MOOD BOOSTING HEALTH & LIFESTYLE
One of the theories of mood difficulties and mental health problems is known as the inflammatory model where inflammation is described as the driving force for symptoms associated with low mood and mental health difficulties.
Inflammation will negatively impact our mitochondria, the energy producing factories of the body, the stress hormone cortisol’s feedback loops and even the production of neurotransmitters.
So here are five ways to use diet and lifestyle to address low mood.
Don’t overdo the carbs – particularly simple sugars and processed refined carbs found in sweets, cakes and white bread. These will rapidly increase blood sugar and insulin levels as the body tries to use or store the sugar. The energy highs and lows accompanied by diets rich in refined carbs can be difficult for the brain to deal with leading in the short term to mood swings and concentration difficulties. In the long term, research suggests that the brain can become insulin resistant, diminishing the neural signalling leading to depressive and anxious behaviours.
Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats – This way of eating is anti-inflammatory and has a positive impact on mental wellbeing. Why? Because it will be rich in B vitamins like folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 all of which are essential cofactors in the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine – the pleasure neurotransmitter -, serotonin – the mood neurotransmitter – and GABA – the calming neurotransmitter. and a deficiency in any of these may adversely affect mental wellbeing.
So where can you get these nutrients… dark leafy greens, avocado, fish, poultry, eggs, sweet potatoes and bananas are some of the foods containing folate and B6. While vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in animal products so if you’re not eating meat or fish then you may need to think about supplementation. A deficiency of this vitamin may take years to develop but there have been reports of psychosis, blindness, paralysis and even death associated with a lack of this essential vitamin.
Often described as a miracle cure, decades of epidemiological research have identified both physical and mental health gains associated with humans moving. When it comes to mental health, exercise increases brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which supports memories, our ability to learn and remember new things as well as a healthy mood. Exercise also veers the tryptophan metabolic pathway away from the neurotoxin quinolinic acid associated with a number of mental illnesses towards the production of serotonin.
You’re probably well aware of how your mood is affected after not getting a good night’s sleep. If you are struggling to sleep, good sleep hygiene may help keep your bedroom cool between 15 and 19 degrees celsius, limiting artificial light a couple of hours before bed, using black curtains to achieve a completely dark room without mobile devices or glowing alarm clocks. Tracking your sleep using apps may also offer great insights into things you could do to improve your sleep.
Humans are social animals and meaningful connections ideally in real life with family and friends supports mental wellbeing and promotes mental resilience.
Get into nature
Spending time in green space such as a park or nature tail has a positive impact on mental wellbeing. The Japanese practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) has been found to significantly decreases depression and anxiety