More than 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. If you suspect you may be suffering from any mental/mood disorder, seek professional help. If you’re looking for practical tips to elevate your mood, Veronica — the “V” in Chef V — Wheat provides a daily guide for activating your feel-good chemicals.
When it comes to natural ways to boost mood, I have a bone to pick with Johns Hopkins University. JHU is one of the most preeminent higher educational institutions in the country, a de-facto Ivy League school on par with Stanford and MIT. But when I did a Google search for “boosting your mood,” this ridiculously short and worthless article of only 4 paragraphs was the second-highest-ranked.
I wasn’t looking for advice that reads like a doctoral thesis. But considering millions of people are in desperate need of a mood makeover, JHU’s article reads more like a third-grade book report. Pathetic.
So instead of relying on the so-called experts, I decided to draw upon my real-world experiences. The following are 12 things that I do every day to support my mood. And they work like magic. I’m not saying that every day I feel like a unicorn who poops 24-karat gold. But on way more days than not, my mood is stable and elevated.
Natural Ways To Boost Your Mood
Tip #1: Wake Up Early & See The Light
If you like to sleep in and you’re thinking, ain’t no way I’m getting up before 8 — and just because I have to for work — just hear me out. Here are 5 reasons why waking up around sunrise will boost your mood:
Circadian Rhythm Reset
First of all, waking up at first light is like superfood for your circadian rhythm. It finetunes your body’s internal natural light-dark cycle and promotes a more harmonious sleep-wake pattern.
Not only should you wake up at dawn or by sunrise, I want you to look outside your window. If you have a panoramic view, all the better. You see, when you wake up early and are exposed to sunlight and a broad, sweeping vista, your body receives a signal to decrease melatonin production. Your brain gets the signal to wake up and be alert but with a calmness-inducing, mood-enhancing effect.
Vitamin D Synthesis
Vitamin D isn’t just for bone health, it’s also helpful for mood. So before you start scaring at your screen all day for work, get outside and expose your eyes and skin to the sun to synthesize vitamin D.
Getting outside and enjoying the early morning sun increases your serotonin levels, a feel-good chemical. Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression and other mood disorders.
Sets You Up For A Successful Day
Rolling out of bed when it’s the last thing you wanna do sucks. But eventually, you’ll learn to love the routine of waking up with dawn’s early light. It establishes a routine that makes you feel good for the rest of the day—unless you’re hungover, which you should never be if you want to boost your mood.
Boost Your Mood Tip #2: Meditation or Deep Breathing
After I wake up early and expose my eyes to a panoramic view with sunlight (even if it’s a cloudy day), the next thing I do is meditate or do some deep breathing exercises. If meditation is too weird or difficult for you, you don’t have to sit with your eyes closed for long with your mind free of thoughts (that’s not the point of meditation, plus it’s impossible). Just staring out your window for a few minutes is meditative. But if you only have time for meditation or deep breathing, I’d pick deep breathing because almost anybody can do it and instead of trying not to think, your mind is simply focused on breathing. I like this Wim-Hof dialogue-free guided video. The journal Neurological Sciences says “deep breathing can induce an effective improvement in mood and stress.”
Boost Your Mood, Naturally. Tip #3: Exercise Before Work
I realize that asking you to do the following 3 things before you have coffee is a big ask: 1) wake up early and stare out your window; 2) meditate or do deep breathing exercises, and 3) do a total-body exercise routine. Especially if you have a busy day. But keep in mind that when you wake up with the roosters, you’ll have plenty more time to do most, if not all, of these natural mood-enhancing activities.
So before you start your work day, squeeze in a 30-minute walk or other exercise routine like yoga. Bonus if you can exercise outdoors. Going for a walk in a fasted state (before you eat) is not only good for your mood but also for your metabolism.
Mood-Booster Tip #4: Journaling
OK, one more thing to do before it’s time to break your fast and that’s journaling for 10 minutes. Whatever’s on your mind, anything that you are anxious about, write it down on paper. You can even rip the paper up at the end of the day. Doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you’re easing the anxiety triggers by putting pen to paper. It’s proven to be therapeutic. I prefer to journal in the morning because if I wait until nighttime, I’ll be too tired.
Boost Your Mood Tip #5: Green Leafy Veggies For “Break-Fast”
You don’t have to be a certified nutritional therapist like me to know that having donuts or cereal for breakfast: not healthy. Sure, devouring a maple frosted will give you a shot of dopamine. But this false sense of happiness is short-lived. Instead of a standard American breakfast, break your fast with green, leafy veggies. I’m not suggesting making a huge salad. There’s a far easier way to get your daily dose of green, leafies: drink them fresh, delivered to your home!
