We’ve all had one of those days – where you feel as though you’re pushing the proverbial poop up a very large hill, where we can’t shake off the grey cloud or don’t feel our usually spritely selves without a tangible explanation. This could be the work of neurotransmitters in our brain not working effectively. Founder of Liverpool St, Siobhan Komander shares how you can improve your mood naturally.
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What are these neurotransmitters and what do they do?
They are chemicals in our brains acting as messengers between brain cells. The most common trio are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Together, they have a big impact on our attention span, memory, mood, stress and how we’re feeling at any given moment.
Dopamine contributes to movement, speech and is well recognised for its affect on our moods when stimulated. Dopamine is released when we have a positive experience and makes us feel good, so if you’re having a down day, do something you love. It will stimulate the dopamine and help you feel better. Serotonin contributes to our appetite, sleep, wellbeing, concentration and memory, whilst norepinephrine keeps us alert and energetic and controls our stress response.
Not surprisingly it’s a complicated system and when one of those days hits us it’s because this trio of neurotransmitters aren’t firing as they should. It could be we have a stressful deadline at work, haven’t had enough sleep or our estrogen levels are shifting and having an impact on restricting that serotonin from communicating effectively. The best thing we can do to remedy the situation is to recognise what’s happening…and take action. Stimulate dopamine release by doing something you love, reduce the norepinephrine by switching off for a few minutes or have a healthy snack to get serotonin back in balance. These will help us feel brighter and happier or, at the very least, stop us from feeling any worse.
There are ways to naturally and nutritionally boost your dopamine levels, which involve cutting down processed sugar and coffee intake and adding more magnesium-rich and dopamine-boosting foods like bananas, almonds, apples, watermelons, cherries, yogurt, beans, eggs and meats.
In addition to nutrition, stress is another huge factor is negatively affecting mood and dopamine & norepinephrine levels. Sometimes all it takes is five minutes to destress to improve your mood, feel better and get energised. Positivity breeds positivity and often that first step brings on a chain of positive feelings that will improve your day.
8 ways to improve how you feel naturally:
– Disconnect: Turn off your phone, computer, and tablet for 30 minutes at the end of the day. Staring at screens all day can kill your energy and get that norepinephrine back into balance. Give yourself short breaks from electronics throughout the day, and you’ll feel better.
– Exercise: Go for a walk, get some fresh air in your lungs when you’re implementing point no 1! It has been proven that exercise, no matter how small, will help you feel better. Exercise also releases endorphins and gets your blood flowing and raises those energy levels.
– Drink more water and less coffee: Too much coffee can dehydrate you which leaves you feeling sluggish, tired and headachey. You may think you’re in a bad mood when you’re simply dehydrated and contrary to what you might have heard, drinking water doesn’t make you bloated. It helps your system cleanse itself and is very useful indeed.
– Have a healthy snack: Grab a banana, apple, or handful of almonds. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s filling and low in sugar. A healthy snack helps regulate your blood sugar, makes you feel full and stimulates those neurotransmitters.
– Do one of your favourite things: Watch a funny video, listen to music or pick up a book. Finding joy in the things you love to do can trigger a release of those positive dopamine levels and help you feel better. Laughter is the best medicine, music sooths the soul and a good book takes your focus in another direction.
– Deep breathing: Practice deep breathing throughout the day whenever possible. Inhale through your nose while counting slowly to four. Hold the breath for six seconds, then exhale through your mouth while counting slowly to eight. Repeat until you feel better. This is known as regulation reset and the surge of oxygen will liven you up.
– Take a bath or shower: A warm shower may provide the perfect antidote for your bad day. The warm water will stimulate the release of endorphins, which produces positive feelings, reduces stress and bring that norepinephrine back to normal.
– Smile: As the saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it”! Scientific evidence suggests putting on a smile, even if it’s not initially a true reflection of how your feeling at the time, will make you feel more positive.
These are all handy tips to remind yourself of the good stuff. If you’ve tried everything and still can’t shake your bad mood, just go with it, and know that tomorrow will be a better day. Sometimes simply stopping the mental battle that things aren’t going well can help you feel better. Oh, the irony!
These tips are meant to boost your mood on a bad day. If you’re experiencing severe anxiety or depression regularly, talk to a doctor or mental health professional who can help you come up with a long-term plan.