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Depressed? You’re Not Alone. Here’s How to Fix It

Note: This information presented in this article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you think you have a mental health condition. 

We’ve all experienced episodes of the “blues” before, but what happens when those gloomy moods just won’t seem to go away? As the saying goes, “The mind is everything.” When you’re down and depressed, everything else follows. But don’t worry if you’re battling depression, there are proven strategies to help you overcome negative thoughts and improve your mood. 

Feeling Down? You’re Not Alone…

Depression is the most common mood disorder in the United States. In fact, a recent survey by the National Institute of Mental Health found that nearly 1 in every 10 U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2017 (1). However, one of the more concerning findings was that only 65% of these individuals sought treatment for their depression.

It’s patently clear that a societal stigma towards mental health issues still persists in the U.S., causing people to conceal their battle with things like depression, anxiety, and other debilitating mood disorders. 

Let’s be clear that feeling chronically depressed is not abnormal, nor does it make you “unstable”. Those are silly misapprehensions that undermine the power of the mind. If anything, depression is something virtually everyone experiences in their lifetime, some just face it more frequently than others. 

So, what causes us to feel “down”? In short: serotonin dysfunction. 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that the body produces from the amino acid L-tryptophan. It is considered the “happy” neurotransmitter largely because research shows that serotonin dysfunction plays a major role in the development of mood disorders, notably depression (2). 

The common “antidote” in modern medicine is to prescribe a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which reduces the reabsorption of serotonin that has been released from a neuron, thereby allowing serotonin to stay active longer. While SSRIs are generally reliable for treating mood disorders, they may produce adverse effects that make them undesirable as a long-term solution for depression (3). 

The good news is SSRIs aren’t the only way to treat depression. Even simple lifestyle changes can have a profound influence on your mood and state of mind. For example, natural dietary supplements like herbal extracts and CBD oil have been used with promising results by many people. 

Lifestyle Hacks to Boost Your Mood Naturally

If you’re looking for alternatives to boost your mood and subdue depressive thoughts, these lifestyle hacks might just do the trick.

Get More Sun in Your Life!

The sun is Mother Nature’s “source” of vitamin D – an essential fat-soluble micronutrient that plays a multitude of roles throughout the human body. When we are exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, the body converts pre-vitamin D into calcitriol, which is essentially “active” vitamin D. 

If you’ve ever experienced the “blues” during the winter months, this is often the result of less exposure to sunlight (meaning your body has a lower amount of active vitamin D to work with). 

Since people with mood disorders like depression tend to seclude themselves indoors, this can further exacerbate the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. 

But it can’t be as easy as just getting more sunlight, can it? Actually, it may very well be that simple. A recent study of 444 subjects found that sunlight exposure was inversely correlated with depressed mood and anxiety (4). In other words, those who got more sunlight were less likely to feel gloomy. 

Don’t overlook the importance of being outside and surrounded by nature. Even a 20-30 minute walk while the sun is out can work wonders for your mood. 

Break a Sweat

While it might be tough to find the motivation to hit the gym when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best natural anti-depressants. According to a recent meta-analysis, exercise was deemed comparable to psychotherapy and antidepressants for depression (5). 

It makes sense biologically since exercise produces endorphins that make us feel happy, satisfied, and motivated. If you can just get over that initial hump of putting on your sneakers and clearing your mind, you’ll find yourself in a happier mood soon after you start working up a sweat. 

And remember, being outside will only help so if you prefer to go for a jog or bike ride instead of going to the gym, by all means, do that! There are many ways to keep physically active without a gym membership.

Laugh it Off

You hear it all the time, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It may sound cliche, but there’s actually a well-established body of evidence that shows laughing does alleviate the acute symptoms of many health conditions, especially mood disorders (6). In fact, even hearing someone else laugh has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood (7). 

When those rainy clouds just won’t seem to stop following you around, find something to do that amuses you. Listen to a stand-up comic that you like, watch a sitcom series or funny movie, read a humorous book or article, whatever gets a chuckle out of you. 

