1. Adjust your diet
Food can absolutely influence our mood. When sugary foods and refined carbohydrates cause blood sugar imbalances, mood swings may follow. If you have ever been ‘hangry’—so hungry you’re angry—you’ll get it. “What we eat can exacerbate stress or help alleviate it,” explains Maria Marlowe, holistic nutritionist and author of The Real Food Grocery Guide.
“If you’re already stressed and have elevated cortisol (the stress hormone), drinking caffeine is a recipe for anxiousness, difficulty sleeping, a lack of energy and other negative health outcomes.” Marlowe suggests trying matcha tea as an alternative.
As well as kicking the caffeine, Marlowe recommends incorporating more magnesium-rich foods into your diet, such as dark leafy greens, beans, sea vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and organic tofu. “Magnesium helps the body deal with stress and helps us feel calm.” She also suggests adding in foods that are rich in vitamin B, which are also mood boosters, including wild salmon, organic grass-fed meat, lentils and eggs. Vegans might prefer B12 supplements.
2. Exercise your way to happy hormones
Exercise can help reduce the levels of stress hormones in our body, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as the body’s natural painkiller and mood elevator. “Exercise isn’t about punishing your body, it’s about celebrating it and making yourself feel good—and if you do something you enjoy, you’re far more likely to stick with it,” says Stef Williams, personal trainer and founder of fitness app WeGLOW.
Any type of exercise will help. Many people find that using large muscle groups in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion works best. Walking and jogging are the best examples, but some may prefer vigorous workouts.
“Honestly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s about finding what type of movement works for you, what you enjoy and what makes you feel in control,” Williams explains. “But I couldn’t recommend walking more—taking that time to yourself, using it to call a family member or even to just distance yourself and be with your thoughts. Fitness doesn’t have to be complicated; we don’t need to overcomplicate it. Find a routine you enjoy and build from there.”
3. Cultivate positive self-awareness with yoga