8 Strategies to Boost Your Mood
Depression is one of those things that we can do certainly pass on. We have all experienced the feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fatigue and lethargy one time or another in our life. The big Pharma companies have picked up on the issue but without cure. It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans, roughly 7%, experience depression. However, I believe that the numbers are much higher if dysthymia is included in this statistic. With one in ten using antidepressants there seems to be no cure with conventional approaches, just management.
Depression is nothing new but the statistics are alarming and the question is how can we take a more holistic approach to it’s treatment. We need to find out the underlying cause, which by the way, differs from person to person. Hence, that is why one treatment does not fit all folks.
What Happens in Our Brain?
Researchers believe that the cause can be specific brain chemicals — nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits have a major impact on depression as well as genes, . Still, their understanding of the neurological underpinnings of mood is incomplete.
Some areas of the brain that have been noted in research that are affected by depression include:
Amygdala: Part of the limbic system our emotional processing center, shows higher activity with people who are sad or depressed. This increased activity has shown to stay even after people have been “clinically” recovered. However, in my opinion with the changeability of the brain known as brain plasticity, this may not have to be so. Incorporating lifestyle changes that we will list below, the brain can indeed change structure and new networks can form. Meditation and Nutrition in combination work best.
Thalamus: The thalamus our communication hub, receives most sensory information and relays it to the appropriate part of the cerebral cortex, which directs high-level functions such as speech, behavioral reactions, movement, thinking, and learning. Some research suggests that specific mood related disorders may result from problems in the thalamus, which helps link sensory input to pleasant and unpleasant feelings.
Hippocampus: The hippocampus is part of the limbic system as with the amygdala and has a central role in processing long-term memory and recollection. It is this part of the brain that registers fear when you are confronted by something in the present, and have the memory of a similar experience that may make your fearful in the present. An example would be if you fell off a dock as a child and when getting out of a boat as an adult you may be frightened to step onto the dock. Research indicates that the hippocampus is smaller in some depressed people, and it also suggests that ongoing stress impairs the growth of nerve cells in this part of the brain via the stress hormones that are secreted.
Treating the Biology of Depression Holistically
Coping with depression is a challenge and often requires making lifestyle changes. There are specific steps that I have used with clients over the years that I think might be of interest to you. Try these steps:
- Pay attention to your food sensitivities such as wheat gluten or lactose. In some people, certain foods or food additives can cause unpleasant physical reactions. In certain people, these physical reactions may lead to shifts in mood, including depression. I have found that wheat gluten triggers inflammation as well as anxiety and depressive moods.
- Eat a light breakfast. Eating a light breakfast of mainly protein will help your brain make the connections that it needs to stay focused and alert without overburdening the digestive system with heavy foods. A Protein meal stimulates the dopamine receptors when carbohydrates are not mixed.
- Eat fermented foods. Emerging research has established that the gut-brain connection determines what nutrients are absorbed, and what toxins, microbes and allergens are kept out. We feed our gut microbiome – the bacteria that support our health and wellness- with fermented foods.
- Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood creating anxiety and fear.
- Balance Hormones. Many times people that experience depression have low thyroid function and or adrenal insufficiency. So it is a good idea to get these two systems checked out and remove what is causing the insufficiency if it indeed does exist.
- Check your Vitamin D status. Low vitamin D status has been associated with low mood. If you feel depressed during the winter, might be best to check this out. Most people residing in the northeast have low levels of Vitamin D.
- Include a good B Vitamin Supplement Daily. Folic Acid, B6 and B12 deficiencies have been linked to depression. Have your health care provider check your status by testing your homocysteine levels as well as your methymalonic acid levels.
- Move Your Body. Exercise is an anti-depressant. Make sure that you get daily exercise. Even if you get up and move for just 30 minutes, the brain will start to manufacture endorphins – the feel good chemicals.
Calm the Mind:
Breath Diaphragmatically. The health of our body and mind is directly linked to the way that we breath. When we use our chest to breath we send signals to our brain that danger ensues. When we learn and practice diaphragmatic breathing, we promote a calm and focused mind.
Meditate at least 5 minutes per day. The evidence is there that meditation supports longevity and wellness for those that practice. Find a qualified teacher or class and get started. Just 5 minutes a day over one month will change your physical and mental state.