The 10 day MOOD MAKEOVER plan
Days 1-2: Choose the right foods
I am constantly telling my patients that fifty percent of their recovery from depression or mood related problems can come from an improved diet. You can take the best drugs or supplements available, but including good mood food in your diet will enhance the effects of every other improvement you make.
Unfortunately, most people who suffer from a bad mood, sad mood, or anxiousness typically reach for comfort food, which can actually hamper recovery.
Typical comfort foods—bread, pastas, potatoes, crackers, sweets—all raise serotonin, the mood chemical that you need most when your mood is suffering. But the effect of these foods on serotonin is very short lived, creating the need for more serotonin and, thus, more cravings. Meanwhile you’ve put on ten extra pounds around your mid-section and now your mood is worse. Instead of giving in to the immediate gratification that comfort food offers, include foods that will actually work to improve your mood for the long haul.
Three things essential to good-mood eating habits:
- Eat every four hours and include a combination of protein, high-fiber carbohydrates like fruits and veggies, and very small amounts of good fat. This will help keep your blood sugar and glucose steady, provide lasting improvement in your mood, and give you a sense of calm.
- Avoid sugar, alcohol, and starchy foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes, especially on an empty stomach—that wine before dinner, the cookie in the late afternoon, or juice alone in the morning. Avoid trans fats (In a recent study of over 12,000 University graduates, those that had a high intake of trans fats were forty-two percent more likely to get depressed).
- Make sure you get protein with your meals. Protein is brain food and all of your brain chemicals for mood are built from the amino acids derived from protein.
- A clean diet will provide anti-inflammatory effects, which include mood relief. Remember this rule of thumb for clean eating: food from the ground, food that walks around, food from the sea, and nuts and seeds…try it!
Days 3-4: Add more good-mood foods to your diet:
When you are feeling low and that container of ice cream is calling your name, resist! Instead, reach for these mood-enhancing foods.
- Fish— provides Omega-3 essential fatty acids and Vitamin D, which enhance mood and brain function.
- Slow-cooked oatmeal— rich in fiber, oatmeal will soothe your cranky, irritable mood by evening out blood sugar levels.
- Fiber rich fruits and vegetables— strawberries, apples, beans, peas, and citrus fruits will help release sugar more slowly into the blood stream reducing fluctuations in your energy and mood.
- Walnuts— one of the best brain foods, walnuts are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- Lentils— an excellent source of folate, the B-vitamin that is essential for mood regulation and nerve function. Folate is thought to aid the metabolism of serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, all brain chemicals for mood. Try one cup of cooked lentils per day.
- Dark chocolate— experts agree that dark chocolate may help reduce stress hormones, easing anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Eat green— skip the coffee and go for the greens to revive sluggishness, improve concentration, and boost your mood. Eating plenty of green leafy vegetables also lowers inflammation and helps balance blood sugar.
- Combine foods— include carbohydrates and protein in each meal and snack to combat irritability. High fiber fruits, veggies, or other carbs will give you energy and good mood nutrients, while protein will slow the release of sugar and help stabilize your energy and mood.
Days 5-6: Improve your sleep habits
Getting enough good quality sleep may be the single most important thing you can do if your mood is suffering. The miraculous energy, renewal, and recharging that comes from sleep will improve and stabilize your mood while giving you a sense of calm. Restful, restorative sleep benefits your body, mind, and emotional health in many ways, including:
- Enhances memory and concentration and protects against loss due to aging
- Boosts the immune system to ward off sickness
- Helps prevent heart disease due to excessive plaque build up
- Calms the nerves and helps reduce anxiety
- Boosts the mood and improves perspective
- Controls weight and protects against muscle loss due to aging
- Helps control stress hormone production
- Helps prevent depression
And that’s just the short list!
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Over the last ten years, research has shown that people are getting less sleep than ever. In my second book, the Teenage Hormone Takeover, results from a small study of teenage girls showed that the average girl today is over-stressed and under slept—averaging only about 6.5 hours of sleep per night.
