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August 7, 2010
By Louise Carr, Staff Columnist
Under the weather, stressed out, down in the dumps or feeling blue,
sad or pissed off? Whatever you call it, a low mood can be physically
and emotionally draining and take the color out of life. Are there
natural tips you can use to feel better. Research from around the
world says "yes".
If you can’t seem to get over it, you could be suffering from
depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates
depression affects nearly 21 million American adults each year and
that approximately 4 percent of adolescents get seriously depressed.
Typical symptoms of mild to moderate depression include a low mood,
lack of energy, problems sleeping, anxiety, eating much more or less
than usual, difficulty concentrating, poor tolerance for stress and
Clinical depression isn’t something you can "snap out of" --- it’s a
chronic illness that usually requires long term treatment. If you think
you may be suffering from depression you should consult your doctor.
Depression is generally treated with psychotherapy or medication, or
Whether it’s depression or a bad week that’s causing your mood to
plummet, feel empowered by the fact that there are things you can do
to change your outlook and lift your spirits. Based on medial research,
we have compiled a list of 10 tips to help you feel better:
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, lean meat, whole grains and fish can
be a real benefit, affecting not just your physical health but your
mental health too. The body and mind are linked. It's sometimes easy
to forget that your blue mood is affected by, and can affect, your
A large, cross-sectional study from the University of Melbourne,
Australia, published in 2010, found women who regularly consumed a
diet full of vegetables and low in saturated fats, a so-called ‘traditional’
diet, were more than 30 percent less likely to have major depression,
dysthymia, and anxiety disorders compared with women who lived on
a "Western diet" high in processed foods and sugars.
"Simply put, if you habitually eat a healthy diet that includes fruit,
vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality lean meat, then you may
cut your risk of depression and anxiety," said principal investigator
Felice Jacka, PhD. The precise diet-depression connection is still being
studied but it can’t harm you to eat foods that are proven to improve
your physical health and get some spirit-lifting side effects as a bonus.
2. Drink Green Tea
People who frequently drink green tea are at lower risk of developing
depressive symptoms over time, according to a cross-sectional study
reported in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition. Green tea is reported to have anti-inflammatory and
anti-stress effects on the body but it could also help your mood.
Researchers at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical
Engineering in Sendai, Japan, looked at 1,058 community-dwelling
Japanese aged 70 or older who drank a lot of green tea. The
participants filled out questionnaires and were evaluated on a
depression scale. The researchers found a more frequent consumption
of green tea (four or more cups a day) resulted in a lower prevalence
of depressive symptoms.
3. Increase Your Intake of B6 and B12
Higher levels of Vitamins B6 and B12 are associated with a raised
mood and less risk of developing symptoms of depression. A 2010
study from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found older
adults showed a lower risk of depression over long-term follow-up
consultations when taking Vitamin B6 and B12 supplements. The
Chicago Health and Aging project looked at adults at least 65 years
old. A sample of 3,503 adults from the study completed a food
questionnaire and depression assessment. After adjusting for age, sex,
race, education, income, and use of antidepressants, the study found
higher total vitamin intakes including supplements were associated
with a lower risk of depressive symptoms; 2 percent lower per year
for each additional 10 mg of vitamin B6 and an additional 10 μg of
4. Hit the Gym
It can give you killer abs and tone up your arms but cardio exercise
can also give your mood a workout. According to the American College
of Sports Medicine, regular physical activity is good for both
depression and anxiety and will also help improve your mood and self-
esteem. A 2007 study by Dr Astrid Bjornebekk of the Karolinska
Institutet, Stockholm, showed that exercise, particularly running, has a
similar effect to antidepressant drugs by stimulating the production of
new brain cells.
You don’t need to pound the treadmill for hours if that’s not already
your thing. A 2005 study from the University of Texas evaluated the
moods of patients with clinical depression after they rested or walked
at a gentle pace for half an hour. Both groups showed improvements
in mood but the walkers had significantly higher feelings of energy
and positive well-being. According to John B. Bartholomew, MD, from
the University of Texas, "The number of acute exercise bouts needed
to produce a therapeutic effect is unknown; however, exercise training
interventions have effected a substantial improvement in symptoms in
only a few weeks."
You can also get mood-lifting benefits from working out in water. A
2007 study from the University of Hull, UK, looked at the effect of a
single bout of exercise on the mood of pregnant women participating
in an aqua- or studio-based exercise class compared to a parentcraft
and a control group. The study found that taking part in the water or
studio classes resulted in an increased overall mood score and a
significant increase in feelings of energy. A decrease in levels of
depression was found after the aqua-gym classes. Make sure you
follow a well-designed plan you can complete on a regular basis and
don’t overdo it at the beginning. Talk to your physician if you have
concerns about any medication you are taking that may affect your
ability to exercise.
