There are times when life just gets you down.
You may be mad at yourself for being 20 pounds overweight. Your boss may have had a bad day and taken it out on you. You may be feeling lonely.
When you have a down day, you have a couple of choices. You can just stew in it and keep feeling that way. Or you can try to do something to improve your mood.
Many people turn to prescription medications when they start to feel depression, but these pills aren't designed to be a long-term treatment option and often come with side effects.
Fortunately, there are ways you can pull yourself out of the slump without medication.
Here are six ways you can improve your mood – no pills required.
- Vigorous aerobic exercise. When you exercise, your body releases hormones like serotonin, which helps alleviate depression symptoms. Running and biking are just two exercises you can try to get your serotonin levels up.
- Daily meditation. Just 20 minutes of meditation a day can significantly reduce depression levels. One 8-week study followed participants who used mindful meditation daily for the study period. The results showed that the brain's center of depression, the amygdalae, was significantly reduced. Participants reported depression symptoms had disappeared or significantly reduced.
- Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. This method takes time and dedication, but it is time well spent. As a negative thought comes into your mind, you need to acknowledge it, then release it. Replace it with a positive one. Instead of hating yourself for making mistakes, remind yourself of your positive traits.
- Regular exposure to sunlight. Your body's serotonin levels get a natural boost when your skin is exposed to sunlight. When you don't get regular exposure to the sun, your serotonin levels drop. This is what causes seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depressive condition that usually appears in winter. A 15-minute walk two or three times a week can give you a significant boost.
- Probiotic-rich foods. Probiotics are microbes that reduce inflammation and plasma insulin levels. One 2015 study found another surprising benefit: lower symptoms of depression. Probiotics seem to decrease stress signals within the body, which helps boost the level of serotonin in the body.
- Cleaning up your diet. Processed foods and added sugars are just two things that may be undermining your mood. The human body developed eating fresh fruits and vegetables, with the addition of lean proteins and whole grains. It was not built on processed foods full of nitrates or foods overstuffed with sugar and sodium.
Of course, if you find that your mood is not improving and you remain down for more than a couple of weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor.
If you are considering taking supplements or perscription medication to boost your mood, know that not every pill is the same. Download our Over The Counter Vs. Perscription Supplements Infographic to learn which you should take.