Believe it or not, nature has a way of making us feel better by creating what are called negative ions. We just have to know where to look for them. Normal molecules are split into negative ions by sunlight, waterfalls, rain storms, wind, and even your shower. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.1 Chances are, being outdoors or at any of the places listed above increases your exposure to negative ions.
When we talk about “stale” air, such as houses, offices, cars, and trains, what we really mean is the level of negative ions in the air drops to very little or even to none. What can we do about it? Take breaks at work and go outside, get a hold of a fan for your desk, roll the windows down when you drive, and shower every day. And, in general, spend more time outside.
The Science of Negative Ions
Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation and moving air and water (friction). Experience the power of negative ions when setting foot on the beach or walking beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions, much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.
“The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods,” says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York. In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants. “The best part is that there are relatively no side effects, but we still need to figure out appropriate doses and which people it works best on,” he says.
Are Negative Ions like vitamins?
Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy,” says Pierce J. Howard, PhD, author of The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research and director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.
“They also may protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation.”
And for a whopping one in three of us who are sensitive to their effects, negative ions can make us feel like we are walking on air. You are one of them if you feel instantly refreshed the moment you open a window and breathe in fresh, humid air.
“You may be one of them if you feel sleepy when you are around an air-conditioner, but feel immediately refreshed and invigorated when you step outside or roll down the car window,” Howard tells WebMD. “Air conditioning depletes the atmosphere of negative ions, but an ion generator re-releases the ions that air conditioners remove.”2
If you want to supplement with Negative Ion Therapy, there are many different kinds on the market. If possible, try to get one that also has a HEPA filter to filter out contaminants in the air.