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Improve Your Mood: 5 Habits to Make You Feel Happier

8/17/2010 1:23:00 PM

Tags: mood, brain, mental health, breakfast, blood sugar, fatty acids, omega 3, omega 6, folic acid, B12, b vitamins, exercise

If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed most days, it might be time to change your lifestyle. Unhappiness can be caused by a number of factors, from stress to nutrient deficiencies, but you don’t have to be bound by them. Take control over your life! Banish bad moods by changing your habits. Try these five tips.

healthy breakfast
Starting your day off with a healthy breakfast of granola, low-fat yogurt and fruit will help stabilize your mood. Photo By elisabet.s/Courtesy Flickr. 

1. Don’t skip breakfast. 

If you roll out of bed feeling grumpy, skipping breakfast will only worsen your mood. Without food, your brain won’t function properly, your blood sugar will drop and stress hormones will invade your body, souring your mood and interfering with your ability to work—which certainly won’t improve your disposition any. Eating a breakfast full of sugars and simple carbs won’t help either. Foods such as white-bread bagels and sugary drinks will fuel your body for a short while, but the spike they deliver to your blood sugar will drop quickly, causing a mid-morning crash.

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast will keep your blood sugars stable, which in turn will keep your mood stable. Opt for complex carbs and protein: whole-grain bread, eggs and granola.

2. Eat the right fats. 

Getting a balance of the omega fatty acids can relieve negative feelings. Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of the brain, and getting enough of them can promote healthy brain function and even relieve mild forms of depression. Getting too much of omega-6 fatty acids, however, can drag brain function (and your mood) down by making brain-cell membranes stiff and decreasing communication between the cells.

Achieving a balance between the omegas can be difficult. Our bodies naturally produce omega-6, but typical American diets are heavy on this fatty acid. Incorporate foods into your diet that are high in omega-3 (walnuts, cold-water fish, leafy greens) or take up to 1,000 mg of an EPA-DHA combination fish oil supplement.

3. Increase your intake of B-vitamins. 

Folic acid and B12 promote brain health. They help produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which plays a key role in experiencing pleasure, and rid the body of a substance called homocysteine, which at elevated levels can deteriorate dopamine-producing brain cells. Adults lacking in B12 are more prone to depression, yet almost one-third of Americans don’t receive enough of this vitamin. Our dietary habits aren’t doing us any favors as the typical American diet isn’t given to high levels of these vitamins. We consume too many refined grains and too few fresh vegetables.

Make sure you get enough folate and B12 by eating whole grains and leafy grains and avoiding processed flours.

pea shoots
Eat several servings each day of leafy greens to increase your intake of folate and vitamin B12, which promote healthy brain function and support good moods. Photo By Your Secret Admiral/Courtesy Flickr. 

4. Exercise regularly.

Exercising isn’t just for your body. Aerobic activity also boosts brain function and mood. Exercising releases endorphins, regulates neurotransmitter function and stress-response systems, and can even help build new brain cells. Studies have shown that exercise can produce brain chemicals that fight stress while hindering production of brain chemicals that cause panic.

The more you exercise, the more benefits you’ll reap from it. The key to using exercise as a tool for mood improvement is to do it on a regular basis. Start with a small goal—20 or 30 minutes, twice a week—and work your way up to exercising three to four times a week.

5. Think positive! 

While diet, exercise and supplements can all have a positive effect on your mood, they’re only tools to help you change the biggest factor in fighting grumpiness—how you think and deal with situations. If you’re insistent on holding grudges or having a negative outlook, then eating right and exercising will have little change on your mood.

Changing your emotional habits can be difficult, so take it one day at a time. Forgive. Forget the bad things and reflect on good memories. Find small things to look forward, and build up a social support system of friends!



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