Tragically, many people today actually brag about their lack of sleep, as if they have some sort of superior conditioning that allows them to do more with less.
What you may not realize is that the very thing you need when under stress— at any age—is more sleep. The less you sleep, the more irritable and cranky you will become. After a few days of continuing loss of sleep, your mood will nosedive, leaving you wondering why you’re so down in the dumps. Get enough sleep and your mood will improve instantly. Sleep is vital to survival—and, it’s free!
Try these tips for improving your sleep, getting more of it, and putting your mood back into balance.
- Wake up at the same time every day to avoid “re-setting” your internal clock, which can lead to fatigue. Wake to a gentle alarm or a sunrise clock to avoid jolting your stress system.
- Avoid stressors before bed. The worst thing you can do is run around like a chicken with your head cut off, trying to get everything done right up to the moment you jump into bed. Shut down your email and turn off the computer an hour before bed. Turn your phone off at least half an hour before bed. Embrace the quiet!
- Put yourself to bed. A minimum of thirty minutes before bed, turn the lights down low, have a bath, rub some oil on your body, do some stretches, take some deep cleansing breaths, drink some calming herbal tea, and tell yourself you’re going to have a great night sleep.
- Remove distractions. Reconsider allowing animals in the room. Waking up to let pets in or out becomes a problem especially as you age, depriving you of the time spent in deep sleep—the kind you really need.
- Sleep in the dark. Keep your room pitch black. Use light-blocking shades and cover the light from your alarm clock.
- Keep the room cool—about 68 degrees F, which allows your feet to stay warm and your head to stay cool.
- Consider sleep supplements if you need help falling asleep or staying asleep. Visit www.balancedocs.com for more information.
- Consider a progressive relaxation CD to help relax your mind and your body.
Days 7-8: Make Meaningful Social Connections
By now you know that eating a healthy diet, exercising, taking supplements, not smoking, and having your hormones balanced are all factors in mood elevation, physical well being, and longevity. But an often overlooked—and powerful— strategy for optimal health is being a social butterfly.
There are numerous ways in which we are all connected to the world and to each other—the Internet, email, phone, TV, and the radio, to name a few. We have more social interconnectedness than we have ever had before. So why are we so socially disconnected? Why do people feel so alone and disconnected at the soul?
Thirty years ago, without the aid of advanced technology, people relied on “meeting up.” Talking in person, having lunch or coffee, or talking on the phone. We didn’t substitute an email for a face-to-face interaction. We didn’t have hundreds of friends on a website that we “talked to” in three–to–four word sentences about what we were doing that moment. We either kept those details more private or we saved them for when we could talk in person. By contrast, today we face an overwhelming barrage of communication and information.
Humans are social beings, and we actually do live and survive in part because of our social connections. The wonderful power of social interaction, or “meeting up,” can give us energy, heal our hurts, help to identify our weaknesses, bring out the best in us, and give us a stronger sense of purpose.
Researchers at Brigham Young University looked at 148 studies on social interactions and concluded that people who interacted socially on a regular basis—with family, friends, and colleagues—improved the odds of survival by more than fifty percent. Surprisingly, those in the study that had very limited or no social connectedness had health issues commonly linked to smoking fifteen cigarettes per day, being an alcoholic, not exercising, and obesity.
In 2005, researcher Kenneth Kendler noted that social support—through physical engagement with others—significantly reduced depression in men and women, but even more so in men. Other research has shown that social connectedness supports the very delicate stress response in the brain and helps control cortisol production, which helps with anxiety and mood swings, regulates glucose, and improves sleep. All of which has a positive effect on mood.
Follow these tips for making meaningful, face-to-face social connections.
- Don’t rely on the Internet for your only social support. It remains to be seen whether the Internet and social networks provide the same health and mood benefits as physical interaction with another individual. Such a superficial connection may not be deep enough to allow us to feel heard, confirmed, supported, and energized. Create face-to-face connections too, making it a priority to meet with someone this week. If you have no friends or family to confide in, find someone and be the best friend you can be. Give of yourself and allow the friendship time to grow.