5. Find the Light
It’s thought that exposure to sunlight affects your mood and if you
don’t get enough natural light it could cause seasonal affective
disorder (SAD). The condition is thought to be linked to the
hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls sleep, sex drive,
appetite and mood. A 2005 study led by a psychiatrist at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine found that light
therapy effectively treats mood disorders, including seasonal affective
disorder, and was comparable to antidepressant therapy for raising
mood. The findings were based on a systematic statistical review of 20
previously reported, randomized, controlled studies.
Working out can also be more effective in the light. A 2002 study from
the National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland, found bright-
light exposure combined with physical exercise elevates mood. The
study looked at working-age adults, one group who took part in
physical exercise in bright light and one in normal indoor conditions.
Researchers found physical exercise both in normal indoor illumination
and in bright light was effective at alleviating depressive symptoms.
However, exercise was significantly more effective at alleviating
depressive symptoms when combined with bright-light exposure. If
you want to see extra benefits from your workout, take a walk or run
in the park during the day or fly kites and play ball with the kids in the
6. Try Yoga
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, mind-body
activities such as yoga and Tai Chi raise your mood.
Yoga and Tai Chi are particularly effective for reducing anxiety and
enhancing relaxation. Yoga can have a particularly strong effect on
increasing your level of wellbeing and raising your sprits. A 2009
study from the Psychiatry Department of Islamic Azad University,
Mashhad, Iran, found women participating in a two-month yoga
course experienced a significant reduction in perceived levels of
anxiety and that yoga could be considered as an effective
complementary therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
Further evidence comes from researchers at the Boston University
School of Medicine and McLean Hospital who found that practicing
yoga may elevate brain gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels, low levels
of which are associated with depression and anxiety. Researchers in
2007 compared GABA levels before and after yoga, compared with a
control group who read a book for one hour, and found a 27 percent
increase in GABA levels in the yoga practitioner group after their
7. Increase Your Omega-3 Levels
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon plus walnuts and
kiwi fruit, can substantially raise your mood according to recent
research. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery
and physiological science, analyzed more than 160 studies concerning
food’s affect on your mood and found that omega-3 fatty acids
provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and
helping prevent depression and mood disorders. “Dietary deficiency of
omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk
of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder,
dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,”
In addition, a 2010 study from the Department of Psychiatry and
Centre de Recherché du Centre Hospitalier at the Université de
Montréal found omega-3 supplements significantly reduced symptoms
of major depressive episodes compared with those taking a placebo.
Getting your omega-3 fatty acids from food rather than from capsules
can be more beneficial, Gómez-Pinilla reported, as food also provides
additional healthy nutrients.
8. Listen to Music
You may have already experienced a lift in mood when you play your
favorite tracks at full volume and have a sing-along when you
remember the words. 2008 research from the Central and Northwest
London Foundation NHS Trust examined the effect of music therapy
alongside standard care compared to standard care alone among
people with depression. Does music elevate mood? According to the
research, four of the five studies individually reported greater
reduction in symptoms of depression among patients undergoing
music therapy than to those in standard care conditions. Further
research is required in order to investigate how music works on the
mind and whether rock or r’n’b is better at raising your spirits.
9. Boost Your Levels of Vitamin D
If you’re missing out on sunlight during the winter months or illness
confines you to the house, you’ll probably feel a drop in your mood.
This is partly due to a lack of Vitamin D, according to researchers at
the Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.
“Vitamin D deficiency continues to be a problem despite the nutrient's
widely reported health benefits,” said Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN,
professor at the university, who states the preferred range in the body
is 30 - 60 ng/mL of 25(OH) vitamin D. A 2008 report in the Archives
of General Psychiatry journal showed that increasing levels of Vitamin
D intake protected the elderly against depression. Sunlight is the best
way to get sufficient Vitamin D and supplements can help correct a
deficiency. While some reports have suggested that Vitamin D's role in
boosting your mood may be overblown, it can't hurt to make sure
you're getting the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D.
10. Laugh Out Loud
While it may seem like the last thing you want to do, having a good
belly-laugh can actually help improve your mood ---even if you don’t
feel like laughing. Research from the Loma Linda University, California
found having a laugh can lower stress hormones and lift your spirits.
This happened because laughter upped levels of beta-endorphins (so-
called ‘happy hormones’) by 27 percent and reduced stress hormones,
cortisol, epinephrine and dopac, by up to 70 per cent.
So, pull out the DVD of your favorite funny movie, go to a comedy
club. You could end up actually laughing away your troubles.
Here are more resources to lift your spirits, including a complete list of
foods to boost your mood: Foods to Boost Your Mood / Does Vitamin
D Boost Your Mood?-Here's the Whole Story/ Foods That Speed Up
Your Metabolism / Foods That Fight Wrinkles/ Does Vitamin D Boost
Your Mood -A Comprehensive Review / What to Eat for Flawless Skin
/Natural Body Cleanses
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