5 Mood-Busting Foods
My mother suffered regularly from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) — and while she wasn’t completely debilitated by it, she definitely had to work harder to maintain her mood and energy levels during the winter months. SAD is a type of depression that begins and ends about the same time each year, and is thought to be related to the lower light levels during the winter.
If you’ve experienced SAD, you’re familiar with one or more of these symptoms:
feeling sad or depressed
loss of focus and concentration
This type of depression has not been fully figured out, but researchers believe that the lower levels of natural sunlight during the winter months impact your biological clock, lowering serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for mood) and melatonin (a hormone that impacts both mood and sleep).
I’ve sometimes heard people scoff, “SAD is just in your head.” Well, yes, if by “head” you mean “brain” and its hormones and neurotransmitters. So I’ve learned to simply cheerfully agree by stating the previous info — I know it’s not what they meant, but it keeps me from punching them. But, I digress.
So, what can be done? Quite a bit, actually.
Experiment with a light box to increase your exposure to light
Go outside — get as much natural sunlight as you can
Exercise regularly — getting your heart rate up can counter those low-energy, sad feelings
Meditation — a regular meditation practice can do wonders for supporting calm and easy feelings
Make sure your diet supports your mood
Now I’m going to focus on that last bullet point — food. There are lots of foods that contain amazing things for your mood, and now’s the time to amp up your diet. This article includes a good, full list, and here are my faves.
Top 5 Mood-Busting Foods
Dark chocolate. I thought I’d begin with the most gratifying one (you’re welcome). Dark chocolate contains serotonin and an antioxidant called flavinoids, and stimulates endorphins that give you “pleasure” feelings. Look for dark chocolate with 75% cocoa, and aim for 1.5 oz. every day during your challenging months.
Lentils.Lentils are loaded with Vitamin-B folate, which is needed to produce serotonin, and are packed with fiber which helps to regulate your blood sugar levels. I love to make a good lentil soup in the winter — lentils, potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. Toss in some spinach (see below) in your bowl before ladling in the lentil soup. Scrummy!
Spinach.Spinach also has folate, but it packs in magnesium on top of it — both of which are great for increasing serotonin. Toss it in soups/stews at the last minute, enjoy an egg scramble with spinach and mushrooms (skip the cheese, please), and add it to your daily smoothie (check out my Anti-Anxiety Smoothie recipe here).
Avocados. It’s the tragedy of my life to not live in southern California where everyone has an avocado tree in their backyard. Anyway, avocados are high in Vitamin B-6, antioxidants, and potassium, as well as healthy fats. Haven’t jumped on the avocado toast bandwagon? Now’s the time! You can also add them to smoothies, salads, or simply as a side dish in any meal.
Blueberries.Packed with antioxidants that help produce dopamine, plus folate for serotonin, blueberries are one of the most delicious foods that are oh-so-good for you. I keep frozen wild blueberries (from Costco) on hand to throw into my smoothies.
See your doctor if your mood does not improve
Tried all the things and nothing works? You may need some additional help. Enlist the aid of your healthcare professional for advice on medication and/or therapy. I’m not at all against medication, but I try to reach for non-pharmaceutical options first. Bottom line? You don’t need to suffer, and if your symptoms can’t be totally relieved, they can surely be minimized so you can enjoy your life.
Got other suggestions for relieving SAD? Leave a comment — I’d love to learn from you.