Heres the science bit! We all have a natural neurotransmitter in our bodies called serotonin (sometimes called the happy chemical - all produced naturally by the body!). It is commonly accepted that serotonin can help to prevent depression. This hormone can affect the entire body including stabalising our mood, allowing cells to communicate effectively and influencing our eating, sleeping and digestion. Low levels of serotinin can therefore have a hugely negative impact on our bodies including depression, anxiety, irritability, decreased appetite and trouble with sleep patterns. So what can we do to ensure our serotonin levels are kept topped up?
I know I said natural but I do have a responsibility to say that there is a range of medications called SSRI's which can be prescribed by doctors for depression and persistent low mood. Should you feel that this is something you would like to explore further please contact your local GP.
You are what you eat! this is absolutely true and there are ways, through eating the right foods, to boost your mood. Foods don't directly give you serotonin but as the food breaks down certain amino acids are converted to serotonin in your brain which is a good thing. For the best results research suggests eating carbs with high protein foods is the most effective way to absorb serotonin using foods such as....
~ Salmon and wild rice
~ Turkey/chicken and brown bread
~ Other oily fish such as mackeral or sardines
~ Pretzels with peanut butter and milk
~ Brown rice
~ Foods fortified with vitamin D
Get a massage. Massage naturally decreases cortisol which is the hormone your body produces when it feels stressed; it also increases serotonin. I know what you are thinking - she said free! well it can be free. Whilst having a professional massage can be wonderfully relaxing it can also be painful on the wallet. Research shows that just 20min of massage can be really beneficial so try swapping the favour with a partner or friend - you'll both feel the benefit in under an hour.
I know everyone says it but its true - exercise/walking is important. Exercise encourages the release of both neurochemicals and hormones which will boost your mood. Exercise at a level you feel most comfortable with as this will be the most effective level. You may enjoy stremuous classes or yoga may be more your thing. Think about the time of year also, during the winter months we have less hours of sunlight and so getting out in the day to get short bursts of sunlight is proven to be really beneficial even if its just 10min.
Change your routine. Do you feel stuck in a rut? Simple changes can really help, things like taking a day off work to do something different with a partner or friend even driving a different way home would allow your mind to think about something different. You could have a picnic for lunch or go on an outing where you have to see how many 'pink' things you can spot. Simple changes in your routine allow for simple changes in the brain which can prove to be really beneficial.
Finally go easy on yourself. Things are difficult for everyone at the moment. If something doesn't go right or you find yourself in a difficult circumstance try to remember that you are doing your best in a difficult situation. It is really easy to talk negatively to yourself, to tell yourself you didn't do well or you never get anything right. Try to think more positively. Perhaps it didn't go right but you did the best you could. Things go wrong but remember some things are out of your control.