It’s hardly a secret that we’re more connected than ever. From social media and texting to WhatsApp and emails, friends, family members, colleagues and even strangers with similar affinities are mere milliseconds away.
But it’s also no secret that, as a whole, we’re more depressed and anxious:
- In 2017, a record forty million Americans suffered from anxiety—and that was before the pandemic rocked our world.
- Today, nearly a third of U.S. residents have issues with anxiety.
While many of us are still reeling from COVID-19, economic uncertainty, global strife and the sheer pressure of being alive in a hyper-competitive world can be overwhelming. The great irony is that while we may think we’re more connected, we’re more disconnected than we’ve ever been—to the people we love, to the members in our real-life communities and to ourselves. Is it any wonder why we’re collectively in an angsty, disoriented and even blue mood?
Fortunately, a mood that’s all over the map is rarely a life sentence. Rather, we can take specific measures to protect our emotional well-being—the same way we shield our skin with SPF, receive twice-yearly dental cleanings to maintain our oral health and round out our nutritional profiles with essential vitamins and supplements.
Our emotional health deserves—no, needs—a similar, if not greater level of care and attention. Read on for the five best herbs to support a vibrant mood, and the steps you can take to promote a brighter, more balanced, and joyful perspective.
5 Herbs for Mood Support
Ashwagandha is an ancient adaptogenic herb—meaning, it actively works with your body to help manage physical and psychological stress (and stress in any form can send our moods flying in every direction). This is thanks in part to the alkaloids and lactones it possesses, which may offer a nutritional “cushion” during times of duress.†
What’s more, research demonstrates that ashwagandha, also known as withania somnifera, may naturally support a better night’s sleep, which we all know is one of the golden tickets to happiness and equilibrium.†
Anger can arise for any number of reasons—a child whose only word is “no,” a misunderstanding with our partner, or witnessing an unkindness in public. In the immediate, plenty can be done to temper a, well, temper, with breathing exercises chief among them.
In the long run, however, you may want a little assistance to keep a riled mood in check.
This is where rose comes in. Whether you consume it in a tea or a capsule, it may have the effect of a bouquet of blooms on your mood. Known as mei gua ha in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it has a sweet, warming impact that may foster a friendlier, more open way of being while also supporting your dermal and digestive health.†
3. Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola rosea—another mainstay in TCM—might have the capacity to elevate a dreary mood and prompt feelings of well-being.
Studies indicate that the ancient herb may help support the health of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, which has been implicated in mood swings and can contribute to depression. The herb may also help with healthy levels of serotonin and dopamine, two key neurotransmitters that are central to emotional wellness.†
Known as golden root in some circles, rhodiola rosea has also been used for centuries in traditional folk medicine to bolster energy and vitality, which might just be the very definition of a healthy disposition.†
4. Siberian ginseng
Like ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng acts as an adaptogen to help you navigate common daily stressors with enriched ease. Also known as eleuthero, this staple in Eastern countries boasts a wealth of polysaccharides and eleutherosides—chemical compounds that have been shown to organically champion immune strength.†
Widely used by athletes for its fatigue-busting properties, Siberian ginseng may also support cognitive health: According to a study published in Neural Regeneration Research, these substances may have a positive impact on memory and learning. And a healthier body and a sharper mind can make any challenge feel more surmountable—and translate to a calmer, cheerier and more competent frame of mind.†
SAMe, or s-adenosylmethionine, is naturally manufactured in the human brain—from the amino acid methionine and adenosine triphosphate, to be exact. SAMe supplements, or synthetic replications of this compound, provide extra support to nourish your central nervous system and for the synthesis of “I feel awesome” neurotransmitters. One to try: NOW’s SAMe capsules. This vegetarian, cruelty-free supplement nurtures this internal action while also supporting joint health and cell membrane function.†
… and 5 Lifestyle Changes to Enhance Your Mood
Supplements are exactly as they sound: They’re supplemental to the efforts you make on a consistent basis to harness a happy mood. In addition to exploring these herbs, consider making these alterations to your daily routine:
1. Embrace human nature
A walk in the forest, a stroll on soft sand, even five minutes of closing your eyes under the sun in your yard—all of these interactions with the great outdoors have been empirically proven to facilitate emotional well-being.
In this case, though, we mean embracing who you are: A mammal that, like all sentient creatures on this planet, is doing its best to survive. Forgive yourself for small infractions, whether it’s sleeping through your alarm and missing a 7 a.m. barre class or sending an email to the wrong person. To err is to be human, and the more you can eradicate self-judgement and critical self-talk, the more luminous your mood has the chance to become.
2. Try dopamine dressing
Deemed one of the biggest upcoming wellness trends of 2023 by The Skimm, the idea behind dopamine dressing is to design your outfit for the day with the intent of revitalizing your mood. For some, this may mean wearing a specific color; for others, it might entail donning their most empowering shoes and accessories. For others still, it may be exploring a new style entirely. And while it may sound vain, bear in mind that it has nothing to do with how others perceive you and everything to do with how the clothes make you feel.
3. Eat movement snacks
The connection between exercise and a sunnier disposition is irrefutable. No matter if it’s swimming or snowboarding, physical activity releases a flood of endorphins, which operate as natural antidepressants. But you don’t need to commit a whole wedge of your day to working out at the gym to reap the benefits of exercise. “Movement snacks,” as they’ve come to be called, are short bursts of exercise performed throughout the day to refocus your mind, beat back stress, and reenergize your body. A set of push-ups, a quick clean of your kitchen, a series of squats, or even dancing around your house or office for a song counts—and may pull you up and out of a sour mood.
4. …and eat for your mental health
Forget the diets and financial resolutions dominating the headlines as we greet the new year. Health is the real wealth, and that all starts with what you put onto your plate. Reach for foods praised for their capacity to kickstart your brain and help it ascend to a higher place: Nuts and seeds are high in zinc, which helps the brain adapt to changes (and if there’s one constant in life…); grass-fed lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, which is central to the production of mood-boosting serotonin and dopamine, and eggs provide choline—a compound that alleviates anxiety.
And never forget to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. High in antioxidants, they decrease inflammation, which might play a role in how able your mind feels.
5. Refresh your connections
Research out of Pace University shows that the more “friends” we follow on social media, the more frequently we compare ourselves to others and feel negative about our lives. Meanwhile, studies out of the University of Michigan found that the more time we spend on Facebook, the lower our mood sinks.
Social media may have its advantages but you’re far, far, far better off setting down your device and engaging with your friends, family and community members in a meaningful, in-person way. Indeed, Harvard reveals that the key to happiness isn’t economic certainty, or world peace or a flawless complexion: It’s the genuine connections you share with others, and that all originates from the relationship you cultivate, and cherish, with yourself.
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.