5 Natural Ways to Improve Your Mood
The rainy season and gray skies in the Pacific Northwest can impact our mood, leaving us feeling a little down and reaching for the duvet instead of jumping out of bed in the morning. You may even suffer with seasonal affective disorder. Add that to the stresses of everyday life, and we can feel overwhelmed and even suffering with symptoms of depression. But there are things you can do to boost your mood naturally so that you get more out of your day, feel lighter, and reduce stress.
What is the difference between low mood and depression?
The key difference between feeling low in mood — or just lacking motivation — and depression is that depression inferes with your day-to-day ability to perform activities for a prolonged period of time, typically longer than two weeks.
Symptoms of depression include irritability, difficulty sleeping, low energy, loss of pleasure, neglecting responsibilities and aspects of physical care, and feelings of hopelessness or despair. If you are suffering with these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor to rule out depression and/or to get treatment.
That said, whether you are suffering with depression, seasonal affective disorder, or just the blues, there are some natural ways to boost your mood. Many of these can be used in conjunction with your doctor’s treatment — just make sure you check in with them first!
Key ways to boost your mood naturally
Spend time with a close friend and talk it out. Studies show that quality time with a strong social support network is vital to psychological health. Chatting with friends can help you feel better, boost self-confidence, provide you with a source of accountability, and support you in making positive changes in your life. Plus, laughter with friends is the best medicine and can lead to overall feelings of happiness. Research has shown that after socializing, people reported better health and well-being.
Exercise. Studies have shown that you can feel the benefits of exercise in as little as five minutes! Exercising regularly reduces anxiety, panic, stress, and alleviates symptoms of depression. It is also a great way to process the stress hormones we experience in the body, thus aiding relaxation and promoting better sleep. Plus, the endorphins (feel-good chemicals) that are released when you exercise lift your mood and act as a natural antidepressant.
Spend time in outside in nature. Getting into the outdoors, especially around trees, is said to lift your mood. By experiencing the expanse of a forest or by taking a hike, you gain perspective and feel more grounded. This in turn reduces stress levels and provides a calming effect. Also, exposure to sunshine allows the body to produce vitamin D, which has been shown to improve mood and reduce distress.
Play with a pet. Interaction with animals has been shown to boost the feel-good chemicals serotonin and oxytocin and to reduce stress levels. Even if you don’t own a cat or dog, you can still experience the benefits — offer to walk or hang out with a friend’s or a relative’s pet. You could even sign up with a local dog-walking service, getting the benefits of both puppy time and exercise!
Eat dark chocolate. Chocolate, specifically cacao (the unprocessed seeds from which chocolate is made), has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression. It has a positive effect on mood due to its flavanols, which convert chemicals into the natural mood stabilizer serotonin. It also contains theobromine, which reduces anxiety and provides energy.
Please note this blog is not intended as medical advice nor should it replace it. If you are suffering with symptoms of depression, please seek the guidance of your doctor.