While it’s normal for everyone to go through periods of stress, anxiety, and even mild depression, it’s not healthy to feel this way the majority of the time. If you (or someone you know) is looking for safe, effective, and natural ways to improve your mood and mindset, it’s time to hack into happiness with some of nature’s best mood boosters.
Everyone knows that stress is a major mood killer—and that’s why it’s important to get some serious stress-reducing supplements on board when trying to get out of a funk. One of the best is ashwagandha, a highly valued adaptogen often used in Ayurvedic medicine. Traditionally used to calm nerves, reduce inflammation, and enhance libido, ashwagandha’s mood-boosting benefits come from its special ability to energize and calm at the same time.
In clinical studies, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels and increase antioxidant activity. People who take ashwagandha report feeling less of the negative “fight or flight” effects common to high levels of the hormone cortisol. Ashwagandha also helps relieve other stress-related symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and severe depression. One clinical study found ashwagandha to significantly reduce stress in men and women. People who take ashwagandha have reported feeling a difference in daily energy, improved focus, healthy sleep, physical endurance, and overall vitality—everything that helps support a better mood.
If low energy levels and brain fog are contributing to your less than stellar mood, you may be suffering from a vitamin B deficiency. These important vitamins are well known for their ability to regulate mood, boost brain function, and increase mental and physical energy.
The B vitamins can be found in many foods, but top sources include meat, seafood, eggs, leafy greens, dairy products, and legumes. However, it’s estimated that up to 30 percent of the total population can’t fully utilize the B vitamins from foods and some supplements, which means that getting the right forms of these nutrients is crucial. For example, you want to get vitamin B6 in the form of pyridoxal 5’-phosphate, or P-5-P, which doesn’t require any additional conversion in the liver since it’s already in a form your body can absorb and utilize. Same goes for B12 in methylcobalamin form and folate in methylfolate form. Folate is especially important to mental well-being. One open trial in which a bioactive form of folate was administered found an improvement in the symptoms of depression in 81 percent of participants who completed a four-week program.
Because your body gets rid of excess B vitamins throughout the day, it’s important to replenish them regularly to reap optimal benefits. Prescription drugs, certain diseases, and stress can all deplete B vitamins in the body, as well.
Saffron is another powerful botanical that supports a healthy mood. This ancient spice is unique in its ability to restore normal body chemistry. Specifically, saffron has been shown to boost serotonin production, lower cortisol, and help preserve levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are often lower in people with depression. Clinical studies have found saffron reduces symptoms of milder forms of depression, serious depression with anxiety, and even postpartum depression.
One clinical trial highlighted in Phytotherapy Research found that saffron reduced the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder in just six weeks. In more serious and harder-to-treat forms of depression, especially when they overlap with anxiety, saffron also works well to relieve symptoms. An Iranian clinical trial found that a 12-week regimen of saffron had a significant impact on the symptoms of depression. Additionally, a small study showed that saffron can potentially boost the effectiveness of conventional antidepression medications.
In addition to being effective, saffron is incredibly safe. The results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the journal Phytomedicine show that it relieved the symptoms of mild to moderate postpartum depression in 96 percent of breastfeeding mothers after eight weeks.
Omega-3s (With Phospholipids and Peptides)
Your mood is greatly affected by the foods you eat—a happy brain gets plenty of healthy fats. The brain especially loves essential fatty acids (EFAs), like omega-3s, and thrives when they’re present in the body in a healthy ratio. The two most important EFAs are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which appear to help improve mood, as well as treat depression and other mental disorders.
The best way to get these essential fatty acids is to eat wild seafood sourced from clean water a few times a week. Since this isn’t always possible, it’s important to take an omega-3 supplement. Skip the fish and krill oils, many of which are low quality, aren’t absorbed well, and are prone to rancidity. Instead, look for a supplement that delivers omega-3s combined with phospholipids and peptides.
Phospholipids help your body absorb and use omega-3s efficiently. They also support the myelin sheaths that surrounds nerve cells. This keeps your brain signals firing properly and supports a stable mood. Peptides are a type of amino acid that protects the delicate blood vessels in your brain. In one scientific study, peptides were found to promote a calm, relaxed state of mind after just 14 days. Researchers also discovered that peptides reduced oxidative damage of neurons by 21 percent. All of these benefits can help improve overall brain health, ultimately lessening the symptoms of depression and supporting a healthy mood.