Feeling Blue? 5 Non-Food Ways to Boost Your Mood

After researching and writing about health for over 20 years, I can absolutely assure you that weight loss isn’t a hopeless reach-for-the-stars effort. You can lose weight—and keep it off! But one thing did surprise me when I was pouring through the astonishing body of scientific research for the Digest Diet weight-loss program, and that was learning just how much of hunger is emotional, rather than physical.

Emotional eating—that is, trying to make yourself feel better with food when you’re stressed, anxious, bored, or sad; or even to celebrate when you’re happy—can sabotage weight-loss efforts and also mess with your overall well-being. If you're worried about something, or fighting with a loved one, you may turn to food for comfort rather than dealing with the painful situation directly. I know that for me, before a big presentation or TV appearance, it can be tough not to reach for that tempting handful of candy. But doing a few push-ups instead often eliminates my food cravings and leaves me feeling calm, ready to conquer the world. That said, you don’t have to drop to the floor and do planks! Here are some easy tricks that work for me to beat the blues without food. 

1. Laugh off the calories. (Or, scream them off.)

Believe it or not, watching your favorite sitcom can help boost your metabolism as well as your mood. New research I found while combing through studies for The Digest Diet revealed that an hour of intense laugher can burn as many calories as a half-hour of hitting it hard at the gym.  As Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest, I’m lucky enough to wedge in bite-size cardio workouts whenever I’m reviewing our award-winning humor pages, but I also love watching a funny YouTube clip or TV reruns.

There also is new research from the University of Westminster that shows you can slash calories while watching a horror film (if that's your thing). As your adrenaline surges, you burn nearly as many calories as a 30-minute walk. (They suggest The Shining for the top "workout," melting 184 calories.)

2. Be proud of all the little changes. They really add up.

Sometimes all we need to boost our spirits with tiny reminders of how far we’ve come. One of our editors recently met with Sharon Osbourne, who lost 30 pounds and found it motivating to watch her "blousers" disappear (the roll between her blouse and trousers). What's it for you? I love this comment from our Digest Diet Facebook fan, Marci Rich: "Shopping for a new bra. Dropped a size. It's the little things."  And fan Amy Waitekus shared: “My wedding ring is ALWAYS tight on my finger when I get up in the morning. But it is only 6:30 a.m. here and I have NO swelling in my hands this morning. I LOVE THIS!"

Even before the number on the scale creeps down, look for sneaky signs of weight loss like looser fitting clothes, a slimmer face, compliments from others, and higher energy levels. Jot down on a post-it note what you’re most proud of and tack it to your bathroom mirror or by your desk as a reminder of what you've accomplished.

3. Keep moving, even during downtime.

Instead of mindlessly reaching for snacks while watching TV, get moving during commercials. Studies have reported that people eat a shocking 40 percent more food while watching TV than during other activities. So use those commercial breaks to play your favorite tunes and get moving; the point is just to have crazy, silly fun. You can also try 1-minute fat-releasing workouts whenever the cookie jar beckons. Often, you’ll discover that by the time you’re done, you won't really want that snack, anyway.

See more: 1-Minute Fat Releasing Workouts That Work  

4. Ask: Are you really just thirsty?

When we’re bored or anxious, it’s easy to eat whatever’s around the house.  When you find yourself heading towards the kitchen, stop and gauge whether it’s your stomach or your mind that’s pulling you to the refrigerator door. Have a glass of water (we often confuse hunger and thirst) and distract yourself with a relaxing activity like indulging in a soothing bubble bath, or curling up with a favorite magazine.

5. It's amazing what sunlight will do.

Now that Daylight Saving Time has ended, the early nightfall can be depressing and drive many of us to winter comfort foods like calorie-bomb cappuccinos or fat-loaded mac ‘n’ cheese. You can stave off cravings with a brief walk during the day; even if it’s cloudy or rainy outside, the combination of natural light and brief aerobic movement should be enough to kick the hunger and leave you feeling recharged.

MORE FROM READER’S DIGEST

8 Clear Signs that You’re Following a Bad Diet

19 Fun Ways to Torch 200 Calories

5 Things to Never Do After a Day of Pigging Out

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