Natural Mood Enhancers
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Amy March
By Kathleen Mates-Youngman M.A.
We all struggle emotionally at various times in life. Sometimes it’s a matter of what life throws at us, and at others, our mood seems to shift on its own, and whether gradually or rapidly, we no longer feel like ourselves. We may develop a clinically diagnosable mood or anxiety disorder, or it may not reach the criteria necessary for that, yet still impact our ability to feel calm, optimistic, and whole.
More than 20,000 people are diagnosed with a mood disorder each year and another 40,000 with an anxiety disorder. Many people benefit from the use of psychotropic medications, yet others struggle with painful side effects or experience a loss of effectiveness at some point.
There are many natural mood enhancers that are absolutely worth considering as well. Utilizing a holistic approach with our physical and emotional health is a gift we can all give ourselves, and in this article, I will present some of the options available.
Herbal & Nutritional Remedies
Although there is not complete consensus on the effectiveness of herbal remedies, and the evidence is mixed, some herbal and dietary supplements may be helpful. The caveat is to be aware that nutritional and dietary supplements are not monitored by the FDA the same way that medications are, and natural does not always mean safe. These remedies are not a replacement for medical diagnosis and treatment, and a physician should always be consulted about the risks and benefits, and definitely before combining with prescription medications.
1. St. Johns Wart:
This yellow-flowered plant contains chemical compounds that might enhance the mood for some, and help with sleep. It is available as a capsule, tablet, liquid extract, or tea. St. Johns Wart does absolutely have the potential for serious interactions with many other prescription drugs and can interact with other herbs or supplements, therefore always consult a doctor or pharmacist before using.
This supplement is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body and has been reported by some to enhance mood. It is derived from an amino acid, and available from protein food sources.
This herbal remedy is created from dried roots and often taken for sleep.
Used in aromatherapy, essential oils, and teas, to enhance relaxation and possibly reduce anxiety.
5. Omega-3 fatty acids:
Found in cold-water fish and certain vegetable oils, as well as in a supplement form. Sometimes used to help depression.
This vitamin is essential for cell metabolism and central nervous system maintenance.
7. Vitamin D:
This vitamin has been found by some to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder
8. Nutritional Suggestions:
-Reduce caffeine to avoid the adrenaline rush that can negatively affect mood.
-Avoid processed or packaged foods, which can increase inflammation, and have a negative impact on mood.
-Avoid artificial sweeteners, as there is some evidence linking aspartame to mood disorders.
-Include protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates. These macronutrients help to keep blood sugar levels stable, which benefits mood stability.
-Reduce alcohol, as it is a depressant, and can reduce the effectiveness of Antidepressant medication.
-Drink plenty of water, as dehydration can cause fatigue and agitation.
Spend time in nature
Scientists have found evidence that being in nature has many physical and psychological benefits, such as reducing anxiety, increasing energy, and improving a sense of wellbeing. Researchers found that walking in a natural setting had more impact on lowering heart rates, and subjects reported better mood, less anxiety, and less rumination, than those who walked in an urban setting. Some studies also report improvement in performance and memory tasks.
Being in nature has also been found to relieve attention fatigue and increase creativity. In our current culture, we are all subjected to what is called, “information bombardment,” and when walking in nature, there is so much less stimulation, and instead more peace and beauty to take in. Studies also suggest that nature helps us to be kinder, gentler, more generous, and feel more alive…definitely a win-win situation!
Having satisfying relationships with family, friends, and community, results in a happier life, with fewer health problems, and a longer lifespan. From an evolutionary perspective, social isolation was actually dangerous, so to this day, we can experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation when feeling isolated. Emma Seppala Ph.D. found that people who feel more connected have lower levels of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and are more trusting and cooperative. We are wired for helping others, so engaging in altruistic activities can boost your mood, take the focus off of yourself, and improve the sense of meaning and purpose in your life.
So, finding the time to nurture the social connections in your life can benefit your social life as well as your emotional life well worth the effort!
Physical & Mindfulness Exercises
Exercise is a natural mood enhancer and has therefore been found to help in the treatment of depression, as well as preventing relapse. It is also an excellent tool for treating anxiety, as it reduces the “fight or flight” response, and it is believed that it may increase serotonin levels in general. Three hours of moderate exercise a week can improve mood, quality of sleep, and a sense of accomplishment.
Focusing on mindfulness is also an excellent way to improve mood, self-awareness, and the ability to tolerate distress. Meditation, gratitude and appreciation journaling, smiling, laughter, self-compassion practice, and talk therapy, also help us to be present, connect the dots in our life, and challenge and reframe any maladaptive core beliefs, so that we may lead a life of positivity, engagement, and healthy relationships.
Kathleen Mates-Youngman M.A. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/Amazon best-selling author/National Speaker/Yoga Teacher
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