- Visit or arrange to meet a neighbor, co-worker, or relative that you do not ordinarily spend much time with. Most of us have met someone that we would like to get to know more. Now is your time—make it a priority.
- Engage in a sport or other physical activity or just take a walk with someone. Not only are these activities great for you physically, but also give you a wonderful way to loosen you up so you can break the ice and connect with someone new.
- Go on a date. With your partner, another couple, or with someone new who you’ve been wanting to get to know. Or anyone you feel would enhance your social connectivity.
- Socialize as a family. While this may seem like thing of the past due to the hectic pace of our lives today, families that take time out to meet with other families encourage social connectedness and family bonding. Have someone over for dinner and games and welcome back family time.
- Get out from in front of your TV or computer screen. Real world relationships are largely physical—you have to be face to face to really communicate well.
- Volunteer. Doing something that helps others will have a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself!
- Be a joiner. Find groups that will help reveal common interests and potential friends
- Write to your family members. Tell them how much you appreciate them.
- Call your friends. Don’t email them, call them. Just be there for those that you love.
Days 9-10: Balance Your Hormones
There is a direct link between hormones and brain chemicals for mood. If you are eating well, taking good supplements, sleeping, engaged in positive mind body practices, and you are still experience bad mood or anxiousness, it may be time to test for hormone imbalance and thyroid function.
Each hormone from the ovaries and thyroid serves literally hundreds of functions in the body, and they all work together to keep you balanced.
By the time a woman gets to menopause, she will have lost fifty percent or more of her female hormones. That’s enough to put any woman on edge. Couple that with increased stress demands of daily life, a sugar filled diet and lack of sleep, and you’ve got the potential for feeling crazy. And, women are not alone.
More men in there thirties are being seen in our medical practice with low levels of testosterone.
You should consider being tested for levels of the following hormones, which can have significant impact on your mood.
Learn more about or order your personalized male or female hormone testing kit (click here to order testing kit)
- Thyroid hormones: TSH, Free T4 and Free T3. There are others but these would be the first to consider. Ask to be balanced from the mid-to-upper end of the normal range for T3 and T4 and make sure that your TSH (signaling hormone from the brain) is lower than 3.0. Above that could indicate sub-clinical hypothyroidism, or low thyroid. This is one of the most common hormonal causes for depression, and insomnia.
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- Testosterone (free testosterone level) for men. Low levels of testosterone affects mood. It is something that can be easily checked and fixed by taking bio identical testosterone. Make sure that the free levels of testosterone are in the mid to upper end of normal limits.
- Estradiol for women. I call this the “nice hormone.” When women have low levels of estradiol, they can feel mean, crabby, or irritable. Consider this test if you are premenopausal or menopausal, and talk to your hormone specialist about what you can do naturally to increase your estradiol levels, including bio-identical hormones.
- Progesterone for women. I call this the “mood hormone.” Optimizing progesterone levels can greatly improve mood for many women and girls—
as well as some men. It is available in natural plant based forms and is beneficial in literally hundreds of ways. Don’t disregard the importance of progesterone, even if you have had a hysterectomy.
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Maintaining the proper balance of hormones will go a long way toward regulating and improving your mood, your emotional wellbeing, and your physical health.
There is no doubt that the pace of today’s hectic world has a very real and tangible effect on our moods. But, it doesn’t have to dictate how we feel. Though you may be stricken from time to time with feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or worry, it is important to remember that you do have the ability to lift yourself up, rise above what is happening in the moment, and invite hopefulness and joy into your life. You can change the course of your day, your general direction, and your circumstances and chart a new course that will ultimately improve your mood for the long haul. Your better self has not gone missing, it just needs you to slow down, practice healthier behaviors, and keep moving forward.
By following the practical advice in this program, you and your old self will be united and on the path to mood health and well being again.