Why the Long Face? Simple Ways to Improve Your Mood
It is said that life is like a rollercoaster ride; inevitably, our moods will reflect the truth of this expression just as well. Major events in our lives can leave us feeling drained and physically exhausted to the extent of lowering the spirits. Experiences such as bereavement, work, chronic illness, bullying, and sleep problems may also have a negative effect on the mood.
Characteristics of a Normal to General Low Mood
However, there is always the proverbial fine-line of distinction between being of a low mood and being depressed or presenting signs and symptoms of other mood disorders. According to the National Institute of Health, about 20.9 million American adults have mood disorders, including major depressive disorder. Generally, a low mood should dissipate within a reasonable period of time; usually a few days to a few weeks.
Characteristics of a low mood include:
- Low self-esteem
A low mood is especially characterised by the fact that it is resolved by making lifestyle and other changes, or simply readapting to your environment. This is a result that is achievable within a reasonable period of time and does not last for more than a few weeks at most.
A mood disorder can be described as representing a category of mental disorders in which the underlying problem affects a person’s persistent emotional state. Common clinical mood disorders include:
Characterized by a persistent low mood lasting longer than a few weeks. Common signs and symptoms of clinical depression include anxiety, feelings of helplessness, changes in sleep habits and patterns, changes in behavior and personality, inter alia.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by anxiety that is excessive, exaggerated and even unnecessary worry about simple daily issues. Usually, there is no real cause for worry and anxiety stems from unwarranted fears. People with generalized anxiety disorders may exhibit signs of edginess, fidget excessively, bite fingernails, insomnia, and many other signs and symptoms.
Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a serious mental condition that cause periods of depression and periods of manic elation, periods of mania and hypomania present with symptoms such as being abnormally upbeat or jumpy, increased energy or activity, exaggerated sense of well-being and euphoria, decreased need for sleep, unusual talkativeness, etc.
Brain Chemicals and Our Moods
Research has shown that brain chemicals directly affect mood and emotional state. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters and have an affect on the nerves. Some of the most important neurotransmitters are serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, adrenaline and insulin. These brain chemicals al have respective functions on the brain and nervous system which then in turn affects our moods and sense of well being.
The levels and balance of these brain chemicals are affected by factors such as diet, exercise, stress management, sleep, probiotics as well as some medications. A bad diet that is coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, for example, will inevitably lead to a compromised sense of emotional well-being.
Natural therapies to improve mood
“Mens sana in corpore sano” is a Latin phrase which literally translates as “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” This expression asserts that health is only achieved once the mind and the body are both equally healthy and happy. It is important, therefore, to take care of the body first as a means to achieve a healthy mind naturally. Emotional health can be managed through balancing diet, exercise, and to combat insufficiency by supplementing essential vitamins and minerals.
It is important to eat a diet that fulfills all nutritional needs without compromising any elements of nutrition, especially if for vanity’s sake and not for medical or health reasons. The food pyramid is a good point of reference for dietary guidelines. Some foods that are especially beneficial in helping to improve and manage mood include:
- Brazil nuts
- Oily fish
- Chicken and turkey
- Dark chocolate
Exercise has the ability to help your body reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and most importantly, it stimulates the release of “feel-good” hormones in the brain that help to improve emotional well-being. The best exercises for mood include aerobic exercises hat get your heart racing, Yoga, and meditation.
The best supplements to improve mood and enhance emotional well-being include 5-htp & B6 vitamins, vitamin D3 and Dong Quai.
5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-htp
5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-htp, is a byproduct from the metabolism of the amino acid, L-tryptophan. The body cannot independently synthesize L-tryptophan as it is an essential amino acid. This is why it is important to ensure that it is obtained through diet. This nutrient is necessary for the synthesis of protein and it is an essential precursor the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, serotonin. This is what makes 5-htp a great supplement to improve and manage the mood. The condition to 5-htp’s benefits is that it requires the help of vitamin B6 in order to efficiently convert the L-tryptophan amino acid into the 5-htp compound.
Every single tissue in the human body has Vitamin D receptors. It is the only vitamin that is, in and of itself, a hormone. Vitamin D can be obtained through the diet or it is simply absorbed through the skin from the environment. It is from this point that the vitamin is then transported to the liver and the kidneys to be transformed to its active hormone form. Vitamin D is essential for mood management as it activates the genes that regulate the immune system and release “feel-good” neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin and others. Those at risk for significant vitamin
D3 deficiency include individuals with darker skin, those living farther from the equator and those who generally spend a significant amount of time away from the sun.
Dong Quai or Angelica sinensis is widely known as the “Female Ginseng” and is an herb from the family Apiaceae. It is indigenous to China and grows in the cool altitude mountains of China as well as Japan and Korea. Dong Quai a strong blood tonic, largely because it is highly rich in B-vitamins such as B12, as well as folic acid, folinic acid, nicotinic acid and other vital vitamins that promote better circulation, balance hormones, and detoxifies the body. The ancient herb has strong antidepressant properties because it works on the serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain. This enables Dong Quai to counter anxiety, depression and alleviate overly fluctuating mood swings. Dong Quai is better consumed as a supplement due to its extreme natural potency.
It is always recommended to consult with a medical professional before taking any supplements. This is especially true if there are other medications being taken that could potentially interact with said supplements. Immediate medical attention should be sought in the case of an extreme manic or depressive episode.
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