7 ways to boost your men­tal health and feel less stressed

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Lisa Turner

Mood Makeover Seven ways to im­prove your out­look and re­duce stress.


nor­mal to ex­pe­ri­ence oc­ca­sional jit­ters or a case of the blues. But if you’re one of the mil­lions of peo­ple who strug­gle daily with sad­ness, anx­i­ety, ten­sion, stress, or mood swings, you don’t have to feel bad. Nat­u­ral whole­body so­lu­tions can help boost mood and bol­ster your men­tal health. Here’s what to do:

Go ride a bike. Ex­er­cise im­proves men­tal and emo­tional well-be­ing, re­lieves stress, in­creases blood cir­cu­la­tion to the brain, and re­leases en­dor­phins—brain chem­i­cals that im­prove mood and boost en­ergy. Ad­di­tion­ally, aer­o­bic ex­er­cises like bike rid­ing, jog­ging, swim­ming, walk­ing, danc­ing, and even gardening can re­duce anx­i­ety, stress, and de­pres­sion, and may im­prove self-es­teem and cog­ni­tive func­tion. Rec­om­mended: 30 min­utes of mod­er­ate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise, three times a week. If you’re not into cy­cling or run­ning, a brisk walk has the same e ect. It doesn’t have to be con­tin­u­ous; three 10-minute walks are thought to be as bene cial as a 30-minute walk.

Zen out. Chronic stress takes a heavy toll on men­tal health; it’s linked with de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, and mood dis­or­ders, and has even been linked with in­creased risk of sui­ci­dal thoughts and be­hav­iors. You can’t con­trol the world around you, but you can learn to cope with your per­sonal trig­gers. Tech­niques that have been proven to work:

MED­I­TATE. Mind­ful­ness-based med­i­ta­tion is es­pe­cially e ec­tive at re­duc­ing stress, burnout, de­pres­sion, and anx­i­ety, and med­i­ta­tors may also ex­pe­ri­ence greater at­ten­tion, aware­ness, and im­prove­ments in cog­ni­tion.

IG­NORE THE IN­BOX. One study found that check­ing

emails more fre­quently in­creased anx­i­ety and stress; limit vis­its to your in­box to three times a day, and re­spond to your email in chunks, in­stead of ev­ery few min­utes.

FO­CUS ON YOUR BREATH. Deep breath­ing can lower cor­ti­sol lev­els, re­duce stress and anx­i­ety, and cause a tem­po­rary drop in blood pressure. Try a sim­pli ed ver­sion of the 4/7/8 breath: in­hale to a count of 4, hold the breath for 7, and ex­hale for 8. e longer-ex­hale pat­tern acts as a nat­u­ral tran­quil­izer. LIGHT A LAVEN­DER CAN­DLE.

e scent of laven­der has been shown in sev­eral stud­ies to re­duce work­place anx­i­ety and re­lieve stress. Other calm­ing es­sen­tial oils: chamomile, rose gera­nium, berg­amot, and clary sage. TRY HOLY BASIL. is Ayurvedic herb has strong an­ti­stress bene ts. Sci­en­tists re­port that holy basil is an an­tiox­i­dant with a high fl avonoid con­tent, so it helps to heal dam­age from chronic stress. In­dian re­searchers found notable anti-stress e ects that bal­anced hor­mones.

Hit the snooze but­ton. A chronic lack of shut-eye can mess with your men­tal health by im­pact­ing lev­els of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and stress hor­mones, im­pair­ing think­ing and emo­tional reg­u­la­tion. In one study, mood dis­or­ders were found in up to 50 per­cent of peo­ple with chronic sleep prob­lems. Sleep more, now: start by avoid­ing ca eine, ex­ces­sive al­co­hol con­sump­tion, or screen time be­fore bed­time;

keep your bed­room cool, dark, and quiet; and ban bed­time snack­ing. If you still strug­gle, try these sup­ple­ments:

PASSIONFLOWER, in cap­sules or tinc­tures, has been shown to help gen­tly in­duce sleep while also im­prov­ing sleep qual­ity; it’s also known to help ease anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, so it’s ideal for any­one deal­ing with both is­sues. It’s of­ten com­bined with skull­cap, hops, and/or lemon balm, equally calm­ing herbs.

MAG­NE­SIUM has a calm­ing e ect on the ner­vous sys­tem, re­laxes mus­cles, and may de­crease the re­lease of cor­ti­sol. It plays an im­por­tant role in get­ting a deep sleep.

5- HTP, made by the body from tryp­to­phan, can help you sleep bet­ter, help lift de­pres­sion, and treat mood dis­or­ders.

