We’ve all experienced those moments when life seems to be stuck in a never-ending cycle, leaving us feeling unmotivated, uninspired and stuck in a perpetual rut. The feeling of being stuck in a monotonous cycle can have a serious impact on our emotional well-being. The good news, however, is that even in the most stagnant situations, there is always room for change and growth.
It’s important to remember that we still have the ability to change our reactions, responses, and behaviors even when we think circumstances are beyond our control. There are a variety of habits we can choose to live by that can have a profound effect on our mental state and emotional well-being.
Take a look at my favorite mood-improving lifestyle changes below and read about what makes them effective for improving mood and overall quality of life.
Exercise is a great way to improve your mood, focus and alertness. It can also help you sleep better, reduce stress and improve your self-esteem.
Why it works: Physical activity releases endorphins, often referred to as “feel-good” hormones. These neurotransmitters interact with receptors in the brain to reduce pain and improve mood. In addition, studies have shown that moderate, regular exercise not only prevents depression, but also treats it. Overall, exercise is associated with a reduced risk of depression and anxiety as well as a lower incidence of mental illness.
Exercise also increases the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which helps improve mood and cognitive function. So while exercise is important for keeping us physically healthy, it is equally important for nurturing our mental health.
A balanced diet
A healthy, balanced diet will keep your gut microbiome happy and improve your mental health. Simply put, our moods are affected by food! Studies have shown that those who eat a well-balanced, protein and vegetable-based diet are less likely to suffer from mental illness (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder) than those who follow the standard Western diet of lots of processed foods and fast food.
Principle:A balanced diet rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and amino acids such as tryptophan (found in red meat, dairy products, and turkey) provides the necessary foundation for neurotransmitters such as serotonin. When our brains are well nourished and our blood sugar is stable, we are better able to regulate our moods and emotions.
Getting adequate, high-quality sleep is vital to our health and essential to ensuring a stable mood and staying in top form.
Principle:During deep sleep, the brain processes emotional information and consolidates memories. Lack of sleep impairs emotional regulation, making it more difficult to deal with stress and negative emotions.
Stress can cause us to experience symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression. Taking steps to combat stress in your life can have a profound effect on improving how you feel each day and how you respond to difficult situations.
Cause:Chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, which when elevated for an extended period of time, can lead to mood disorders. Stress management techniques such as positive thinking, relaxation exercises and exercise can help lower cortisol levels and promote emotional well-being.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
Sunlight and vitamin D play an important role in regulating mood and have been linked to a reduction in depressive symptoms.
Why it works:Exposure to sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, which helps the body produce vitamin D. Both factors play a crucial role in regulating mood and avoiding depressive symptoms.
Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels – most patients are deficient in this very important vitamin!
Social connections with others can help improve mood and allow us to better manage our emotions.
Why it works:Humans are naturally social creatures. Engaging in meaningful social interactions and building relationships releases oxytocin, often called the “love hormone”. It promotes feelings of connection and happiness. Social relationships and love can also help you stay physically healthy.
Pursue passions and hobbies
Spending time doing our favorite hobbies can improve our mental health.
Why it works:Participating in activities you love stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Pursuing hobbies and interests provides a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Don’t have a hobby? Check out this great list to get started.
Cultivating a mindset of gratitude can help regulate your emotions, enhance your perspective, foster a stronger sense of connection with others, and act as a shield against the adverse effects of stress.
Why it works:Practicing gratitude shifts your focus to the positive aspects of your life and cultivates optimism. It encourages the brain to produce more serotonin, improving mood and overall health.
Check out this 5-day gratitude challenge to get started!
Organize your environment
Creating a tidy environment paves the way for healthy habits. It improves sleep, elevates your mood and promotes a more peaceful mindset.
Why it works:A cluttered and disorganized environment creates stress and anxiety. Organizing promotes a sense of control and serenity, which improves emotional health.
Positive Thinking and Meditation
Positive thinking and meditation practices help nurture the mind and body.
Why it works:Positive thinking and meditation techniques help the brain rewire and strengthen the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking and emotional regulation. These exercises can reduce negative thought patterns, reduce stress and promote emotional balance.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Why it works:Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, a natural mood enhancer. It also has many therapeutic benefits for our mental health – it reduces levels of stress hormones and promotes a positive and relaxed mood.
Set goals and celebrate achievements
Let’s set goals we want to achieve and get out there and make them happen!
Why it works:Setting and achieving goals gives a sense of purpose and accomplishment. The brain releases dopamine, which reinforces positive behavior and improves mood.
Ready to get your mood back on track?
Not sure where to start? Choose a habit! Need accountability? Call or text a friend to hold you accountable, or better yet, bring them along on this emotionally uplifting journey (they’ll thank you for it later!)
By incorporating these changes into your daily life, you can experience more positive and balanced emotions. Remember, these changes aren’t just about feeling better, they’re also about developing long-term emotional resilience and happiness. Embrace these lifestyle adjustments and you’ll find yourself on a path to a happier, more fulfilling life.