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10 Mood Boosting Foods to Help You Feel Good Instantly

10 Mood Boosting Foods to Help You Feel Good Instantly

If only we could eat our way to happiness, right? While strictly speaking that might not be possible, a growing body of research indicates that our dietary choices can, in fact, significantly affect how we feel both short- and long-term.

Studies on how food and supplements interact with our neurochemistry fall under the umbrella of a new and emerging scientific specialty: nutritional psychiatry. This article will discuss some of the surprising facts that nutritional psychiatry has uncovered, and take a look at 10 mood-boosting foods you can corporate into your daily diet.

But first, what is nutritional psychiatry?

Many mental health problems are closely associated with deficiencies of essential vitamins and nutrients.[1]

Nutritional psychiatry (also known as nutri-pyschiatry) is a growing field that investigates how foods and supplements can be used to treat a range of psychological symptoms, including those typically associated with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Although the discipline is still in its infancy, it has vast potential and represents hope for millions who struggle with mental health issues. If a simple dietary change could be used to treat or prevent symptoms of depression or anxiety, for instance, it could mean that fewer people would need to resort to potentially dangerous and addictive psychotropic medications.

In fact, this has already been done in multiple studies. A meta-analysis of 22 separate scientific papers investigated the association between a Mediterranean diet and risk of depression. The conclusion of the analysis was that high adherence to the diet appeared to have a preventative effect on the disease, regardless of other factors.[2]

So how can you lower your risk of depression and naturally elevate your mood at the same time? The answer might just lie in a refined diet — one rich in so-called “brain foods” that contain essential nutrients for a healthy mind. Here are ten majorly mood-boosting foods that fall into that category:

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1. Oats

The benefit oats have on mood all comes down to something called the glycemic index, which is a measurement of how quickly a food causes an increase in blood glucose levels.

Mood is often directly related to blood sugar; for example, the very high glycemic index of sugary foods prompts a drastic jump in your blood sugar — a quick “rush” — before leaving you feeling tired and irritable.[3]

The glycemic index of oats, on the other hand, is very low, meaning that when you eat them, your blood sugar rises very slowly and predictably during digestion. This helps you maintain a stable mood.

2. Bananas

Tryptophan, vitamin A, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and carbohydrates: these are nine important nutrients you get from bananas, and they all work together to boost your mood.

Tryptophan, aided by the carbs in bananas, gets quickly absorbed by the digestive tract, and vitamin B6 converts tryptophan into serotonin, the “happiness hormone.”

Lots of tryptophan in the diet (you’ll find a good bit more on this list) is always a good idea. Pharmaceutical forms of tryptophan are even occasionally used to treat symptoms of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.[4] Oatmeal with banana slices for breakfast, anyone?

3. Oily Fish

About 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat cells, a significant portion of which are omega-3 fatty acids. It makes sense, then, that a deficiency in those acids would lead to some negative mental side effects.

Sure enough, it has been proven that people low in omega-3 fatty acids are more susceptible to depression and low moods, while adding omega-3s to the diet can significantly improve the related symptoms.[5]

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Luckily, it’s not difficult to get plenty of omega-3s, even without taking a supplement. Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines all contain high levels of these acids, and getting enough of them can mean the difference between brain cells that are “stiff” or “flexible”– the latter allowing your mind to more effectively communicate via its neurotransmitters.[6][7]

4. Lentils

Know what goes great with some salmon for lunch? A delicious bowl full of lentils — or lentil soup, or lentil casserole.

Like oats, lentils have a low glycemic index, and like bananas, they help the brain convert tryptophan to serotonin.

Additionally, lentils serve up a heavy dose of folate — a nutrient whose deficiency has been linked to depression. Plus, lentils are high in iron, which the body needs to maintain energy levels.[8]

5. Greens

Remember how B6 vitamins help the brain convert tryptophan into serotonin? B6 deficiency has been linked to symptoms of depression, which in turn is thought to be majorly connected to serotonin uptake.

Greens, as it turns out, are an excellent source of B vitamins. Fortunately, since not everyone goes for turnips, there are plenty of delicious varieties of greens, from spinach and kale to broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Raw, steamed, sauteed, or baked, all forms of leafy and cruciferous greens make a great addition to your diet.

6. Poultry

Tryptophan has been mentioned several times in this list, but here it comes again. It is, after all, the precursor to serotonin, which is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain — especially when it comes to mood.

In addition to serotonin, tryptophan aids the brain in producing melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone; and of course, healthy sleep is a vital ingredient for a healthy mood.

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Chicken, turkey, and other lean poultry or fowl is not just an excellent source of tryptophan, but also tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that’s crucial in the production of adrenaline, and according to research, low adrenaline levels are often associated with low moods in general.[9]

7. Oysters

Speaking of tyrosine, another great place to find it is in oysters. It’s not just tyrosine that gets oysters onto this list, though — they’re actually somewhat of a mental health super-booster.

Oysters contain high levels of zinc, which is an essential ingredient for energy production, and another nutrient whose deficiency is associated with depression.[10]

Oysters are also loaded with B and D vitamins, as well as copper, selenium, protein, and healthy fats — all things your brain needs to feel good and work as intended.[11]

8. Brazil Nuts

If “Brazil nuts” seems oddly specific (why not just “nuts?”), there’s actually a reason. Brazil nuts are unique among their food group as an excellent source of a mineral called selenium. In fact, Brazil nuts are one of the best ways to naturally boost your selenium levels.

Why is that so important for your mood? Because selenium deficiency is serious business, associated with increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other chronic issues like irritability, brain fog, and fatigue. According to at least one study, a single selenium-laden Brazil nut per day might be enough to positively impact your brain and your mood.[12]

9. Dark Chocolate

If you’re a picky eater who doesn’t like greens, oysters, oats, sardines, or lentils, well, not to worry — there’s still something for you on this list. In between meals or as a dessert, you can justify nibbling on some dark chocolate, thanks to its many health benefits, including those on mood.

Just one small square of extra dark chocolate is typically enough to prompt the brain into releasing extra endorphins and serotonin. When incorporated as a regular part of the diet, it can even decrease stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.[13]

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10. Water

Water might deserve to be at the top of this list, but since it’s debatable whether or not it qualifies as a food, it’s way down here instead. However, the critical importance of water on both physical and mental health is something that’s not debatable.

Even mild dehydration affects your brain’s uptake of important neurotransmitters, leaving you tired, irritable, and unable to focus. [14]

Most experts recommend drinking between one and two liters of water every day. For some people, the thought of that much water isn’t pleasant. In that case, just remember that all fluids count toward that goal, and even if you think water isn’t your favorite thing to drink, your body is really begging for it.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, there may be reasons for low moods that simply can’t be properly addressed with a “quick fix.” That’s why it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, exercise routine, and sleep cycle — as well as consult with a physician anytime you notice a significant change in how you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis.

In other cases, however, our negative feelings may just be the result of putting junk into our bodies — the equivalent of how your car would react if you tried pouring corn syrup into the fuel tank.

The fact is, focusing on a dietary upgrade could make all the difference in terms of mood. And hey, it’s worth a try just to make chocolate a part of your daily routine, right?

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. David Minkoff

Health Expert | CEO BodyHealth | Co-Owner and Medical Director at Lifeworks Wellness Center | Author

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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