9 out of 10 Americans don’t consume enough veggies. Having an Organic Green Drink first thing in the morning kills 2 birds with one delicious bottle. It hydrates and gently detoxes your system and is proven to support mental health.
Tip #6: Have A Protein-Rich Smoothie for 2nd Breakfast
Relatively few people have an extreme case of protein deficiency. But many people aren’t getting an optimum amount of protein in their diet. And most people who are eating a lot of protein are eating the wrong kind: factory-farmed meat.
As Mental Health Connecticut beautifully explains it:
“The foods you eat impact the structure and function of your brain, playing a major role in emotional regulation and cognitive function. Foods rich in protein contain amino acids to help produce key neurotransmitters in preventing and treating depression and anxiety.”
And unlike carbs and dietary fat, we need to eat protein every single day because our body does not do a good job of storing it.
So about 30 minutes after having a 16-ounce serving of Organic Green Drink, I’ll make a protein-rich smoothie with an easy-to-digest vegan protein like brown rice or pea powder. I add some dietary fat like sunflower seed butter and avocado to fill me up and keep me satisfied until it’s time for my first true meal of the day a few hours later…
Tip #7: Have a Big Mediterranean-Style Lunch
By now, you’re feeling great and you’re brain is firing on all cylinders. You’re doing great work but now you’re tummy is rumbling. It’s time to eat a real meal, not a liquid lunch. Now here’s where many people go wrong. Instead of eating a big meal, they just have a sandwich or a salad. It’s quick and filling enough but not bloating.
The problem with soup, a sandwich and a salad is that a couple of hours later, you’re hungry again and your energy crashes. You didn’t eat enough!
That’s why I recommend eating a large lunch that consists of these 4 things:
- Whole grains – quinoa, brown rice, couscous, farro, millet, etc.
- Veggies – steamed, stir-fried, or baked
- Lean protein – a double fist-sized portion of high-quality fish or chicken (beans or lentils if you’re vegan/vegetarian)
- Dietary fat – a small portion of avocado, nuts and/or seeds, or extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
Research shows that not getting enough of these ingredients, common in the Mediterranean Diet, may help prevent depression. Plus, when you eat an entree-sized portion of these ingredients, you’ll be satisfied, leading to a more stable mood for the afternoon. (You may not even need a cup of coffee in the afternoon.)
Tip #8: Eat Dessert After Lunch Every Day!
Don’t stuff your face at lunch. Make sure you have room for a tiny portion of dessert. A healthy dessert of course. Have a couple of handfuls of berries and a couple of small pieces of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa). Dark chocolate contains several compounds that boost mood.
Chef V's cheesecake recipe is delicious and healthy in small portions. Get it and all her dessert recipes here.
Tip #9: Walk After Dinner
No joke … walking for just 2 minutes after dinner lowers your blood sugar levels. But what does blood glucose management or diabetes prevention have to do with boosting your mood? Research shows that high blood sugar levels have been shown to “closely mirror mental health symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and worry.” This should come as no surprise, says the University of Michigan School for Public Health, as the brain runs primarily on glucose.
Tip #10: Cuddle Time
Whether it’s with a significant other or pet, cuddle up with a loved one. Even brief cuddle sessions have been shown to boost well-being. Don’t have a loved one, bipedal or furry? There are other ways to raise your oxytocin levels, the so-called cuddle hormone. Lie down, place one hand on your heart, the other on your belly and take several deep, slow breaths.
Tip #11: Affirmation Meditation Before Bed
Finally, before you go to sleep (hopefully by no later than 11 p.m.), take 5 minutes to recite self-affirmations. (Here’s a simple one I like: “I am happy, healthy and wealthy.”) There are many free videos and apps you can follow. The Association for Psychological Science says, “Self-affirmation has been shown to have powerful effects … it can minimize anxiety, stress, and defensiveness.”
Tip #12: 28 Days To A Happier, Healthier You
The ChefV.com 21-DAY DETOX was recently the subject of a clinical trial by Citrus Labs. The 38 participants who completed the 21-DAY DETOX followed by a 7-day continuation of a GREEN DRINK plan reported a significant improvement in mood and several other wellness markers.
Experience a mood-boosting transformation with organic green drinks, vegan protein shakes, detox soups and healthy meals. Learn more here.
Here’s to a happier, healthier you!
Veronica “V” Wheat