Treat pain. Low-level chronic pain is a drain on mood: some stud­ies sug­gest that if physi­cians tested all pain pa­tients for mood dis­or­ders, as many as 60 per­cent might be di­ag­nosed with de­pres­sion. Man­ag­ing pain can go a long way to­ward boost­ing men­tal health. Some of the best ways to soothe: treat many kinds of pain; it also acts as an anal­gesic for joint in­flam­ma­tion and os­teoarthri­tis pain. VI­TA­MIN D helps de­crease the risk of rheuma­toid arthri­tis, and can ease chronic pain, es­pe­cially in the el­derly; low lev­els have also been linked with bromyal­gia and other chronic pain dis­or­ders.

Stand for some­thing. Stud­ies show a sense of mean­ing and pur­pose is crit­i­cal to well-be­ing, and higher lev­els of per­ceived mean­ing are linked with re­duced need for ther­apy and lower lev­els of de­pres­sion. Find your pur­pose: it may be any­thing from con­nect­ing with na­ture through rock climb­ing to paint­ing land­scapes to rais­ing a fam­ily—what­ever makes you feel needed, in­spired, and en­gaged with life. And there are some tan­gi­ble bio­chem­i­cal rea­sons: for ex­am­ple, the feeling of be­ing in love de­ac­ti­vates the neu­ral path­way re­spon­si­ble for neg­a­tive emo­tions.

Bust the blues. Cer­tain sup­ple­ments can make a big di er­ence when it comes to im­prov­ing mood and help­ing you nd hap­pi­ness. Some to try:

ST. JOHN’S WORT, a fl ow­er­ing herb that may be as e ec­tive as an­tide­pres­sant drugs, with fewer side e ects.

SELENIUM, an an­tiox­i­dant found in Brazil nuts and other foods, can boost mood and re­duce anx­i­ety; de cien­cies are linked with de­pres­sion.

SAM-e, a chem­i­cal in­volved in neu­ro­trans­mit­ter func­tion, can have signi cant e ects

in re­liev­ing mild to

SAF­FRON, from the stigma of the cro­cus

fl ower, has tra­di­tion­ally been used to boost mood; in one study, 30 mg a day was as e ec­tive as Prozac.

B VI­TA­MINS, par­tic­u­larly B6, B12, and folate. B6 is a ma­jor co­fac­tor in the syn­the­sis of sero­tonin; B12 may form SAM-e, which, as men­tioned above, is a com­pound linked with mood. Folate is also a fac­tor in form­ing sero­tonin, nor­ep­i­neph­rine, and SAM-e, and de cien­cies of folate have been found in peo­ple with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

ZINC is nec­es­sary for pro­duc­ing GABA, a com­pound that ghts anx­i­ety and ir­ri­tabil­ity as­so­ci­ated with de­pres­sion; low lev­els of zinc are also com­mon in peo­ple with de­pres­sion, es­pe­cially those who don’t re­spond to an­tide­pres­sant drugs.

RHODIOLA shows prom­ise as a mood-sup­port­ing herb. Pre­lim­i­nary re­search has demon­strated that rhodiola in­creases the “feel good” neu­ro­trans­mit­ter sero­tonin, ban­ish­ing those blues as it pro­motes the trans­port of im­por­tant build­ing blocks such as 5-HTP. Con­nect. Face­book isn’t the same as face-to-face time. Elec­tronic con­nec­tions can’t cap­ture sub­tle nu­ances like fa­cial ex­pres­sions, eye con­tact, and body lan­guage that con­vey warmth and bond­ing. at’s im­por­tant to men­tal health; stud­ies show peo­ple who iso­late so­cially are more likely to be anx­ious and de­pressed. Stay con­nected, with these sim­ple tips: GET AN EX­ER­CISE BUDDY. You’ll accomplish two goals: mov­ing more, and you’ll es­tab­lish a reg­u­lar time for con­nect­ing.

GO TO CHURCH. If you’re even a lit­tle bit re­li­gious, churches can be a deeply ful lling way to con­nect. Or look for weekly med­i­ta­tion groups or gath­er­ings in another spir­i­tual prac­tice. GET TO KNOW YOUR CO-WORK­ERS. Bring muffins for break­fast, in­vite your desk mate to go for a walk, set up a car­pool, cel­e­brate birth­days.

VOL­UN­TEER. Get a reg­u­lar gig at a li­brary, an­swer ques­tions at a mu­seum, or join the board of a lo­cal sym­phony or non­pro t or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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