If a sunny disposition doesn’t come naturally for you, there are several steps you can take to improve your mood.
1) Take a high-quality fish oil supplement daily. Multiple studies have linked a high intake of fish and other omega-3 fatty acids to low rates of depression and improved sense of well-being. Make a point to eat fish two or three times a week. Wild Pacific salmon, sardines, herring, and small (white chunk, not albacore or steaks) tuna are good sources of omega-3s that contain minimal amounts of contaminants. I also recommend taking 2–8 g (2–8 standard capsules) of fish oil per day.
2) Have your hormone levels checked. When I see a patient suffering with depression, I always check thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for natural hormone replacement. You’ll need to work with a physician knowledgeable in individually compounded bioidentical hormones.
3) Try these supplements. SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) is an amino acid that increases levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. It’s safe and well tolerated, and improvements are often noted within days. The recommended dose is 200–600 mg twice a day. 5-HTP, another amino acid derivative, is a direct precursor to serotonin. For mood enhancement, take 50–100 mg twice a day. (Both of these supplements are best taken on an empty stomach.) St. John’s wort is also effective for mild to moderate depression. Be aware that this herb interacts with a number of prescription drugs, so look into possible contraindications if you’re on any medication. I recommend 300 mg two or three times a day. Note: There’s no magic bullet that works for everyone, so experiment with these supplements one at a time and see what works for you.
4) Get outside and get some exercise. Have you ever wondered why getting out in the sunshine just makes you feel better? It’s actually because sunlight increases serotonin production and stimulates the manufacture of vitamin D, which has pervasive effects on the brain. While you’re outside, engage in some type of physical activity. Go for a jog. Ride a bike. Play tennis or a team sport. I realize that the last thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed is exercising, but study after study shows that it is the ultimate mood booster. Even a brisk walk will do wonders for your disposition.
5) Put on a happy face. A few years ago, I wrote an article in my monthly newsletter Health & Healing on “smile therapy.” Simply smiling—whether you feel like it or not—stimulates the release of feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters. If you can make that smile real by thinking about something that makes you happy, so much the better.