1. Exercise: Vigorous exercise works to increase the levels of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, in your brain. Think of it as the fight or flight instinct; when we push ourselves physically we can either fight through the discomfort and finish strong – thus releasing endorphins. Or, we can flight, give up and stop – releasing zero endorphins and leaving us feeling bad.
In one study of adults 20-45 years old who were diagnosed with mild to moderate depression, researchers looked at exercise alone to treat the condition and found:
- Depressive symptoms were cut almost in half in those who completed a 30 minutes aerobic exercise, 3-5 times per week after 12 weeks.
2. Address your stress: We often hear about the benefits of reducing stress, yet we all seem to still be stressed. This is something that we all can work on every day. Managing stress can go a long way in helping us feel in control thus reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.
Simple every day ways to manage stress
- Plan your day – this can be done at the end of the previous day or first thing in the morning. Plan your schedule, be sure to know your travel times to and from appointments, make your lunch and breakfast ahead of time. Plan and prep for dinner the night before. Your day will go smoother and you will feel in control and relaxed.
- Make a list – research shows that it is almost impossible to accomplish more than 5-7 items per day. If you have more than 7 to-do’s, move some to the following day. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and how long it will take.
- Delegate when you can – why is this so hard? None of us are super human, take a bite of humble pie and ask for a hand when you need it.
3. Eat a healthy diet: Foods have an immense impact on our mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods will best support your mental health. Incorporating the following foods will enhance your mood.
- Omega 3’s – our bodies use healthy fat cells to transmit messages to the brain on hormone function. When we incorporate healthy omega 3 fats, our cells speak loud and clear. This is important when it comes to those feels good hormones like serotonin and endorphins. In fact, omega-3 fats found in krill oil have been found to work just as well as antidepressants in preventing the signs of depression. When we eat junky trans-fats they harden the cell wall making it impossible for the cell to transmit messages to the brain on hormone function. Scary!
- Avoid sugar and high carbohydrate grains – both sugar and grains increase the insulin response in the body, when we limit these two substances, insulin and leptin levels are normalized – and sugar cravings are eliminated!
- Eat probiotic rich foods daily and/or take a high quality supplement that contains Bifidobacterium.
4. Get plenty of sunshine and fresh air:
- Vitamin D – Have you ever noticed how great you feel after you spend time outdoors on a sunny day? One study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more likely to be depressed. The type of vitamin D that we absorb from the sun is actually different form the type in foods. Essentially, it is nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D through foods, it is most important to get sunshine and fresh air. It now appears that most adults need about 8,000 IU’s of vitamin D a day in order to get their serum levels above 40 ng/ml, which is the lowest they should be. Fifteen to thirty minutes a day of sun exposure without SPF should be enough for most people to reap benefits. It is also recommended that you get your vitamin D checked by a doctor periodically.