Lifting Your Mood: Science-Backed Strategies for Better Mental Health

Lifting Your Mood: Science-Backed Strategies for Better Mental Health

In our fast-paced world, it's easy to get caught up in the daily grind, leaving our mental well-being on the back burner. However, taking proactive steps to lift your mood can have a profound impact on your wider health and wellness.

Here are some science-backed strategies to help you boost your mood and enhance your mental well-being.

Exercise for Endorphins: Physical activity isn't just good for your body; it's a mood booster too. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, the "feel-good" hormones that can reduce stress and anxiety. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. If you’re able to burn a few calories it in the morning and in the sunshine, you get the added benefit of keeping your body clock on time, by triggering what’s known as melatonin rhythm phase advancement, which can help you get better, more restful sleep.

Yoga: Several studies show the benefits of yoga for improved mood. It helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by promoting relaxation and increasing awareness of the present moment. A recent study found that a regular yoga practice can help your brain too, by modulating the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the prefrontal cortex. GABA is your natural anxiolytic—it calms your brain and central nervous system, promoting relaxation, sociability, and sleep.

Social Connections and Play: Speaking of sociability, one of the best ways to lift your mood is to get some good old human connection. We know the cost of not getting enough IRL facetime, as a number of mental health conditions are linked a lack of socialisation that manifests at the neurological level. But don’t worry! Studies have shown that re-socialisation can reverse and rewire damaged neural networks. Combine seeing family and friends with game night or any other kind of play to boost the effects of socialisation. We know that social play increases whole brain GABA content and if you’re having fun, it’s contagious—when you see someone smiling, laughing, or generally having a good time the same reward centres in the brain of the person doing the smiling or laughing are activated in the person who sees them.  

Healthy Eating for Brain Health: The food you eat can significantly impact your mood, because your gastrointestinal tract is an enormous part of your central nervous system, hell, it’s often referred to as your second brain. Not only does your gut produce more serotonin than your brain, it’s also chock full of billions of bacterium, paramecia and *good* viruses collectively known as the microbiome, which plays a crucial role in your mental and physical health. Fermented foods like kafir contain Lactobacillus reuteri bacteria, this microscopic maestro has been shown to stimulate GABA production, which can help relaxation and guard against depression. A healthy gut is a sure-fire way to lay the groundwork for a healthy brain, so try to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds may also have mood-enhancing effects.

There is no scientific border between your mind and your body—the biological supercomputer that is your brain is just another organ after all—so making the best you can of your physical health can go a long way to boost your mood and keep that pink, spongy supercomputer running smoothly.