Note: This information presented in this article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you think you have a mental health condition.
We’ve all experienced episodes of the “blues” before, but what happens when those gloomy moods just won’t seem to go away? As the saying goes, “The mind is everything.” When you’re down and depressed, everything else follows. But don’t worry if you’re battling depression, there are proven strategies to help you overcome negative thoughts and improve your mood.
Feeling Down? You’re Not Alone…
Depression is the most common mood disorder in the United States. In fact, a recent survey by the National Institute of Mental Health found that nearly 1 in every 10 U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2017 (1). However, one of the more concerning findings was that only 65% of these individuals sought treatment for their depression.
It’s patently clear that a societal stigma towards mental health issues still persists in the U.S., causing people to conceal their battle with things like depression, anxiety, and other debilitating mood disorders.
Let’s be clear that feeling chronically depressed is not abnormal, nor does it make you “unstable”. Those are silly misapprehensions that undermine the power of the mind. If anything, depression is something virtually everyone experiences in their lifetime, some just face it more frequently than others.
So, what causes us to feel “down”? In short: serotonin dysfunction.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that the body produces from the amino acid L-tryptophan. It is considered the “happy” neurotransmitter largely because research shows that serotonin dysfunction plays a major role in the development of mood disorders, notably depression (2).
The common “antidote” in modern medicine is to prescribe a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which reduces the reabsorption of serotonin that has been released from a neuron, thereby allowing serotonin to stay active longer. While SSRIs are generally reliable for treating mood disorders, they may produce adverse effects that make them undesirable as a long-term solution for depression (3).
The good news is SSRIs aren’t the only way to treat depression. Even simple lifestyle changes can have a profound influence on your mood and state of mind. For example, natural dietary supplements like herbal extracts and CBD oil have been used with promising results by many people.
Lifestyle Hacks to Boost Your Mood Naturally
If you’re looking for alternatives to boost your mood and subdue depressive thoughts, these lifestyle hacks might just do the trick.
Get More Sun in Your Life!
The sun is Mother Nature’s “source” of vitamin D – an essential fat-soluble micronutrient that plays a multitude of roles throughout the human body. When we are exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun, the body converts pre-vitamin D into calcitriol, which is essentially “active” vitamin D.
If you’ve ever experienced the “blues” during the winter months, this is often the result of less exposure to sunlight (meaning your body has a lower amount of active vitamin D to work with).
Since people with mood disorders like depression tend to seclude themselves indoors, this can further exacerbate the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
But it can’t be as easy as just getting more sunlight, can it? Actually, it may very well be that simple. A recent study of 444 subjects found that sunlight exposure was inversely correlated with depressed mood and anxiety (4). In other words, those who got more sunlight were less likely to feel gloomy.
Don’t overlook the importance of being outside and surrounded by nature. Even a 20-30 minute walk while the sun is out can work wonders for your mood.
Break a Sweat
While it might be tough to find the motivation to hit the gym when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best natural anti-depressants. According to a recent meta-analysis, exercise was deemed comparable to psychotherapy and antidepressants for depression (5).
It makes sense biologically since exercise produces endorphins that make us feel happy, satisfied, and motivated. If you can just get over that initial hump of putting on your sneakers and clearing your mind, you’ll find yourself in a happier mood soon after you start working up a sweat.
And remember, being outside will only help so if you prefer to go for a jog or bike ride instead of going to the gym, by all means, do that! There are many ways to keep physically active without a gym membership.
Laugh it Off
You hear it all the time, “Laughter is the best medicine.” It may sound cliche, but there’s actually a well-established body of evidence that shows laughing does alleviate the acute symptoms of many health conditions, especially mood disorders (6). In fact, even hearing someone else laugh has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood (7).
When those rainy clouds just won’t seem to stop following you around, find something to do that amuses you. Listen to a stand-up comic that you like, watch a sitcom series or funny movie, read a humorous book or article, whatever gets a chuckle out of you.
Happiness: A State of Mind, Not a Destination
Remember that happiness isn’t some esoteric, farfetched dream that only a select few people ever realize. Quite the opposite, actually. Being happy is a state of mind and something that we all can, and should, experience every day with the right strategies and lifestyle choices.
No matter what’s weighing on your mind, take a few deep breaths, be in the moment, and remember that depression is conquerable and you have the power to take back your life.