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Mood Boosters

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Some people are almost always in a good mood. They're happy, even-tempered, and always see the bright side of situations. They don't take themselves too seriously and they love to laugh. Keeping on the sunny side of life seems to come naturally..

Some people are almost always in a good mood. They're happy, even-tempered, and always see the bright side of situations. They don't take themselves too seriously and they love to laugh. Keeping on the sunny side of life seems to come naturally.

But for many others, daily life is a dark storm. These people usually only see the gloomy, negative side of everything. They take things personally and with great seriousness. They often feel sad, irritated, and anxious. "Bad moods" keep them from enjoying life.

The Power of Moods

Moods have a powerful impact on us and those around us. Moods affect not only our mental health, but also our blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormones, sex drive, and immunity.

Mild depression or generally feeling moody can be related to hormonal imbalances. Thyroid and other endocrine dysfunction can radically affect moods. For women, premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and postpartum depression can have a significant effect on moods and energy. For men in andropause, a reduction in testosterone production can cause moodiness and depression.

Other possible contributing factors to mood disorders include:

  • Suboptimal nutritional intake
  • Biochemical imbalances
  • Chronic pain
  • Allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Aspartame
  • Head injuries
  • Alcohol and drug consumption
  • Lack of sleep and exercise

Diet and Exercise

What we eat and the amount of exercise we get every day directly affects our moods. Remarkable improvements in mood and emotions are quickly felt through simple changes in diet and exercise. Daily exercise and a nutritious diet stimulate the production of the body's own feel-good, mood-elevating chemicals.

Researchers from Columbia University studied the connection between physical activity and mental disorders among adults in the United States. They found that participants who exercised regularly had better moods and fewer negative thoughts.

The balanced nutrient values of the foods we eat are essential to living a balanced, emotionally stable life. The macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) in our food build the neuro-chemical foundation for our mental and physical health. By paying close attention to our food intake and how it affects our moods, we can begin to make the necessary adjustments to our diets that will lead to better emotional health.

Eliminating highly refined foods and eating a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds with adequate protein and essential fats will provide the strongest nutritional framework for emotional and mental health.

Mood Drug Side Effects

One in every four people experience some degree of depression and millions of them turn to commonly prescribed drugs to help them out of their doldrums. The most commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Designed to control depression by preventing the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, these popular mood drugs have potentially negative side effects including anxiety, insomnia, agitation, violence, suicidal thoughts, nightmares, hallucinations, and sexual dysfunction.

Nutritional and Herbal Mood Boosters

Natural mood boosters are a welcome alternative with increasing popularity and are being used successfully by many people.

Omega-3 fatty acids are showing great promise as a nutritional mood booster. In his book The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program (Simon & Schuster, 2001), Dr. Andrew L. Stoll blames a lack of the omega-3 fatty acids in our diets for altering our brain chemistry and leading to mood disorders and depression. Dr. Stoll, director of the psychopharmacology research lab at Boston's McLean Hospital, suggests that restoring our body's natural balance of omega-3 fatty acids may help alleviate and prevent many types of mood disorders and depression, even for those who don't respond to traditional antidepressants.

The most concentrated food sources of omega-3s include flaxseed and cold- water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Raw nuts and seeds contain a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Omega-3 supplements are a convenient way to ensure optimal intake.

The entire family of B vitamins work together as major mood boosters. They function to nourish the nervous system, improve mental acuity, elevate mood, and assist cellular energy metabolism. A lack of any B vitamin can cause malaise and fatigue. Miso, brown rice, and other whole grains are good food sources of the B vitamins, but supplementing with a complete B complex vitamin will ensure adequate daily levels for improving moods.

Herbal Hero

The herbal hero award for mood-boosting undoubtedly goes to St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). St. John's wort (wort means herb in Old English) has been proven in dozens of studies to improve mood and sleep patterns. Researchers from the University of Munich evaluated and analyzed a series of randomized clinical trials conducted with St. John's wort. Their overview was published in the British Medical Journal (2001). They reported that St. John's wort was more effective than placebo and as effective as commonly prescribed drugs for mild to moderate depression without the side effects.

Other European studies to determine the effectiveness of St. John's wort also found that a standardized extract of the herb worked as well as, if not better than, prescription drugs. It is important to take special precautions to protect your skin and eyes from the sun while taking St. John's wort, as it does increase one's sensitivity to light. Other herbal extracts such as turmeric (Curcuma longa) and Panax ginseng have also been shown effective in elevating moods and energy.

A daily program of regular exercise, healthy eating, nutritional and herbal supplements, and a cup of hot green tea may be the natural prescription you need to keep your mood on the sunny side.

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