If you have ever experienced feeling really 'down' or been deeply depressed, you know how it can really rob us from our energy, sleep and joy. We can feel completely hopeless and find it hard to even function in our day-to-day life.
So what makes us depressed ?
No physician could really claim that depression is caused by just one thing. There are many factors that can effect our body, mind and spirit that can lead to depressive feelings. Things like genetics, stress , illness, life-events and biochemical reasons can cause disruption in the neurotransmitters in our brain which can ultimately lead to depression or feeling of hopelessness.
So what are neurotransmitters really?
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry signals from one part of the brain to the next. There are many neurotransmitters, serving many different purposes in our body, but the three main ones that affects our mood are serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine.
Dopamine is the main brain chemical that makes us feel good and gives us motivation. If you are low or deficient in dopamine you may sometimes feel extra tired, have restless legs, insomnia, lack of motivation and sugar cravings. People low in dopamine can also be prone to all types of addiction , and they often rely on stimulants, like caffeine, sugar and smoking.
Serotonin is our "happy" neurotransmitter and it's actually manufactured in our intestines and not in the brain. It is also nature's own appetite suppressant. Common symptoms of deficiency include: Loss of pleasure, anger, carbohydrate cravings, constipation, digestive disorders, weight gain, feeling overly dependent on others, feeling overwhelmed and low self-esteem.
Noradrenaline works both as a hormone and neurotransmitter. It helps promote concentration and is part of our stress response. When we become stressed noradrenaline is secreted by the sympathetic nervous system which leads to an increased amount of heart contractions. When this happens it gives your body a little kick and a boost of energy. If you happen to have low or abnormal levels of noradrenaline it might contribute to feelings of depression, lower arousal and lower alertness. If you have too high levels, you can often be over-aroused or feel anxious.
Depression is a very complex condition and there really is no single treatment that will be effective in all cases but I truly believe diet and positive lifestyle choices plays a big role in how we feel in our body, mind and spirit.
SO HERE ARE MY TOP ADVICE TO IMPROVE YOUR MOOD AND DITCH THE DEPRESSION:
- EAT WHOLE FOODS ! - I can not emphasize enough how important your food choices are. Certain nutrients in healthy foods will alter brain chemistry and play a big role in your mental health. The mediterranean diet has been shown to be really effective in treating depression and here's why; The mediterranean diet includes lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and complex carbohydrates which is (High in antioxidants , vitamins and minerals) and also contains a good amount of healthy fats (omega 3s).
These are my top foods to include EVERY DAY if you suffer from low mood or depression..
- Sweet potato, potato and brown rice - These are all examples of complex carbohydrates that will help elevate your mood. The nutrient content of complex carbohydrates contains tryptophan, an amino acid that will convert to serotonin in the brain. As I mentioned earlier, serotonin is our 'happy' neurotransmitter and we wants lots of this to be converted in our brain.
- Eggs, legumes and meat - Adequate protein is paramount for people who suffer from depression. Protein plays a crucial role in in blood sugar regulation as well as the synthesis of important neurotransmitters. Eat lots of: Turkey, chicken seafood, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and split peas. These food contain amino acids that can be converted to the neurotransmitters we need to feel happy and energized.
- Fish, Nuts and seeds - or in other words Essential fatty acids. These play an important role both structurally and functionally in our brain. Studies show that a deficiency in EFA’s play a part in depression. Foods high in omega 3’s include: Salmon, mackerel, Sardines, flaxseeds and chia-seeds and almonds. Flaxseed oil is particularly high in omega 3s.
- Green leafy vegetables - Foods high in Magnesium and folate are cofactors for many chemical reactions in the body and supports the liver and digestive system so the body can build and synthesize the necessary building blocks for good health and a happy mind. Top foods to eat: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, avocado and dark chocolate.
- TAKE PROBIOTICS - Why? Because your brain is only as healthy as your gut. In fact, the nervous system of your intestines is so complex, including an estimated 500 millions neurons, that neuroscientist often refer to the gut as the second brain. Natural sources include; Yogurt, kefir, kimchi and fermented vegetables.
- EXERCISE - Exercise happens to be very beneficial for reducing depressive symptoms and anxiety. High energy and aerobic exercise 3-4 times a week will give you the best results. It will not only give you a kick of endorphins and enhancement of neurotransmitters like dopamine, it will also lead to increased self-esteem, a sense of achievement and behavioral motivation. So get moving!
- PRACTICE MINDFUL BREATHING AND RELAXATION - Our bodies need rest. Yoga and meditation will help you sleep better and in return heal better. Anxiety can go hand in hand with depression. Learning breathing techniques both through yoga and meditation can help you manage the severity and frequency of anxiety. The best part nowadays, everything is available online. So start "youtubing"!
- LAUGH - It might seem like there is no light in the tunnel some days, but I guarantee you a good laugh will help you feel better. Watch a funny youtube clip, a comedy show, or read an entertaining book. Schedule it in daily. There is no better medicine than a good laugh to take your mind off things.
- LISTEN TO MUSIC - Music can have a huge impact on your mood. Turn the sad love ballads off and put some uplifting and happy tunes on. Play your favorite songs, sing and dance. It's a game changer trust me!
Remember, You deserve to feel happy!