If you struggle with depression, you may not be thinking about natural ways to boost your mood. Lifestyle changes can be made. Here are a few changes to consider making to improve your mood.

The food/gut connection with mood: The gut is sensitive to emotions. Approximately 90% of your serotonin (the happy chemical) is found in your gut.  Emotions are impacted by gut bacteria which makes diet a factor to consider when trying to boost your mood.

Eat a diet that is largely plant-based and includes a variety of plant foods. Diversity in those plant choices is important because the more variety you get in your food, the better. Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, tomatoes are good choices. Basically, you want a diet low in processed foods and rich in plant foods, e.g., vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and grains. These foods support a more diverse gut microbiome and may improve your mood. The more prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods in your diet, the better. In contrast, diets high in the consumption of red meat, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, butter, potatoes, and gravy are associated with an increased risk of depression.

Exercise:  Exercise is well-known to improve mood, so get out there and start moving. But when you are depressed, it is easy to put exercise aside because you don’t feel like doing it. However, when you exercise, natural endorphins are released in the brain that make you feel better. Exercise also helps you get out of your head. It distracts you from the negative thoughts that come with depression.

Go outside:  We know that a link exists between serotonin and seasonal types of depression. A lack of sunlight can cause low mood, a lack of energy, and disrupted sleep. Sunshine triggers serotonin production, so take a walk and enjoy the outdoors.

Get good sleep:  Sleep problems can lead to an increased risk of depression. Lack of sleep impacts mood, cognitive functioning, and motivation. Disrupted sleep, no matter the reason, can lead to emotional changes. So, work on getting a good night sleep to improve mood. If you need help to establish a sleep routine, search “sleep hygiene” for several suggestions. And make sure there is no physical reason for sleep problems like sleep apnea. If there is, treating the sleep problem will improve your mood.

Rest your mind: When it is time to sleep, turn off all electronics, lights, noise, and distractions like the TV. The blue light in screens overstimulates the mind and suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. Make sure the bedroom is darkened, maybe read a book or your Bible, get comfortable and do some deep breathing or a relaxation technique. Focus on God, pray and allow your body to relax along with your mind.

Stay connected:  Isolation is bad for depression. When we are isolated, we easily get discouraged. Everyone needs social support. Connecting to a church might be an answer. Force yourself to get involved in a local church even if you don’t feel like it. It can only help. Join a small group. Find people who share your faith and can encourage you in the Lord. Social support prevents a host of mental and physical health problems. Going it alone only leads to more depression. And remember to connect daily and regularly with God. His presence is with you and in you.

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