Beat the Blues: How to Naturally Improve Your Mood
I don't know about you, but where I live it is getting quite cold. There is very little sun and the weather is having a larger than desirable effect on my happiness and motivation to get much done.
This morning I looked out the window and felt like crawling back into bed. The thought of cold snowflakes falling on my face, and hurdling through snow banks made 'sweatpants and chill' sound like a much better option.
While I don't hold the weather entirely responsible for my dampened mood, It is a strong contributing factor. I know this is the case for many others, and I felt writing up a blog with some ways to beat this would be beneficial. You might be someone who is simply just in a bad mood, and these would be just as beneficial for you too.
Increase Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been proven to be a key contributing factor in promoting serotonin and dopamine secretion. Changes in the chemical release of these particular hormones can mildly to aggressively affect your mood. Neurologically speaking, dopamine is involved with reward and happiness, while serotonin works to regulate your mood. These are both higher order advancements, and originate from our prefrontal cortex. When interactions in the prefrontal cortex become dysfunctional, or are altered, we might begin to see symptoms of aggression and depression.
The remarkable things about our brains and bodies is that they are responsive to what we put in them. By eating foods rich in properties that promote and support the release of serotonin, we are able to manage our mood. These are some food options that are chemically translated to promote serotonin levels in the body:
Try making a smoothie loaded in energizing, nutrient dense items with some banana and pineapple thrown in.
It can really be this simple. It might be challenging to smile when you don't necessarily feel happy or positive, but the mere act of a smile can improve your emotional state. By smiling, we are sending mood enhancing hormonal signals to our brain. This occurs because our brains associate smiling with 'good vibes'. It's like a light switch. When we turn on the happy signals, our brains radiate happy circuits to fire. So, turn your frown or limp expression into a smile regardless of how difficult it might feel, and allow your brain to interpret it for your positive benefit.
When you engage in physical activity that elevates your heart rate for long durations of time, our bodies naturally release endorphins, which are positively associated with mood enhancing. In studies examining the cerebral cortex during exercise, studies have found that opioid bonding occurs, often proceeded by reports of euphoria. This is a result of improved cognitive ability and neurotransmission. As we exercise, we take in more oxygen that gets into our blood, and ends up in our brain. Exercise increase the communication between neurons in the brain, and allow for higher order regions of the brain to do it's job well. When our brains are able to communicate and regulate emotions well, we can see how our mood will reflect this. The neurotransmitters trying to bind to create euphoric, happy feelings are able to do their job. The result? Improved emotional regulation, proper hormonal release and an uplifted mood.
To keep with the theme of hormones, I wish to bring another into the picture. This particular hormone is called oxytocin, which is released in pair bonding and during labour. Often known for it's title "love hormone", it can have positive effects on our mood. Through physical touch and interaction, our bodies release this hormone. So, hug someone you love, or hug a stranger. Either way, it will aid the regulation of hormones in your brain.
Stretch and Meditation
While I can note the ways this is beneficial biologically and neurologically, stretching and meditating are more of a spiritual experience. While you relax, breathe and think quietly, you are able to connect deeper with yourself, and perhaps figure out the reasons you feel less than yourself. I won't tell you to clear your mind, but I rather encourage you to focus on what you're experiencing and develop a plan to improve it.
I hope you are able to use these tools to your benefit. Don't underestimate the power of a healthy lifestyle in improving a healthier mind. Thank you for reading!
Baixauli, Elena. (2017). Happiness: Role of Dopamine and Serotonin on Mood and Negative Emotions.