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We’re all pushing ourselves to the max day-in & day-out. Awareness of overall health & wellbeing is becoming a popular topic due to our constant multi-tasking, high-tech, busy lifestyles. Not having much time to decompress, recharge, and refuel properly can leave us feeling physically and mentally depleted. This lack of self-care can potentially lead to mental health issues.

According to Mental Health America “Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in America.”

With a growing number of people’s mental health in decline, it’s no wonder that we are beginning to look for a more holistic approach to support our health and wellbeing. While talk-therapy and antidepressants may be popular and extremely helpful choices when it comes to managing mental health, finding additional supportive strategies are key to an overall (holistic) approach.

Mental health issues aren’t just a due to biochemical imbalances, but can also be linked to nutrient deficiencies according to studies. Foods we eat can play a major role in our mental health & wellbeing. Here, we’ll look at a few supplements that help boost your mood as well as look at ways to incorporate a more comprehensive & holistic approach to support mental health & wellbeing. But first, let’s define what a holistic approach is.

 

What’s a holistic approach?

enjoying the moment holistic health practices 2022 05 11 01 10 43 utc minUsing a holistic approach in medicine and nutrition is becoming a more popular every year, mostly because every year it’s being backed by research as a proven way to help lock in goals we have for our bodies.

A holistic approach means to look at a problem from all possible angles as opposed to just one angle. For example, a holistic approach to a broken arm might also involve some sort of physical therapy, a change in nutrition, and possibly talk-therapy depending on the reason for the broken arm.

People often choose a holistic approach because they’re looking for a more complete way to improve an issue. Sometimes they feel that specific, targeted solutions aren’t always working out for them, and so they search for wider and more interconnected ways to improve and heal.

A holistic approach can be detrimental if you’re not prioritizing correctly. A holistic approach understands the interconnectedness of all the facets that affect our bodies while knowing that some habits, procedures, and medicines work better than others in the moment. For example, if you catch a cold, it’s important to rest up, but it’s more important to eat and drink a lot, and so it might be worth it to get up to make some food or grab a drink.

Ultimately, it’s important to talk to your doctor about holistic approaches to specific medical issues. They understand the prioritization you need best and can lead you in the right direction.

When it comes to your mood, your mood isn’t something quantifiable; there isn’t a drug that only enhances your mood. However, what and how you eat can affect your mood. If you’re binge eating a lot at night, you might create a negative opinion of yourself, which can directly impact the habits you form and the mental state you’re in. Not to mention unhealthy eating habits can lead to nutritional gaps, hormonal imbalances, metabolic pathway disruptions, and more; therefor affecting the way your body and brain function.

So while we’ll look at improving our mood from all angles, we’re going to start with the nutrition side of it. From there, we can tackle the holistic aspects of mood improvement with research and apply it to our daily habits.

 

7 mood-boosting supplements to help support mood & mental health

 

1) Probiotics

Aside from the nervous system itself, the digestive system is the most neurologically linked system in our bodies. It’s why we get “gut feelings,” and it makes sense that keeping our guts healthy would impact our moods. It’s been shown that bad gut microbes have actually caused decreased dopamine production, while improving the quality and diversity of good gut microbes has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety in mice.

Studies done on people have shown that people treated for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) with probiotic supplements were shown to decrease depression scores. While the link between gut health and dopamine production aren’t specifically known, it’s becoming more and more proven that gut health plays a larger role on our mental health than we realize.

Probiotics can be found in a pill form. As well, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, and some cheeses are known to have high quantities of probiotics.

 

2) Curcumin

The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin has been found to play a role in increasing the release of dopamine. While it’s not completely understood how it exactly does this, one hypothesis is that it helps prevent cell death, and along with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties is able to protect neurological compounds.

One study found that one gram of curcumin has the same effect on major depressive disorder as Prozac on the way it improves moods.

It’s easy enough to add turmeric to your recipes, but if you’re looking for a larger dose, turmeric supplements are sold as a way to incorporate large concentrations of turmeric into your diet without the taste.

 

3) Oregano Oil

It’s been found that oregano oil contains certain antimicrobial properties in its main ingredient, carvacrol. Researchers theorize it might aid your digestive system in fighting off bad gut microbes.

The theories on how carvacrol works with dopamine are two-fold. Researchers have found that carvacrol improves dopamine production in one study with mice. A different study with mice showed that carvacrol actually inhibited the deterioration of dopamine, which led to improved moods. While it’s still not known how and what exactly carvacrol, it’s definitely associated with positive mood health.

Oregano oil is sold both as a pill and as a liquid, meaning that you can take it like any other supplement in pre-determined doses or use the liquid dropper to change how much oregano oil you’re ingesting. Which one you pick is entirely dependent on the way you want to incorporate oregano oil into your diet.

 

4) Magnesium

Magnesium plays an important role in keeping your mind and mood happy. While we don’t know specifically how it functions in the brain, we do see that people with magnesium deficiencies show an increased risk of depression and lowered levels of dopamine.

Other studies have been done that have seen boosts in dopamine concentrations after taking magnesium supplements. While studies on magnesium and dopamine levels have only been studied in animals, researchers are quite sure there’s an important link somewhere between magnesium and our nervous system that can affect our moods.

Foods such as pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, almonds, spinach, chia seeds, kidney beans, and salmon have high levels of magnesium. If you’d rather not change your habitual food intake, though, there are magnesium supplements you can find at most drug stores.

