Five Natural Ways To Improve Your Mood

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month! In addition to therapy, medications, and other mental health resources, there are several natural ways you can improve your mood every day, at little or no cost.

Here are a few suggestions to help you boost your mood during the month of May – and beyond!

1) Exercise.

You probably already know that exercise is good for your heart, bones, lungs, blood sugar, blood pressure, and circulation. But there’s a growing body of research that shows exercise is good for your mental health, too!

The good news is that you don’t have to train for a marathon or attempt a similar heroic athletic feat in order to reap the benefits. Walking, jogging, lifting weights, or doing yoga for just 30 minutes three times a week is as effective as medication in alleviating mild-to-moderate depression. While patients with severe depression may need to take medication to alleviate their symptoms, adding exercise to your mental health repertoire can have significant benefits.

2) Smile.

Most people think that being happy causes you to smile. But it turns out that the opposite is true as well – smiling can cause you to feel happier! When you smile, the muscle movements in your face trigger the release of dopamine and other mood-improving neurotransmitters in your brain. So the next time you feel an increase in your stress level or a dip in your mood, remind yourself to smile. Even a forced smile can help you feel better!

3) Get Plenty of Omega-3s.

Omega-3 fatty acids have shown a lot of promise for depression in recent studies. Researchers think it’s because Omega-3s are easily able to penetrate the brain cell membrane and have a positive effect on neurotransmitters. Omega-3 also decreases inflammation, which is thought to contribute to depression in some patients.

You can get Omega-3s in the form of a supplement, or by increasing your consumption of foods rich in Omega-3s, including walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, mackerel, oysters, salmon, caviar, and sea bass.

(Note: patients who are pregnant or who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder should consult with their healthcare provider before increasing their Omega-3 intake.)

4) Spend Time with a Furry Friend.

Pets have been shown to decrease patients’ stress, anxiety, and loneliness, and improve symptoms of depression. In fact, of the 80 million U.S. households that own a pet, 74% said that living with a pet improved their mood, and 75% said that their pet improved the mood of a loved one. Even if you’re not able to own a pet, visiting someone else’s furry friend is a fun, easy way to improve your mood and increase your sense of well-being. As human beings, we are designed for human contact and connection. Research shows that when people have healthy, supportive relationships with their family, friends, colleagues, romantic partners, and furry friends they are happier and healthier, and live longer. Healthy relationships will always improve your mood.

5) Get Outside.

Spending time in nature has been shown to have a profound, positive effect on patients’ moods. Patients who spend time outdoors report lower rates of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Nature has a positive impact on mood for several reasons. First, it gives people a change of scenery (literally), it lets people appreciate beauty, it offers lots of opportunities for exercise, and it exposes people to sunshine, which boosts Vitamin D levels. The more time you spend in green, open spaces, the better your mind and body will feel.

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Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant