We all want to feel good – but we can’t expect to wake up feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every day. Just like other areas of our health, like nutrition and exercise, our mental wellbeing takes work, and the more we give it, the more we get back.
And it’s no surprise our mental wellbeing is at the top of many of our lists after the turbulent few years we’ve all experienced. While it’s not realistic or healthy to feel happy in every moment, finding a sense of balance and looking after our mental health has never been more important.
There are many factors that feed into our mood and mental wellness. Including our individual personalities - some of us need to be more proactive about keeping our mood bright. Fortunately, as more research on mood emerges - the more equipped our wellness toolboxes get.Our Naturopath and Medical Herbalist Rebecca goes over holistic ways to support your happiness.
In this mood boosting guide we explore:
- Our happy chemicals
- Exercise for endorphins
- Managing stress
- Mood & stress
- Peaceful practice
- Deep sleep
- Brain cell health
- Mood and mental clarity
- Microbiome and mood
- Foods for mood
1. Our feel-good chemicals
The ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters in our brains have the job of making us feel happy – the two biggies are serotonin and dopamine. We need them in sufficient amounts for a healthy, buoyant mood. 5HTP and tyrosine are amino acid precursors to serotonin and dopamine. They’re called ‘precursors’ because they’re basically the raw materials that can support our body’s production of these happy chemicals. They can both be taken as supplements to support a good mood, as well as healthy sleep and motivation.
5-HTP is short for 5-hydroxytryptophan. It’s popular for supporting healthy serotonin production and a happy mood. It’s also taken at night to support getting to sleep and staying asleep, because 5HTP is also a precursor to melatonin, our sleep chemical. As always, if you’re taking medications, it’s important that you check for interactions before starting to take a new supplement, especially 5HTP.
If you want to do something to support your mood and sleep is also a health goal, a 5HTP supplement is worth considering. BioBalance 5HTP 150mg offers a high dose to support healthy serotonin and melatonin production, for mood and sleep. It’s best taken at night around an hour before sleep time.
Tyrosine is a precursor to our brain chemical dopamine, which is involved with mood and the reward centers in our brain - it also plays a part in healthy levels of motivation. Tyrosine is used to make neurotransmitters involved with stress adaptation and mental alertness too. You’ll find tyrosine in some adrenal and mood support supplements, and it’s also available on its own. Solgar L Tyrosine offers a 500 mg dose of L tyrosine which can be taken daily to support bright mood and healthy motivation levels. It’s an ideal supplement to take in the morning because studies show that tyrosine also supports mental clarity and recall. Take one capsule daily.
5-HTP and tyrosine are both amino acids - the building blocks of protein. So, another way to ensure you’re getting enough of these precursors is to take a protein supplement for the full spectrum of all nine essential amino acids. If you’re taking a 5 HTP or tyrosine supplement it’s a good strategy to mix things up and alternate between taking these and a protein supplement. If healthy mood is your goal, it’s ideal to choose a protein without added branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), often found in fitness or sports type proteins. BCAAs are popular for people who are focused on muscle growth, however they can compete with absorption with tryptophan (5 HTP) and tyrosine.
Added BCAAS are usually clearly marked on the packaging and ingredient list so it’s fairly easy to tell. NUZEST Clean Lean Protein Smooth Vanilla offers a complete protein to fill any nutritional gaps. It’s made from golden pea protein so it’s 100% plant based. It doesn’t contain added BCAAs so it’s ideal for anyone looking to optimise their precursor absorption. It’s low in fat and carbs too. This gluten, dairy and soy free powder can be added to smoothies, baking or simply mixed with your choice of milk.
2. Exercise for endorphins
It’s well known that regular, moderate exercise (30 minutes, five times per week) has a profound effect on mood, including stimulating the release of serotonin and dopamine. Having a flat mood can affect motivation so getting out to exercise can take extra effort, but the mood boost does pay off!
3. Managing stress
Stress and mood are intrinsically linked, especially if it’s long-term, if you’re busy or under pressure a lot, you might be interested in this blog 6 Ways To Stay Balanced And Look After Yourself.
