Pastries for breakfast, cake at the office, sweet and sour chicken for dinner; whilst delicious, fatty and sugary foods at any time of day can wreak havoc on our blood sugar and consequently our mood. Resist temptation by swapping these foods for healthy alternatives.
For example, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables contain starches that are important to produce the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. Ditch crisps for popcorn, and pastries for porridge. Similarly, foods such as turkey, tuna, eggs and seeds contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is essential for serotonin production. Nourish your body with these foods and you’ll be on track to feeling good.
Recently, scientists have also discovered a potential link between low omega-3 intakes and mood. Therefore, getting enough omega-3s in the form of oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines and fresh tuna), nuts (especially walnuts) and seeds (think chia and flaxseeds) may be essential in managing our mood as well.
Getting enough sunlight is essential for suppressing the sleep hormone melatonin and raising levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin. Top up by going on a walk during your lunch break. The sun’s UV rays are also a key factor in enabling our bodies to produce vitamin D. When UVB rays hit the skin, our bodies naturally start producing it. Around 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure on our face and arms or legs every day is usually enough to meet our requirements during summer months in the UK, or in parts of the world that receive regular sunshine. Essential to regulating mood, vitamin D (AKA the sunshine vitamin) is in short supply over the Winter months in the UK because the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough to power its production. Therefore, you may need to take a supplement to help boost your intake. However, check with your healthcare professional beforehand.
Exercise can do wonders for our mood and energy levels. Yep; we have serotonin to thank again! To muster some motivation, plan an exercise schedule at the start of the week. Aim for 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity exercise, for 5 days per week to meet official guidelines. Vary the type of activity you do (spin, yoga, HIIT, weights…the options are endless!) and set yourself a small feel-good reward for when you stick to it; how about a new gym bag or luxury mani-pedi?!
In it together
You may feel like hibernating under the covers, but socialising is one of the best ways to boost mood and de-stress. As humans, we have an innate need to feel part of a group and have regular contact with others. Whether it’s a catch up over a protein shake post-workout or a night on the town, get together with friends and family whenever you have the chance.
It’s a given; looking after our emotional state is vital to our overall wellbeing. Inspirational quotes are great but science shows that a healthy lifestyle; for example, eating right and staying active both physically and socially; are the best ways to boost our mood. Time to put down Instagram and recruit your bffs for a bike and brunch sesh.