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Natural Uppers

Boost your mood for spring

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Natural Uppers

Looking for a natural way to improve your mood and increase your energy? Aromatherapy, yogic breathing, and vitamin D offer energizing health benefits.

March can be a tough month. Most of our country is awash in shades of grey, and the first signs of spring may still be weeks away. So how can you raise your energy level and improve your mood during this challenging month? You can start with aromatherapy.

Refresh with aromatherapy

Scientific studies suggest that aromatherapy may be a helpful complementary treatment for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress, all of which tend to be worse during the dark winter months. Of course, there is no one essential oil to use for depression or fatigue.

The key to effective essential oil therapy is to use oils consistently, in small quantities, as directed. Monika Meulman, president of the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists and a healer in Toronto, recommends three oils throughout winter that are easy to use and widely available: sweet orange, Scotch pine, and peppermint.

Sweet orange
Sweet orange essential oil is expressed from the orange citrus tree; it’s highly warming and uplifting. It has been used traditionally to control mood swings and has been clinically proven to relieve mild forms of depression.

Dose: Meulman recommends two to three drops inhaled, five drops in your morning shower, and three drops in shoes or slippers.

Pine
Like sweet orange, pine essential oil promotes circulation, stimulates the nervous system, and can help relieve mental and physical fatigue. This North American oil is also highly effective at promoting fluid production (phlegm) in the lungs, which may be stressed due to cold, dry air. Its antibacterial properties make it a perfect natural room air freshener and cleaner.

Dose: Two drops in the front hallway deodorizes the air, and 15 drops in a water spray bottle help clean surfaces such as kitchen counters and bathroom sinks.

Peppermint
Peppermint is used effectively as a stimulant. Never use peppermint directly on the skin, as it has cooling properties, and, as with all undiluted essential oils, it can create a temporary rash.

Dose: Had a tough day at the office or at home with the kids? According to Meulman, “One drop inhaled is often all that is needed to experience a deep sense of relief and mental calming.”

Aromatherapy provides an effective way to put some spring in your step. Some other ways to improve your mood are fish oils, vitamin D, and yogic deep breathing.

Eat healthy fats

Studies have shown that fatty acids found in fish oils can help improve cognitive function and circulation and can reduce the incidence of depression. Toronto-based naturopathic doctor Judith Fiore recommends molecularly distilled fish oil in capsule or liquid form.

Soak up some vitamin D

Some studies have found that low levels of vitamin D may be associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms. According to Fiore, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adults has increased from 1,000 IU to 2,000 IU during the fall and winter months. Health Canada recommends 4,000 IU as the tolerable upper intake level (UL) per day.

Vitamin D is linked not only to maintaining mental health, but also to preventing serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Practise The joy of yoga (and breathing)

The link between exercise and endorphins has been substantiated by research. But did you know there are a number of yogic practices that can help you feel more at peace and relieve depression? Better still, in cooler months, yoga can be practised indoors and, aside from the cost of an instructional book or DVD, is free.

Just don’t forget to breathe. It sounds silly, of course, but in North America’s time-pressed culture, poor breathing habits abound. Even a single yoga or meditation class can help regulate your breathing and leave you feeling calmer.

While some people are lucky enough to escape to more civilized climates, the rest of us have to find affordable ways to bring a hint of spring to our step. And what works this time of year can also be effective year-round when you’re looking for a natural pick-me-up.

Natural energy boosters

The best way to stay energized is to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to improving your energy level, Fiore also suggests the following supplements and herbs.

Multivitamin
Take a good-quality multivitamin daily. A recent study of men who took multivitamins daily for eight weeks showed they had improved alertness, fewer negative mood symptoms, and increased feelings of well-being.

B vitamins
Especially helpful if you work in a high-stress environment, B vitamins can help improve mood and energy. Start with a B complex of 50 mg; if you don’t see any improvements after a few weeks, increase to 100 mg.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
This is an important factor in our cells’ ability to make energy. Researchers believe it may help with a number of conditions, including heart disease and male and female infertility. Fiore recommends 60 mg daily; however, if you’re taking it as part of a treatment or prevention plan for a particular condition, you should consult with a health care practitioner.

Maca root
Native to the high Andes and Peru, maca is known for its ability to improve energy and heighten libido. Most people should start with 500 mg daily.

Korean ginseng
This medicinal plant is widely recognized for its ability to improve energy and mood. Note that for some people long-term use can result in digestive problems. Do not take if you have high blood pressure.

Green powders
These energy-boosting drinks are a good addition to your diet if it is lacking in green food. Whether you buy a prepared powder or blend your own drink, greens such as spinach, kale, and chlorella provide antioxidants that build a healthy immune system and increase overall health.

Please note that these are general recommendations. Women who are pregnant or anyone with a specific illness, chronic fatigue, or depression should consult a health care practitioner for safety and dosage information.

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