How to Improve Your Mood Naturally
Here are some of the most effective ways to naturally improve your mood and mindset.
Research has shown that both social and physical stressors can have a big impact on emotional health and mood. Stress can be defined as life pressures and demands which result in feeling overwhelmed or unable to manage or cope with the circumstances. In times of stress, it’s common for people to seek out activities `that provide a bit of distraction or comfort. It’s nice to escape a bit — to read a book or watch a movie — but those are solutions suitable for short periods of stress.
We can’t control everything that happens in our lives, and prolonged periods of stress can result in mood changes. There are many ways to naturally support a healthy mood. Here’s what you can do to reduce the effects of stress, rebalance your life, relax your mind and reboot your mood.
9 Natural Mood Enhancers
Exercise is one of the best ways to enhance your mood because it can have positive effects on serotonin and endorphin levels. These two chemicals are sometimes called “the happy hormones” because people with higher serotonin levels are more likely to have a consistently happy mood. Taking even 30 minutes per day to exercise or engage in some kind of moderate sustained physical activity can be an effective way to improve your mood.
“Serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are all important neurotransmitters required for brain function and mood management,” says Dr Tracey Evans, PhD, MSc, BSc. “They are released during exercise, so in essence exercise will naturally boost neurotransmitters that will help to improve the mood.”
On an observational level, practitioners often Ind a link between people with low mood and lack of exercise. “I Ind that the most common cause behind low mood is a lack of movement,” says professional therapist and wellness coach Onnie Michalsky, LCPC, NCC. “There really is something about releasing those feel-good chemicals that happens naturally during exercise. Simply getting up and making it a point to walk, jump, stretch, and move will help lift one's mood.”
For the technologically adept, Michalsky recommends using a fitness app to remind you to move throughout the day, log your exercise, and track your progress. Examples of exercise can include walking, running, biking, dancing, weightlifting, or yoga. Yoga in particular is likely to enhance mood in part because of the focus on breathing.
Meditation focuses on breathing Irst and foremost, and can also focus on positive affirmations, visualization and goal setting. In fact, some professional and Olympic athletes use visualization meditation to improve performance.
One major pitfall of meditation is that people tend to give up on it before it offers much help — either because they feel silly doing it, become impatient, or they don’t feel like they’re experiencing the positive effects. However, sticking with it can pay off big time, and many people Ind that they need to do it consistently for a period of time before they realize the benefits.
Researchers in one study “found that 8 — but not 4 — weeks of brief, daily meditation decreased negative mood state and enhanced attention, working memory, and recognition memory as well as decreased state anxiety scores on the TSST (Trier Social Stress Test).”
Choosing to take a few minutes out of the day to meditate for at least one month (but preferably two, as indicated by this study) could have a significant positive effect on your mood. There are many wonderful meditation apps available which help new and experienced meditators alike. as well as guided meditations, routines, sounds and timers available through smart speaker technology.
Take Deep Breaths
While meditation often focuses initially on the breath, this ancient practice may not be for everyone. However, the simple practice of slow, deep breathing has natural calming effects and can easily enhance your mood.
“Practice breathwork exercises, such as breathing in through your nose for four counts, then out through your mouth for six,” says breathwork expert Davi Brown, founder of the mobile app Breathwrk. “These types of exercises help to alleviate distressing emotions and bring peace of mind to the individual practicing them.”
Try breathing deep into your belly in the pattern that Brown recommends — in through your nose for four counts and out through your mouth for six — a few times in a row. If you need a break after that, take one, but if you’re still feeling glum or anxious, repeat until you feel calmer.
When some people are stressed, they might reach for comfort foods, which aren’t typically “healthy” in nature. Not everyone will peel carrots and dip them in hummus — others may be stopping at a bakery or coffee shop.
It’s estimated that as much as 80% of the serotonin supply in the body is made in the gut, rather than the brain. Eating a healthy diet complete with plenty of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fiber is very important for maintaining a healthy gut, and therefore, a healthy mood.
Low mood is sometimes associated with inflammation so an anti-inflammatory diet that includes healthy oils such as extra virgin olive oil may be of potential benefit in supporting healthy mood.
Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, but many fall short of that number. Between the stress and time commitments of family responsibilities, work, and household chores, we rarely prioritize sleep. We might go to bed too late because we want to Inish one more thing, or watch one more episode of our favorite new show. At first, it may not seem so bad, but over time, insufficient sleep has a ripple effect throughout our lives.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that sleep is crucial for all functions in the body, and lack of sleep often coincides with low mood or irritability. Getting a good night’s sleep can set the tone for a positive start to the following day, every day.
This idea seems so simple that it couldn’t possibly work, but it does. “Just being outside in nature can work wonders for boosting our mood and breathing in the fresh air,” says self-care expert Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD. In terms of what time of day is best to get outside, morning is probably best because it helps the body to synchronize to a more stable circadian rhythm.
Additionally, research has shown that the level of serotonin in the brain is affected by the amount of sunlight on any given day. Sunlight entering the eyes cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin.
Furthermore, sunshine will help the body produce vitamin D, which is critical for the body and the fresh air will do your body good.
Limit Screen Time
Between work, TV, and smart devices, we spend a lot of time staring at screens. We’re inundated with ads trying to get us to buy things and people on social media living lives that are (seemingly) “better” than ours. It’s a constant deluge of information facilitated by endless scrolling. Making the decision to avoid all of these external distractions for a period of time each day can help you feel less scattered and more focused on your life, rather than someone else’s.
Furthermore, the blue light that is emitted by most of our screens has been shown to disrupt our circadian rhythm. It’s true that any type of light suppresses melatonin production (the hormone that makes us sleepy), but according to Harvard researchers, blue light suppresses melatonin for about two times as long as green light.