 

5) Green Tea

Green tea contains a myriad of beneficial chemicals that allows it to do a whole lot of good for your body. There’s no such thing as a true cure-all, but from a nutritional standpoint, green tea is as close as you can get.

One chemical, the amino acid L-theanine, directly affects your brain by increasing alpha activity, is known to play an important role in critical aspects of attention. L-theanine has also been found to increase brain dopamine and serotonin levels. Consistent, habitual consumption of green tea or green tea extracts has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms.

It also contains caffeine. While in large doses it can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, in low levels, caffeine is found to boost cognitive performance by enhancing the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine. It has been found that caffeine isn’t necessarily a nutrient our bodies need, and it instead can grow reliant on it. Even worse; you can find that you’ll slowly need to consume more caffeine to produce the same effects as before. Be sure to closely monitor your caffeine intake to make sure you stay away from some of the issues high amounts of caffeine can have on your mood. The daily recommended dose of caffeine per day is 400mg, and a cup of green tea has about 50mg.

 

6) Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The reason why fish oil is so important for your brain is because it contains two different fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in dopamine regulation.

One study observed that a fish-oil-enriched diet in rats increased their dopamine levels in the frontal cortex of the brain by about 40%, as well as enhanced dopamine’s binding capabilities. While more human-based research is needed to get a better look at how these omega-3 fatty acids function in our brains, it’s no doubt that they have an important job in keeping our dopamine levels at peak efficiency.

These fatty acids can be added into your diet either by adding more fish like salmon and tuna or with fish supplement pills. Just like with oregano oil, there’s even liquid supplement that you can take instead. It’s all about choosing what’s right for your body and lifestyle.

 

7) Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been shown to help the body maintain high levels of serotonin. Serotonin is also known as the happy hormone because it helps people stabilize their mood, promotes a feeling of well-being, and improves overall happiness. Because of its effects on serotonin production scientific studies have associated a lack of vitamin D with depression.

One specific area of research is the relationship between vitamin D and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). By giving people who suffer from SAD (seasonal depression) UV light therapy it was found that one hour of light therapy could significantly decrease their depressive symptoms. It was also found that a strong Vitamin D supplement can also help with their symptoms.

 

Additional mood-boosting approaches to try..

Now that we’re feeding our body the right kinds of nutrients to improve our moods, we can focus on aspects outside nutrition to guide our bodies towards a holistically healthier self. These aren’t nutrition-based aspects to mood. However, they play a vital role in improving our mood, and coupled with a more body-positive nutritional palette, can create a better way to improve your mood than without them.

Exercise

traveler walking on railway bridge 2022 02 02 04 50 38 utc minMoving our bodies alters the way we express ourselves, which has been found to alter and enhance the ways our bodies work. One study found that serotonin expression changed when mice were made to swim more. Another study shows that how often we exercise can be an indicator of how depressed we could be. Exercise, even in small amounts like walking outside for a few minutes, can produce visible, meaningful changes to our moods when implemented consistently.

Exercise is even better if you can do it outside; studies have shown that being out in the sun increases your Vitamin D production and increase brain activity. Getting outside and breathing fresh air also opens up your lungs more.

Art Therapy

Expression can often be a blocker of positive moods. Art therapy is a healthy way to release the way we feel about scenarios and situations, while gaining back the positive moods we were once in.

A study found that in-patient care, when coupled with art therapy, improves pain management, mood, and anxiety levels better than without art therapy. These effects were found to be true regardless of age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Art therapy is even used as a non-pharmacological intervention for dementia.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is still a new topic for researchers, but we have an innate understanding that scents change our brain chemistry. A pilot trial found that aromatherapy helped improve nausea, pain, and mood for patients under palliative care. Another study combined aromatherapy and music therapy to improve the anxiety and mood scores of patients in their perioperative periods.

While it’s unclear which therapy contributed more to the mood and anxiety improvement, researchers were certain that each played a role in the improvements they saw. While it’s not yet scientifically observed nearly as much as other forms of therapy, it’s easy to assume that smells can affect the way we feel. Just think about how you feel when you smell your favorite homecooked meal or a Porta Potty on a hot summer day.

Meditation

aged man doing meditation while sitting in lotus p 2021 12 09 17 28 39 utc minTaking the time to slow your brain down and meditate can work wonders for your mood. Researchers have found time and time again that meditating in any fashion can improve your mood and lower stress by improving our emotional processing. One study states,

“We further propose that the stress response elected by psychological stressors can be meditated by influencing these modifiable psychological processes, and that meditation practices can decrease stress and improve mood by decreasing stress reactivity on a psychological, physiological and neurobiological level.” Meditation is easy for anyone to do because it only requires you to close your eyes; no equipment, fancy machines, or special diet needed. This is something anyone and everyone can start doing today.

When imbalance creates balanced chaos

Oftentimes our bodies are only responding to what we give it. If we feed our body with foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, it will respond by creating a body that’s sick, that doesn’t function as well as it could. It balances itself out by creating a more chaotic system because that’s all it can do. When we provide it proper nutrition, motion, and care, we allow our body to come back into balance. A holistic approach not only allows you to focus on ways to support your nutritional changes, it cements them better. By creating a network of healthy habits, you’re able to keep towards your goals better. And with all of these changes, your mood is bound to change.

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