We all suffer from mood swings – yes, the guys do too. It’s not just a PMS thing. Life is stressful, we don’t get enough sleep or time to ourselves to recharge our batteries, and most of us have some or the other medical problem because of how little we do for our health. Mood swings may not be as scary as, say, a heart condition or high blood pressure, but if you suffer from ‘bad days’ a lot, it can indeed take a toll on your health in the short and long run.
Your emotional state is not something to be ignored. If you are not happy, do something about it because it will eventually affect the levels of dopamine and serotonin (happy chemicals), which will quite literally lead to a change in your brain chemistry. A negative emotional state can also affect the hormonal levels in your body and make your organs run sluggishly. Plus, it lowers your metabolism, reduces your productivity, hampers the quality of life and raises your risk for several serious diseases.
There are several ways in which you can stall or reverse the impact. Exercise, meditate, go for group therapy, develop a hobby, spend more quiet time with yourself and your loved ones, and change the way you eat. What does eating have to do with your mood, you ask? Plenty!
Foods That Keep You Happy
The foods that you eat interact with your body chemistry, so they have an intimate relationship with your health. This means that you can change your mood and your life with the way you eat. You can eat to be depressed and feel awful or you can eat to be happy. You deserve the latter so why not learn about the foods which will naturally work in balance with your system to lead to a happier, healthier you.
Do you even need convincing on this one? Or indeed even an explanation? Anyone who has ever eaten chocolate knows the joy and seductive contentment that comes from smelling it, breaking off a piece, biting into it and blissfully drifting away as it melts in the mouth. Post even a tiny piece, you feel a bit of a high and if you pay attention you will notice that you are more focussed too, courtesy of the caffeine and anadamine in this dark piece of heaven. Dark chocolate generally lifts the mood and makes you more appreciative of life.
Oatmeal is an old-fashioned breakfast cereal that has almost disappeared from homes thanks to the sugar-filled, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals that infest the market today. By bringing this health food back to your dining table, you will be rewarded with a dose of tryptophan which is one of the crucial amino acids required for the smooth functioning of the nervous system.
Instead of sweetening your oatmeal with sugar, try honey. Honey too will contribute to your mood-uplifting efforts by providing flavonoids that regulate brain activity and alleviate depression.
With their high vitamin C content, berries are a natural and delicious way to make you feel better. Vitamin C is known to reduce the intensity of the body’s fight or flight syndrome – a primal instinct that is related to stress. Berries also contain high levels of antioxidants which can help eradicate free radicals and toxins from your body which may be causing you to fall sick in physical and psychological ways. Another feat that berries perform is to improve communication between the cells in your brain, thus promoting emotional as well as physiological well-being.
Research has shown that people who have very low amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in their systems tend to be more moody and prone to depression, anxiety and stress. By increasing the levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the body, you can reduce your stress and be happier. Oily fish like salmon or tuna are rich sources of these fatty acids.
Raw foodists and natural health care practitioners have long known that flax seeds contain as much omega 3 fatty acids as fish. This makes flax seed perfect for vegetarians and vegans to get some omega 3 fatty acids into their systems so that they too can lower their levels of stress and anxiety.
An under-appreciated super-food, spinach packs quite a punch in several departments. To learn more, read about the benefits of spinach here. Spinach contains several minerals and nutrients including folic acid which your body needs to produce serotonin – the chemical that is largely responsible for making you happy. Remember to add a little vitamin C when you eat the spinach to help your body better absorb the folic acid.
Well, all kinds of nuts are actually great for keeping you happy, but walnuts are really the best! They contain naturally-occurring serotonin which will make you feel calmer and more content with life. Studies have shown that those who eat nuts everyday, including walnuts in their daily intake, had more serotonin in their bodies and were happier as a result than a group of people who did not eat any nuts at all.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals needed by your body to maintain optimum levels of energy production. Without adequate magnesium, you would be tired all the time. Another reason magnesium is so important is because it is a key mineral in hundreds of biochemical functions in your body including several in your delicate nervous system. Legumes are a great source of magnesium which will help you to maintain not just high levels of energy but also to balance out your entire system thus ensuring that no physical problems get in the way of your great day.
You’ll feel the effects of beetroots mere minutes after eating them. These tasty veggies are best eaten boiled with no salt or sugar. They contain high levels of vitamin C, iron as well as magnesium – all of which are crucial to good mental health.
The banana is not known as a complete food for nothing. After years of research, scientists are still discovering the health benefits of this tasty fruit. One of the main reasons it helps to make you happy is because it provides an instant energy boost plus it contains tryptophan which increases serotonin levels in your body.
Cherry tomatoes and regular tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene which is an all-round protector of the brain. It is what gives vegetables and fruits their red color. It also reduces brain inflammation (yes, that’s a real thing). The best way to get the benefits of lycopene from tomatoes is to cook them rather than eat them raw and to add a little olive oil which aids in better absorption.
It makes you alert, more focused, fills you with energy and just generally makes you feel great about life. Research has shown that coffee with a little milk is better than black or very milky coffee. However, be sure to limit your intake to one or two cups a day. Too much coffee can actually make you feel terrible.
Remember that each person is different. The foods above do indeed change the way you feel but your body may not respond as strongly as someone else’s. The above list is only meant to be a guideline, a starting point. In time, you will learn of the foods that impact you in particular even though science has not yet recognized them as being mood-lifters. So don’t be disappointed if you do not get the effect you were expecting by incorporating the above foods in your diet. Keep at it, experiment with a variety of foods, maintain a food journal to record how you feel before and after, and you’ll soon discover which foods will make you happy more than others.