4. Mood and stress
If you’re looking for ways to support your mood and you think stress could be a factor for you, the adaptogen Ashwagandha could suit you because it supports healthy dopamine levels. BioBalance Ashwagandha Adrenal Restore contains adaptogen herbs plus B vitamins and nutrients for stress support. Ashwagandha and patented Relora support happy mood and help you cope with daily stress. B vitamins can be energising so take these vegetarian capsules with breakfast and lunch.
5. Peaceful practice
Whether we approach it from a purely scientific angle or attach more meaning to it, research shows that practices like deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, and even (stay with me) rhythmic chanting offer massive mental health benefits, regardless of intention. This is especially important if stress and mood appear to be linked for you.
Having a spiritual practice might sound woo-woo, but it can be as simple as granting yourself the space to connect within, and beyond what's right in front of you for a sense of peace. Try small things like a daily meditation, a mindful walk that grounds you, or short mindful breaths to reconnect with yourself throughout the day.
6. Deep sleep
If you’re getting less than the ideal 7-8 hours of zzz’s, this could affect your mood. Sleep and mood are related - an issue with one can affect the other. If you’re looking for ways to streamline your sleep, check out our blog Your Guide to a Healthy Deep Sleep.
Research shows the condition of our brain cells plays a big part in how we feel. It sounds simple but the impact is significant and so is the research in this area. We have immune cells in our brain called microglia that govern this. We need a balanced immune response in our brain cells for them to be healthy and for a positive mood. Studies show that certain plant polyphenols support normal microglia function, brain cell health and happy mood (as a bonus they also support mental clarity and recall).
8. Mood and mental clarity
The plant polyphenols found in Enzogenol® NZ Pine Bark Extract, NZ Neuroberry®, are two key ingredients found in Arepa Nootropic capsules to support healthy microglial function. This in turn supports brain cell health and buoyant mood. Most of the information around Arepa capsules is centered around mental clarity and focus, but don’t underestimate this nootropic formula to support healthy and happy mood too, especially if you take it consistently.
9. Microbiome and mood
The gut microbiome and our mood are connected. Our friendly gut bacteria help make our ‘feel-good’ chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Probiotics also support a balanced immune response, including the microglia, our brain immune cells that were mentioned earlier. So, a healthy microbiome has a part to play in brain tissue health and mood too. Those are just two of the ways our microbiome influences our mood, to learn more about this check out Feeling good? It starts in your gut.
Research shows that certain probiotic strains and species support healthy mood balance. Studies show that the strains found in Lifestream Probiotics Mood Immune including Bifidobacterium lactis LAFTI® B94, Bifidobacterium bifidum Rosell®-71, Lactobacillus helveticus Rosell®-52, Bifidobacterium longum Rosell® -175 support our mood. And if your health goals include happy mood as well as gut health this is an ideal choice for you.
10. Food for mood
When it comes to a diet for mood and mental wellness there are two key areas to focus on: wholefoods and variety. Wholefoods are less refined and more nutrient-dense, and the more varied your diet, the more nutrients you have access to. Go for quality protein, fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds, including omega-3 fats.
Studies show that a special compound found in omega-3 fish oil, called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) supports both brain cell health and in turn, healthy mood. Our modern diets tend to be lacking Omega-3, and if you want to be proactive about mood and mental wellness a high EPA fish oil is a valuable supplement to take daily. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega is an easy way to get a higher amount of EPA than found in standard omega-3 fish oil, two small softgels per day gives 1125 mg of EPA which is more than the amount studies show support mood.
If your diet it less than ideal, you can take a Multivitamin to help fill any gaps. For more tips on nutrition for a healthy brain check out our blog Taking Care of our Brain Health and Mental Resilience, and our nutritionist-approved recipes are packed with delicious ideas to keep you feeling good too.
If you’re experiencing low mood, there are lots of support options available. We recommend talking to someone you trust and reaching out to a qualified health professional because support networks can be the most valuable resource for your wellness toolbox. If you’re based in New Zealand, the Mental Health Foundation offers helpline services available right now.
Vitamins and minerals are supplementary to and not a replacement for a balanced diet. Always read the label and use as directed.
- BioBalance Ltd, Collingwood
- The Bountiful Company (Solgar), Auckland
- NuZest, Auckland
- Lifestream International, Auckland
- Arepa, Auckland
- Nordic Naturals, Natural Meds, Napier