Everybody gets in a funk once in a while. In some cases, such mood changes – such as when you feel tired or cranky – are a minor nuisance and pass quickly.
Other mood problems, such as clinical depression, may be more ongoing and serious.
If you are depressed, it is important to talk to a doctor. Psychotherapy and anti-depressant drugs can – and do – save and dramatically improve lives.
However, the following three behavioral changes also can help lift your mood, whether you are clinically depressed or simply have a case of the blues.
Regular exercise can lift your mood and help you sleep better, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How does exercise kick-start emotional well-being? Scientists are not exactly sure, according to Mary de Groot, associate director of the University of Indiana’s Diabetes Translational Research Center.
De Groot has investigated the role exercise plays in boosting the moods of depressed people with diabetes.
She says exercise is believed to improve mood in several ways, including:
- Improved blood flow and oxygen to all parts of the body
- Production of endorphins that are naturally produced pain-relievers
- Increased metabolic efficiency, including lowering blood sugar levels and converting fat into energy
Some research even suggests that exercise may be a more powerful mood-altering tool than antidepressants.
To get these benefits, the CDC urges you to aim for aerobic exercise at least three to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes a session. You can also add muscle-strengthening exercises to the mix.
Talk to a physician about which exercise is appropriate for you.
Once your mood improves, it is no time to rest on your laurels.
“While the effects of a single bout of exercise may last up to seven days, it is only helpful for mood if we continue to do it,” de Groot says.
Getting enough sleep
A lack of sleep is linked with many mood disturbances.
Sleep deprivation is associated with depression, irritability and cognitive decline, says Lin Link, a representative of the American Sleep Association.
A University of Pennsylvania study found that participants who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep nightly said they were more stressed, angry, sad and mentally exhausted after just one week.
If you have insomnia, your risk of developing depression is 10 times greater than that of people who sleep well, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Link says the average adult needs about eight hours of sleep, but the total amount varies.
“Like most things in biology, there is a ‘Bell curve’ with sleep needs,” he says. “Some individuals need less than seven hours of sleep, and some need nine hours of sleep.”
The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School offers several tips for getting better sleep, including:
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day
- Keeping your room dark at night
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
- Eating, drinking and exercising properly – but not too close to bed time
Eat a well-balanced diet
The American Academy of Family Physicians says evidence linking a person’s diet to his or her mood – the so-called “mood-food connection” – is mixed.
However, some studies do indeed suggest a correlation between https://dujs.dartmouth.edu/fall-2010/you-are-what-you-eat-how-food-affects-your-mood#.VU-r5Pl3nd0″ target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>mood and eating some foods, including:
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Found naturally in seafood such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, as well as some plant foods, including walnuts and flaxseed, omega-3 essential fatty acids are known for their ability to help support healthy mood.*
- Tryptophan. This amino acid helps your body create serotonin, a chemical involved in mood health. It can be found in red meat, dairy products, soy and turkey. The academy stresses that studies have not found a conclusive link between eating foods rich in tryptophan and improved mood.*
- Magnesium. This nutrient helps the body generate energy. Researchers are investigating whether higher levels of magnesium can help with mood support. Magnesium is found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and avocados.*
- Folic acid and vitamin B-12. These B vitamins are linked to the chemicals dopamine and noradrenalin. Folic acid is found in leafy greens and fruits, while vitamin B-12 is found in fish, meat and dairy products.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.