Happiness Habits – Day 5: How Good Nutrition Can Help Your Mood
I found it fascinating to realize how the food we eat can affect our mood. I think it’s no accident that since the advent of lots of processed food with added sugar and preservatives in the Western diet, depression and other mood disorders have dramatically risen. We look for ways to increase happiness by changing our behavior in different ways when the simplest solution may be to change what we eat. Let’s look at a couple of key ingredients and nutrients that have been shown to directly affect our mood.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
I’m sure you’ve heard about this fatty acid that’s found in fatty fish and certain seeds and nuts. There’s another fatty acid called Omega 6 and from what I’ve read there’s an important balance between omega 3 and omega 6 that needs to happen. If you end up with way more omega 6 than omega 3 (which is often the case in a diet that consists of lots of processed foods), one of the side effects is depression.
We tend to get the blues more in winter when we can’t get outside and get some sun. A big reason for this drop in mood is a lack of vitamin D. With the advent of strong sunscreen and a global health policy that warns us of sun exposure and cautions us to cover up or wear sunscreen, it’s no wonder that vitamin d deficiency has become major problem that also happens to negatively affect our mood.
Being happy takes energy. The word “vitamin” was coined from a Latin word that means “life” or “life force.” Our brain gets nourished and functions best when we get the right B vitamins in the right combinations. Although supplements can help, getting the B’s from food ensures the optimum balance. This whole group of micronutrients is crucial in how energized we feel, and to our overall brain health. Make sure you get plenty to feel your best.
Last but not least, let’s talk about magnesium. It’s a trace element, and we don’t need much, but a lot of our soils are magnesium depleted, so less of this mineral makes it into our food. Lack of magnesium can cause insomnia and I don’t have to tell you how important a good night sleep is to your overall well-being. (More on that later…) Magnesium also plays an important role in gut health, another critical part of our ability to feel happy.
While you may want to consider supplementing with some of these nutrients to quickly fill the gap your diet is leaving, a much better long-term strategy is to work on making small but important changes to your diet. The more processed foods you can cut out and replace with fresh fruits and vegetables, quality meats, and healthy fats the better. In other words, eat a healthy diet made up of real foods and you’ll start feeling better.
[From time to time, I’ll point you to something that I think would be useful during this Happiness Habit Challenge. Sometimes it’ll be a book, sometimes it’ll be another website or blog post, sometimes it’s my own offering. If I get any benefit from it (rarely), I’ll let you know.]
One of my favorite books on the subject of mood and food is called The Mood Cure by Julia Ross. I recommend this book all the time to my clients. There’s a questionnaire in the book that helps you identify what foods you might need to add, or need to give up, to help you feel better. She explains everything so clearly, and even gives delicious recipes to follow. (Please, go to your local bookstore to request it – after working for years in brick-and-mortar stores, I have a bias toward interacting with real people for books.)
To get and give support and encouragement from total strangers (also sometimes called “accountability”), get access to our awesome Happiness Habits 2016 Challenge Facebook group here. It’s a private group, so you can only access it if you’re on the email list.
To get a reminder prompt from me via email to make sure you don’t miss a post, sign up for the 30 Day Happiness Challenge here: