Feeling down, especially for a prolonged period of time, can affect everything we do, from work, to relationships, to our productivity. While there a host of antidepressant and antianxiety prescription drugs available, all these carry serious side effects, and create dependency problems.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives that work as well, or even better, without any the problems associated with drugs. While overall dietary nutrition and exercise helps mood on a general basis, the following is a list of seven of the top natural ways to improve your mood specifically, and often immediately.
- SAM-e: SAM-e, or S-Adenosyl methionine, acts as a mood stabilizer by supporting healthy brain function. It naturally exists in our bodies, but the amount decreases over time with age. Supplementing with SAM-e can replenish bodily SAM-e levels to within normal range within just one to two weeks, thereby restoring proper brain chemistry and thus emotional and mental well-being. A typical dosage is 400mg of SAM-e, preferably in an enteric-coated capsule, two to three times a day on an empty stomach.
- Vitamin D3: Vtamin D3 is a critical hormone (not a vitamin) necessary for a plethora of bodily functions, from our immune systems to our moods. It’s normally received from adequate sunshine exposure, but in the winter time and for those with darker skin, it should be supplemented with on a daily basis. If you haven’t supplemented with it before, you likely have a deficiency that needs time to be corrected. Try 40,000 to 50,000 IUs of vitamin D3 every day for 2-3 months, before tapering down to 10,000IU per day for the average person.
- St. John’s Wort: St. John’s Wort is an herb that’s been in use since the times of ancient Greece to enhance overall mood and emotional stability. It’s often considered the most effective herbal supplement for the treatment of depression and anxiety, and you can begin to feel its benefits within just 15 to 30 minutes of intake. A good starting dose is 300mg of a standardized extract.
- Full-Spectrum Lighting: Full-spectrum lighting isn’t a supplement—it’s light that mimics actual sunlight by encompassing the entire electromagnetic spectrum, meaning every wavelength needed by living organisms. Other forms of light like fluorescent light covers on a small number of these wavelengths, and it’s been pointed to as a contributing cause of depression. In fact, lack of sufficient exposure to full-spectrum light and vitamin D3 in the winter is usually cited as the main reason for so-called “seasonal affective disorder.” You can purchase full-spectrum lighting for nearly the same price as fluorescent lighting, and just 20 minutes of daily exposure can bring you noticeable benefits to general mood.
- 5-HTP: 5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytriptophan, is a metabolite that mediates between L-tryptophan and serotonin, two natural chemicals crucial for emotional and mental balance. It’s well-documented for its ability to promote a relaxed and calm mood, and even helps in sleep regulation. A common starting amount is 100mg per dose, but it can vary from person to person.
- Holy Basil/Tulsi: Holy basil, also called tulsi, is a plant that has the ability to reduce stress and ease nervousness. It works as an adaptogen, which means it helps your body adapt to emotional and physical stress as needed, for example by lowering corticosterone (the stress hormone) levels when they get abnormally high. People often start with 500mg capsules or tablets and adjust from there, or drink tulsi tea in times of heightened stress.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3s have a medically-validated ability to improve overall mood by improving brain function. A sizeable Norwegian study of close to 22,000 subjects found that participants who did not take omega 3s regularly were 30% more likely to be depressed than those who did. It’s important to take enough, however—often people take little more than a single teaspoon or couple capsules and expect to notice a significant effect. While that’s better than not taking any at all, considerably noticeable benefits are generally only felt with larger intakes, like a few tablespoons of fish oil liquid, or 8 to 10 typical capsules.