We got used to ignoring our mood swings, suffering in silence without even asking ourselves why, and even convincing ourselves that a glass of alcohol, a shopping session or binge eating would make us feel better. Sometimes it might even work, but, at least as far as binge eating or excessive sweets consumption are concerned, the effects can be devastating to your figure, piling on the extra kilos being a real problem. One thing is certain, there is no fixed method to change our mood, and surely there is no right or wrong way. For every one of us, there is a recipe that works. All we need is to discover it.

At the end of last year, the Journal of Happiness Studies published a strategy which the researchers of Iowa State University trust to improve our state of mind. The study required participants to walk around a building for 12 minutes, while testing one of the three anxiety-reducing techniques. 

Three techniques meant to cultivate good mood, derived from mindfulness.

Jon Kabat Zinn, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, is the one who created the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Programme, and who promoted the mindfulness meditation type worldwide. Here is what he declares about the benefits of this practice: "Loving kindness, compassion, jolly pleasure, are all mindfulness meditation practices used to cultivate attention, especially during difficult moments These practices, and especially loving kindness, can serve as a therapy for unpleasant states of mind, such as rage or suffering, which might simply be far too strong the moment they appear. In such moments, the formal practice of loving kindness improves the relationship with our overwhelming states of mind, helping us not to succumb to negative energies completely."

For those who are not used to meditating, researchers developed this short 12 minutes' programme, when practicing one of the three techniques can do wonders for our unpleasant states of mind.

A walk in the park and three techniques meant to turn us into more loving creatures 

1. The first strategy, loving kindness, required the students to look at people and think of them that way, whispering to themselves: "I wish this person to be happy."

2. The second strategy, interconnection, required the students to look at people and think at the way we are all connected with each other. Moreover, they had to think how every person we meet wants to be healthy, happy, loved, and live a better life, just like ourselves. This makes us similar, doesn't it?

3. The third strategy, descendent social comparison, encouraged participants to think in what way they consider themselves to be better than the people they met. We often discover that we're not, don't we? 

Walking encourages kindness and attracts happiness. 

If you are used to taking a walk every time you feel simply overwhelmed with so many negative thoughts, then you are probably already familiar with this technique. Doctors have always advised patients to go for walks in the middle of nature as a relaxation-inducing method. This time, however, we are required to think about others while taking a walk, to turn away our attention from our own problems, understanding that what we experience, others have experienced as well. Let's use these minutes to offer our kindness to others, understanding that, this way, the feeling of joy will grow in our own hearts as well. A different way to convince ourselves to treat others the way we want to be treated. 

"Walking while simultaneously offering kindness to those around us reduces our own anxiety, increases happiness and the feeling of social connection", says Douglas Gentile, one of the researchers, Psychology Professor at the Iowa States University. However, the success of this technique also depends on our concentration levels. Walking is a conscious practice, not one where we let our thoughts float away as they please. We see others and we concentrate our attention on them. And the results of this study leave no room for doubt. Those who practiced the strategy of loving kindness felt happier, more connected, empathetic and less anxious!

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Text: Mihaela Moldoveanu