Happiness: A State of Mind, Not a Destination

Remember that happiness isn’t some esoteric, farfetched dream that only a select few people ever realize. Quite the opposite, actually. Being happy is a state of mind and something that we all can, and should, experience every day with the right strategies and lifestyle choices. 

No matter what’s weighing on your mind, take a few deep breaths, be in the moment, and remember that depression is conquerable and you have the power to take back your life. 

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How to Improve Your Mood Now (and Keep It That Way)

Where does mood originate from? If you said “”the mind,” you’re close enough. No matter what mood you’re in, the brain is controlling that feeling. If you constantly feel grumpy, thinking about things that make you even more grumpy surely won’t tell your brain to change anything. 

On the contrary, positive affirmations and thinking are well-known to create a healthier, happier state of mind. But there’s much more to mood than just positive thoughts or imagery. In fact, many of the “passive” things we do in our day-to-day lives have a major impact on mood. 

If you’ve been in a poor mood lately, or you just want to feel better and improve your well-being, then these simple lifestyle changes are just what the doctor ordered!

Lifestyle Hacks to Improve Mood

From drinking water, to sleeping well, to nourishing your body appropriately, these lifestyle hacks can make all the difference between a bad day and a good day. 

Sleep well to live well

Chronic sleep deprivation is an insidious risk factor for a myriad of deleterious health conditions, notably depression, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, premature aging, and even sudden death [1]. In other words, skimping on sleep affects all aspects of your wellness, especially mental health and mood – the exact opposite of what you want. There is no better way to start your day than being well rested, which means getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night [2].

If you have trouble falling asleep, taking a CBD supplement shortly before bedtime can help. Many people find that CBD allows them to unwind and achieve deeper sleep. 

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

The human brain is 75-80% water, and dehydration is known to impair cognitive performance and mental function (especially in older adults) [3]. In other words, being dehydrated can lead to brain fog, irritability, and mental fatigue, none of which will help your mood.  

As a simple rule-of-thumb, consume at least ½ oz of water per every pound you weigh. For example, a 170-lb man should drink about 85 oz of water per day. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try adding freshly squeezed lemon or cucumber to it for a natural flavor boost and beneficial vitamin C.

Exercise your brain

It’s common knowledge that physical exercise keeps us feeling youthful and healthy, but the mood benefits of challenging your mind are just as important [4]. After all, there’s not much reason for your brain to “feel good” if it doesn’t get the necessary “exercise” it needs to function optimally. Whether it’s learning something new, trying to solve a crossword puzzle, painting a picture, or reading a book, do something to challenge your brain every day and it will pay dividends towards your mood and well-being. 

Relax your mind with meditation

Stress is a major culprit of premature aging and poor mood. While one might presume that the stress-relieving benefits of meditation are based on pseudoscience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Deep breathing exercises like meditation have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce the psychological symptoms of chronic distress [5, 6]. 

Meditation encourages breathing deeply through your belly and nose instead of through the mouth, as we often do when we are anxious or stressed out. In turn, this calms the adrenal glands and reduces stress hormone secretion, thereby protecting the heart and brain from undue physiological stress. All it takes is 5-10 minutes of meditating per day to feel better and keep your mind sharp. 

Food is fuel for the brain

Many of us overlook the importance of proper diet for keeping our minds sharp, yet food is Mother Nature’s primary form of medicine. As part of a balanced diet, be sure to incorporate at least 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruits per day. Green vegetables like spinach, cabbage, collard greens, and broccoli are especially important due to their abundance of brain-supporting micronutrients, notably magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin D. 

Improve Mood and Sharpen Your Mind

Some of these “hacks” may seem so obvious that people dismiss them, but you’d be surprised how often these lifestyle changes are overlooked. Practicing these healthy habits will only encourage positive mood and a sharper mind – the foundations of health and happiness.