Archive for natural health

10 Natural Ways to Boost Your Mood

Life transitions, new challenges, stressful circumstances, and changes in jobs and relationships can alter the mood of even the healthiest people. Sometimes a low or anxious mood is transitory or cyclical, and other times it can become chronic and unremitting. While a serious disorder could require professional treatment, there are numerous other ways to naturally elevate your mood that can easily be incorporated into your daily life.

Scientists now understand that important brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, regulate and influence mood, mind, memory, and emotions. The increasingly popular prescription drugs for anxiety and depression work by influencing these neurotransmitters. These drugs do not increase the amount of brain chemicals; rather their primary mechanism of action is to keep more of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine in the brain. Natural methods generally work by stimulating the production of more neurotransmitters. Each of the following natural methods has been shown by scientific studies to increase one or more of these mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.

Just add one or two of these steps at a time and see what happens. A good mood and emotional well-being are key to living the happy, fun, and successful life you deserve!

1. Enjoy Early Morning Sunlight

When spring arrives or the sun comes out, are you happier, more energetic, and more excited about life? Well, there’s a reason for this. Like plants and flowers, our bodies need sunlight, too. Without it, the production of important hormones and neurotransmitters could be disturbed, triggering depression and sleep problems. Since we need to be respectful of the potentially damaging effects of ultraviolet rays mid-day, early morning is the best time to get your 20- to 30-minute daily dose of sun. During this time, remove your dark glasses and don’t use sun lotion unless medically necessary. You might consider purchasing a light box for those cloudy winters or if you live in an area with little sunshine. While light therapy has been used successfully to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), there is mounting evidence that it is also effective at enhancing a depressed mood.

2. Move Your Body

When it comes to producing a stable good mood, little can beat exercise. That’s why it is so important to take exercise out of the “should” category and find a way to love it! Often that means coupling exercise with something you enjoy—good music, in the company of a great friend, or in some glorious nature spot. The body of scientific research extolling the benefits to brain chemistry is huge. Exercise has been compared favorably in numerous studies to pharmaceutical antidepressants. Sometimes when you’re down, it is particularly hard to move. It’s amazing what can happen if you just put one step in front of another, go outside, and walk until your mind starts singing a happier tune. Spending 30–45 minutes on any type of yoga, tai chi, aerobic exercise, or pilates can shift your energy as well. Also, a good strength training workout can make you feel powerful and is a great esteem builder. This is one of those situations where “Just Do It” is a great slogan.

3. Hang out with Friends and Family—and Clear Up Resentments or Misunderstandings

Love and intimacy are at the root of what can make us happy and healthy or depressed, anxious, and sick. The impact of good social connections on our health and well-being is well-documented in scientific literature. Most of us have experienced how resentment, conflict, or a relationship loss can stimulate persistent negative thinking, which in turn can elevate damaging stress hormones such as cortisol. High levels of cortisol are commonly seen in depressed and anxious people. On the other hand, “feel-good” brain chemicals such as endorphins kick in when we are enjoying a good time with friends and family, have a sense of belonging, and are exchanging loving conversation. Intimacy, touching, and lovemaking can also be powerful mood elevators.

4. Ingest Good Mood Food

Have you ever had a doughnut and coffee for breakfast and found yourself on edge or suddenly lacking the motivation to do anything? Simple carbohydrates (refined sugar and flour) can give you a lift for a short time but ultimately result in low blood sugar, leaving you depleted and feeling down. Excessive caffeine can cause outright anxiety. Green tea is a good substitute for caffeine fans; while it has caffeine, it also contains a substance called theanine, which has anti-anxiety properties.

To achieve a stable mood, concentrate on a diet high in protein (the building blocks for neurotransmitters), complex carbohydrates, and the “good” fats such as olive, flax, and fish oils. There is mounting evidence that fish oil supplementation (2–10 grams daily of DHA and EPA) can be helpful in mood disorders, and it is highly recommended for general good health. A potent multivitamin/mineral supplement is also important for supporting overall health, which is vital to mental well-being. Make sure your multi has good levels of the B vitamins, which are essential for healthy nerve cells. While there are lots of do’s and don’ts in the food category, it is crucial to find foods you love and to enjoy the process of eating!