Putting down the screens can have more than one positive effect on your mood, but if you can’t avoid them during the day, at least try to turn them off (or put them face down on your nightstand) at least one hour before bedtime so your melatonin levels can start to lower on their own.
Utilize Light Therapy
Light therapy can be a very effective way to improve mood, especially for those living in cooler climates at higher latitudes where natural sunlight may be quite limited in the winter. Verilux® brand is probably the most well known, and their HappyLight® products come in various sizes, styles and strengths, from small, lower wattage box-style desk lamps you can leave on all day, to a “tablet” size slim lamp you would use for 20 minutes of therapy each morning. They’re designed to mimic sunlight so your brain can experience some of the benefits of sunlight (in this case, circadian rhythm regulation) without the risks that come from harmful UV rays.
It’s often most effective when utilized first thing in the morning because it helps wake your brain and body up. It’s important to note that not all light therapy lamps are free of UV rays. In order to protect yourself, you should look for one that does not use UV rays, and never look directly into it.
Reconnect with People and Passion
Sometimes, when we’re feeling low, the last thing we want to do is talk to someone, but refusing to do so causes us to wallow in our bad mood. “Connecting with supportive people is a great way to improve mood naturally. Having people you can talk to and trust is very important,” stresses Melito-Conners. “Additionally, connecting with old passions can work wonders. If you used to draw, paint or knit, try picking it up again. In the hustle of life and adulthood, we sometimes forget the things that used to bring us happiness. Try reconnecting with some of those activities and you will undoubtedly feel better.”
By contrast, not every person you talk to will help improve your mood. It’s important to connect with people you enjoy, who put you in a good mood. “Monitor who and what you are exposing yourself to. Surround yourself with people and things that pour into your spirit, not drain from it,” advises Dr. Markesha Miller, PhD.
Counseling is not only helpful but important, especially when other strategies aren’t working. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term therapy that can teach you to identify and change thought patterns and behaviors that may be affecting your mood. It also helps you learn and develop more constructive ways to respond to stress.
Working with a licensed counselor who will listen without judgement and provide objective feedback can help you see your situation from a different angle, help you prioritize and focus on what is truly important in your life, and offer you suggestions, strategies and problem-solving solutions.
6 Vitamins to Support Healthy Mood
In addition to these natural ways to improve mood, there are many supplement ingredients that help support a healthy mood. Here are six of the most common.
Research shows that B vitamins can be helpful in supporting a healthy mood. A systematic review of studies looking into the effect of B vitamins and mood concluded that “there is increasing consensus that nutrient status is an important modifiable factor in many neurological and psychiatric conditions.” Specifically, the researchers believed their review “provide[d] evidence that B group vitamin supplementation (either alone or with a multivitamin) may also benefit mood in healthy and at-risk individuals.”
Some practitioners believe that B6, B12, and folate are the most important B vitamins for supporting mood. The merits of B vitamins on mood are sometimes debated, but generally speaking, higher serum levels of B12 and folate are associated with overall healthy mood.
Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin” because sunshine is primarily how we get it (or rather, we make it). The more researchers study vitamin D, the more the medical community agrees that it is of vital importance to overall health. This vitamin (which is actually a hormone) plays an essential role in many different functions in the body, and inadequate vitamin D levels are associated with fatigue and mood concerns. Vitamin D receptors are present in areas of the brain associated with memory and mood.
“Vitamin D is essential for function in the human body,” says Dr. Vikram Tarugu, MD, gastroenterologist and CEO of Detox of South Florida. “Sadly, many adults suffer from a shortage in vitamin D, since it’s difficult to get from food. Human skin transforms sunshine to vitamin D; however, you do not often have enough time in the sun to replenish your system's amounts of vitamin D, particularly if you live in colder climates, or use sunscreen.”
Zinc plays a vital role in many physiological processes in the human body, such as growth and development, immune support, and wound healing. However, the more researchers look into its effects on the neurological system, the more evidence they Ind on how important zinc is for mental health as well.
A 2017 study found that zinc may be beneficial in mood health.
When most people think of calcium, they’re thinking about bone health. Of course, this mineral is crucial to strong bone structure, but it plays other important roles in the body as well — namely, healthy mood.
“Neurotransmitters are vital to a functioning central nervous system, which controls mood along with many other important functions. Calcium is needed to release these neurotransmitters so they can do their jobs,” says Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of The Candida Diet. “Essentially, calcium keeps this area running smoothly without delay. Calcium is thought to prevent hormone disorders. Low levels of calcium and diets low in calcium overall have been linked to bone degeneration and mood disorders.”
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can also be helpful in supporting healthy mood. A 2019 research panel endorsed the use of omega-3 fatty acids in supporting healthy mood.
The reasoning behind these effects may require more research, but some evidence points to its activity supporting healthy inflammatory balance. According to a 2018 review, long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, DHA, and EPA and their derivatives are well-known regulators of healthy inflammatory response. More recently, DHA, EPA, and their derivatives have been shown to also support neuroinflammatory processes.
Magnesium is one of the most critical minerals in the body — in fact, it plays a role in more than 300 biochemical processes vital to everyday function, including muscle movement, bone integrity, immune response, insulin function, and of course, healthy mood. Multiple studies have linked magnesium deficiency to mood.
A 2017 randomized clinical trial found that daily supplementation with 248 mg of elemental magnesium as four 500 mg tablets of magnesium chloride per day may support healthy mood regardless of multiple variables, including age and gender.
Improving Mood Naturally
Once you Ind a method that works for you, stick to it, and you’ll see improvement in your mood before too long. Remember that meditation may take longer than others, but you can practice deep breathing at any time. And for a quick mood elevator, get some exercise — the boost of happy hormones will turn your mood around in no time.
Are you interested in learning more about mood support? Check out these articles with additional pro tips: