Is life getting you down? Do you feel like miserable moods are holding you back?
Low moods and unexplained sadness can make life feel like an uphill battle. Feeling blue drains you of energy and motivation, making your usual routine harder to handle. When life’s challenges come your way, such as tight deadlines at work, or conflict in relationships, they can seem impossible to overcome, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
While it’s normal to occasionally feel down, persistent low spirits are a sign that something needs to change. The good news is that introducing simple, healthy habits can improve your mood considerably. Although change can be difficult, this list of five easy ways to boost your mood will help you make a solid start on your journey to feeling good again.
The road to a better mood is paved with good nutrition
Research shows that individuals who regularly consume high amounts of healthy, whole foods are less likely to experience low moods.1 Helpful foods include fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, fish, olive oil, low fat dairy, and antioxidant compounds (found in colourful fruits and vegetables).
To start feeling brighter, treat yourself to a protein filled breakfast, such as boiled eggs on rye bread, served with a few slices of avocado and a handful of baby spinach. This combination is rich in mood-supporting nutrients, like magnesium and B vitamins (hidden in that delicious rye bread), which your brain uses to produce mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. In fact, magnesium and vitamin B6 are commonly deficient in stressed or depressed individuals,2, 3 so boosting your intake of these key nutrients can help lift your mood.
Jive, jump or jog your mind to its happy place
Regular exercise supports a healthy mood in many ways, such as:
- Reducing the negative effects of stress on the brain, which can cause low mood4
- Increasing levels of neurotransmitters that support a healthy mood5
- Improving sleep quality6
Start with something that is achievable for your fitness level, such as a 20-minute walk three to four times a week, with some push-ups or jumping jacks. You could also set aside 15 minutes to dance to your favourite music three times a week and work up a sweat that way. Whatever you do, make it enjoyable so it can become a long-term habit!
Nourish your gut bacteria
Your digestive tract is home to trillions of microorganisms that benefit your body more than you probably realise. You might have heard that your gut bacteria help digest your food, but did you know they can also affect your mood?
Your gut bacteria send signals to your brain via the vagus nerve, the major nerve that connects your brain with your digestive system (to find out more about the gut-brain connection, click here). Scientists are still discovering exactly how these signals are able to affect mood, but what we do know is that having a large number of beneficial bacteria in your gut increases your likelihood of feeling good.7
A simple way to boost your levels of good gut bacteria is to eat more fibre, which feeds and fuels them to grow and thrive. Aim for around 20 g of fibre per day, starting with at least two serves of your favourite crunchy vegetables with meals, and snacking on a couple of small handfuls of mixed nuts daily.
If you find that eating more fibre causes uncomfortable digestion (for example, bloating or gas), your gut bacteria may need further support. As a naturopath specialising in gut health, I can assess your digestive health and make recommendations that will boost your beneficial bacteria without causing you discomfort.
Conquer stress before it conquers you
Although unpleasant, stress is a natural response designed to help you overcome challenges. When your stress response is triggered, your body produces hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which temporarily increase your heart rate and level of mental focus to help you respond to a stressful event.
Once the event has passed, your body dials down its stress response and returns to its formerly relaxed state. However, when stress is unrelenting (due to ongoing work or family conflict, for example) it becomes chronic, with negative consequences for your mood. Chronic stress may make you feel low, irritable, exhausted, or cause insomnia, so managing stress is an important part of improving your mood. To learn more about how chronic stress impacts your health, click here.
An easy way to benefit both your mood and your stress levels is by taking a magnesium and B vitamin supplement. A combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 has been shown to combat fatigue and nervousness in the face of stress, by raising energy levels and having a calming effect on the brain.8 In addition, B vitamins have been shown to improve tolerance to stressful situations.9 While it is important to increase your intake of these nutrients through your diet, taking a supplement will allow you to quickly address deficiencies that may be contributing to your stress and low mood.
Don’t go it alone
If it has been a while since you’ve truly felt like yourself, it might be time to reach out for support. A great place to start is by exploring the resources at Beyond Blue, an organisation dedicated to providing information and support to people struggling with low mood. Although magnesium and B vitamins are a great place to start, I can recommend the nutrients and herbs that are most likely to improve your mood given your individual symptoms and needs. They can also help you manage stress, support your digestive health, and guide you to make healthy changes to your diet and habits.
Navigating through to a brighter mood
Making changes to your diet, lifestyle, gut bacteria levels and stress management can all help improve your mood. In addition, increasing your nutrient intake, especially of magnesium and vitamin B6, is important to support a healthy mood. To start feeling better, get in touch with me for a holistic plan that addresses all of these factors.
1 Li Y, Lv MR, Wei YJ, Sun L, Zhang JX, Zhang HG et al. Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jul;253:373-382. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.04.020.
2 Rajizadeh A, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Yassini-Ardakani M, Dehghani A. Effect of magnesium supplementation on depression status in depressed patients with magnesium deficiency: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutritn. 2017 Mar;35:56-60. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2016.10.014.
3 White DJ, Cox KH, Peters R, Pipingas A, Scholey AB. Effects of four-week supplementation with a multi-vitamin/mineral preparation on mood and blood biomarkers in young adults: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 30;7(11):9005-17. doi: 10.3390/nu7115451.
4 Duman RS, Malberg J, Nakagawa S, D’Sa C. Neuronal plasticity and survival in mood disorders. Biol psych. 2000 Oct 15;48(8):732-9.
5 Deslandes A, Moraes H, Ferreira C, Veiga H, Silveira H, Mouta R, et al. Exercise and mental health: many reasons to move. Neuropsychobiology. 2009;59(4):191-8. doi: 10.1159/000223730.
6 Yang PY, Ho KH, Chen HC, Chien MY. Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2012;58(3):157-63. doi: 10.1016/S1836-9553(12)70106-6.
7 Huang TT, Lai JB, Du YL, Xu Y, Ruan LM, Hu SH. Current understanding of gut microbiota in mood disorders: an update of human studies. Front Genet. 2019;10.
8 Pouteau E, Kabir-Ahmadi M, Noah L, Mazur A, Dye L, Hellhammer J, et al. Superiority of magnesium and vitamin B6 over magnesium alone on severe stress in healthy adults with low magnesemia: A randomized, single-blind clinical trial. PLoS One. 2018 Dec 18;13(12):e0208454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0208454.
9 Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. a systematic review and meta-analysis of B vitamin supplementation on depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress: effects on healthy and ‘at-risk’ individuals. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 16;11(9). pii: E2232. doi: 10.3390/nu11092232.