5. Engage in Mindful Practices

Slowing down, getting present, taking out time to just breathe and be quiet all seem to be great challenges in our culture, and yet we need to do this more than ever! Just 20–30 minutes a day of meditation, prayer, chanting, deep relaxation, or any method of quieting the mind with steady, conscious breaths can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Achieving the “relaxation response” has been shown to lower the damaging stress hormone cortisol as well as increasing other hormones and brain chemicals that create emotional well-being. If this feels too much like “doing nothing” when your schedule is overloaded, reframe this practice and think of it as one of the most significant investments in personal wellness you can make.

6. Use Natural Mood Lifters

When lifestyle changes don’t do the trick, you can avail yourself of certain natural substances that are gaining great acceptance among progressive health professionals. Although these agents are non-prescription and safe to use, it is best to consult with a naturopath, nutritionist, or health-oriented medical professional to ensure proper dosages and eliminate potentially negative drug interactions. One of the stars of the show is SAMe. It is a naturally occurring substance, a fast-acting antidepressant, and well-documented, and it offers many other health benefits. And it’s becoming more affordable. Another star, 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter that plays an important role in depression, mood,  anxiety, sleep, appetite, and more. Studies have shown 5-HTP compares favorably to some pharmaceutical antidepressants. L-tyrosine, an amino acid, has been shown to be useful for depressed patients, possibly because of its role in the synthesis of the mood-elevating neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine.

The herb St. John’s Wort is well-researched for its antidepressant effects on mild to moderate depression. It was recently debunked in a study conducted by a pharmaceutical company who used participants with major depression. However, studies showing the efficacy of St. John’s Wort have primarily centered on people with mild to moderate depression. The herb continues to be successfully used by people with less severe forms of depression, and it is considered by many clinicians to be an effective agent. For anti-anxiety agents, L-theanine, a constituent of green tea, has been reported to produce mild calming effects in 20–30 minutes, and it is neither sedating nor addictive. The amino acid GABA is often recommended by health professionals, but there are questions about its effectiveness when taken orally. Also, check out the herbs Bacopa, Kava, Valerian, Chamomile, Skullcap, and Hops.

7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Pretty basic advice, but have you ever noticed what happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Oftentimes, “I’m depressed,” really means, “I’m tired.” Have you listened to your mind when you’re tired? It often globalizes negative perceptions and can be quite self-critical. Long-term lack of sleep can actually create symptoms of depression, and insomnia can be a symptom of depression.

8. Get a Reality Check on Unrelenting Negative Thought Loops

We have a tendency to believe our negative thoughts when in a low or anxious mood. Under these conditions, our thoughts are less reliable. Furthermore, these unreliable thoughts tend to create an even more anxious or depressed mood. Low neurotransmitters can both create this condition and be created by it. Hence, it is crucial to find a method that works for you to interrupt this negative cycle. It might be exercise, meditation, or any of the aforementioned steps. One of the most effective tools is to tell a trusted confidante, coach, or therapist about it. Ask her to give you a reality check and help you reframe the situation into a more positive, realistic, growth-oriented perspective. The power of the positive thought can really work here!

9. Play, Play, Play

Imagine yourself sliding down a water slide or playing a fun game with your best friends or family. How can you be in the doldrums when you’re having a good time? As a culture, we are deeply ensconced in the belief that our personal value equals our accomplishments. So we are working more hours than ever, believing we need to “get somewhere” or “become someone.” While fulfilling our life’s purpose is immensely important, we also need balance. Write down 3–5 things that make you laugh, that create a natural high, and that you love to do. Schedule one or more of them into your life weekly, making this “appointment with fun” as important as an appointment with a business associate or client.

10. Dance to the Music

Music and dancing are a great combination for elevating mood and stimulating endorphins. Music in particular can be used in a multitude of situations to alter mood. Evocative music can stimulate a good cleansing cry. Peaceful music can lower stress and anxiety. Some music, particularly if it utilizes binaural beat technology, can entrain the brain to different brain waves such as alpha and theta for deep relaxation. Classical music can help mental focus. Some music enhances feelings of love. With today’s technology, it is easy to use music to improve most any task or activity. Load your smart phone or iPod with music for all occasions or install an app such as Sleepstream to change your state of mind.