We all go through times that bring us down and keep us from performing at our best. No matter how successful or dedicated you are, there will be times when you question where things are right now, or where things are heading. It can be easy to lose hope and give up on your dreams. In order to push through these feelings, you have to be aware of what is causing them, and what your options are. Unfortunately, we usually don’t make the best decisions when we are feeling down. However, with some lifestyle changes and some key information, you can boost your mood to get back on track and reach your goals.
I cannot overstate the benefits of eating right and exercising regularly. Research has shown that regular exercise can be as effective as prescription antidepressants for some people. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also promote positive feelings similar to morphine. This can greatly improve your outlook on life, improving your motivation and overall happiness. Combining this with a proper diet can be a very powerful tool to improving your mood.
Eat a wide range of colorful fruits and vegetables to increase your intake of antioxidants. Consume lean, protein-rich foods like fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy. These contain important B vitamins, which have been shown to boost mood and energy levels. Fatty fish, flaxseed, and nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which greatly improve symptoms of depression. A deficiency of vitamin D has also been linked to depression, especially seasonal affective disorder. This makes perfect sense, because sunlight exposure boosts our vitamin D levels. During the winter, when seasonal affective disorder hits, our sunlight exposure is greatly reduced, resulting in lower vitamin D. Not surprisingly, a great dietary source of vitamin D is fish. If you don’t like fish, you could take with fish oil supplements, or consider getting a mood therapy light. By following a straightforward diet like this, you can greatly improve your overall mood and sense of well-being.
A great way to help you feel better is to help others. MRI tests have shown that when people help others, they get a “helper’s” high. This is why support groups work so well. When people help each other, they are also helping themselves. You could volunteer, help a friend or neighbor, find a support group, or do something nice for your significant other.
Another way to quickly feel happier is to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Start smiling more often. We smile because we are happy, but recent studies have shown it also works the other way around. Apparently, parts of our body help reinforce our current feelings. So forcing a smile tells our brain that we are happy, resulting in a more positive mood. The same goes for how we act. If we act happy, we will tend to be happy.
Talking to others about our problems can also elevate our moods. It can release stress, help us feel more accepted, and strengthen the relationship we have with the other person. Human touch alone has been shown to release the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, resulting in reduced blood pressure and heart rate. A common cause for feeling down is blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong. By talking to someone else about it, they can help you realize that it isn’t all your fault, which can help you feel better. They can also help you avoid unrealistic negative thoughts, which can drain all of your happiness.
Something that helps prevent feeling down for long periods of time is maintaining a daily routine. Take a shower in the morning to help you wake up. The sudden increase in body temperature will almost always help jolt you out a bad mood. Eat a hearty, well-balanced breakfast to jumpstart your day. This can have a huge positive impact on the rest of your day. If you are feeling down, be sure not to schedule too much to do that day. This can cause you to feel overwhelmed, which can worsen your mood. Break tasks down into manageable parts so you can feel accomplished instead of feeling overburdened. Take time to relax at night, letting your body recover from the day. Take a few minutes to write down at least three good things that happened that day. This is very important, as it helps you to focus on the positives instead of the negatives. And finally, be sure to get plenty of sleep, as this has obvious effects on your mood.
Take Action Now: Start exercising and eating healthier, supplementing with vitamins if needed. Try to get plenty of sunlight throughout the day, or use a mood therapy light. Start volunteering, or just doing things for others around the house. Keep a consistent routine that isn’t overwhelming. At the end of each day, write down at least three positive things that happened, and be sure to get plenty of sleep. And if you are still struggling, “fake it ‘til you make it.”