journal. According to the study authors, "With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves." It provides an outlet for emotional release, while also setting up an intentional moment to step outside of the chaos that's involved in everyday life and notice the positives.