Emotional well-being and mood are profoundly influenced by diet and lifestyle. Gratefully, the science supports a host of “therapeutic lifestyle changes” – TLC for short – that can improve your mood and lower your risk of depression.
Here’s the complete list based on my most recent scientific review.
(Please note these strategies are in no specific order.)
- Be physically active / exercise daily. Any activity counts, but formal exercise and sports appear to be the best. Also, the more vigorous the activity the better.
- Minimize processed and fast foods. Consume mostly whole “nature-made” foods, particularly plant-based foods.
- Consume omega 3 rich foods often. These include: oily fish (salmon, sardines, lake trout, herring, cod), omega 3 eggs, walnuts, whole soy foods, hemp/chia/flax seeds, canola oil, oysters, and small leafy greens. Fish oil supplements are also an option for getting in optimal amounts of omega fats, but eating oily fish regularly is likely the very best way.
- Keep your weight in a healthy range.
- Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Those with the most anti-inflammatory oomph are likely the best and include: red onions, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, dark leafy greens, apples, red grapes, berries, cherries, oranges, and plums. Excess inflammation in the body has been linked to depression.
- Maintain optimal blood levels of vitamin D via safe sun exposure, consuming vitamin D-rich foods (oily fish, fortified dairy products, mushrooms, eggs) and appropriate use of vitamin D supplements.
- Include magnesium-rich foods in your diet regularly – green vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and wheat germ.
- Increase your intake of tryptophan-rich foods. Foods high in tryptophan include: turkey, whole soy foods, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy products.
- Include folate-rich foods in your diet regularly. Green vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, wheat germ, any form of tomato product, oranges, nuts, seeds, whole soy foods, parsley, and beets are excellent sources.
- Include vitamin B-12 rich foods in your diet regularly. The healthiest sources would be low-fat dairy products, fish, and shellfish. If you are older than 50, get your level checked periodically. Some people need to take supplements.
- Avoid sugary beverages and artificially sweetened (diet) sodas.
- Use anti-inflammatory herbs and spices regularly in your foods – turmeric, curry, ginger, and rosemary are especially potent.
- Spend time in nature regularly. Daily best.
- Maintain positive relationships with family and friends.
- Engage in relaxation/mindfulness practices regularly – deep breathing, yoga, meditation, etc.
- Cultivate and nurture your spirituality, especially via practices that focus on love and forgiveness.
- Give of yourself and your money to help those in need.
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