Boost Your Mood with Food—and More
During this strange time, we’re all experiencing a wide range of emotions and concerns. And while food can’t solve all our problems, there’s no doubt that what’s at the end of your fork impacts how you feel, which then affects everything else.
Since we all could use some simple ways to lift our spirits and give us uplifting energy throughout the day, let’s start piling mood-boosting foods onto our plates. The best part? You don’t need to make “a plan” or wait until Monday. You can begin right now with your very next meal!
How to Choose Mood-Boosting Foods
Create a Colorful Plate
No surprise here: eating the rainbow both looks and feels great! Adding more colorful ingredients to your meals is instantly uplifting. It is truly the easiest place to start—to have more fun, without counting, measuring, or feeling totally stressed by “rules!”
From vibrant spring hues (looking at you, green asparagus, red rhubarb, and orange carrots!) to wholesome leafy green veggies and nutrient-rich colorful berries, when you pack your plate like an artist’s palette, your visually vibrant meal will energize you more than a bland colorless one ever could.
Focus on Uplifting Foods
Once you have a colorful base, add a few ingredients that are known for their rejuvenating or energizing properties. Healthy fats from avocados, nuts and seeds, homemade nut butter, or fatty fish help fight free radicals while balancing your blood sugar. Legumes can support and boost the production of the happiness hormone serotonin. Beets can increase your mood with a hefty dose of folate. And seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp are rich in depression-fighting omega-3s.
Other mood-boosting foods include L-theanine-packed matcha tea, B vitamin-rich Brazil nuts, and polyphenol-loaded dark chocolate. (No joke!) Meals that include just a few of these ingredients can make you feel immediately revitalized and restored. And besides being loaded with good-for-you nutrients, they happen to taste amazing, too!
Just like certain foods can help you feel uplifted, vibrant, energized, and alive, other foods make it harder to be the happiest version of yourself.
Specifically, heavily processed food can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional wellbeing. You might feel tired, sluggish, sad, or anxious. This doesn’t mean these foods are “evil” or “bad” or that you should “never” have them. It’s just good to be aware of how these foods make you feel, so you can make empowered choices throughout the day.
Go with Your Gut
Here we go again with those gut-healing foods, I know! I’ve written a lot about the “brain in your belly” and how keeping your gut happy is directly related to your mind and your mood. With an estimated 90 percent (or more!) of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin manufactured in our digestive tracts, it’s no wonder when you improve your gastrointestinal health, you simultaneously improve your mental health, too! Integrate probiotics, fermented foods, and lots of plant fiber into your gut-healing protocol for maximum impact on your happiness level.
De-Stress with Magnesium
No happiness-inducing food post would be complete without the anti-stress mineral! Magnesium helps you release tension and sleep better. And when you’re relaxed and well-rested, you’re more likely to have a positive outlook on life!
A few easy ways to load up on this miracle nutrient? Toss arugula or kale into big salads, add avocado to your meals from your smoothies to dips to desserts, spread nut butter onto whole-grain toast (grown-up PB & J, anyone?), and whip up some banana nice cream for dessert! And good news: Chocolate is an easy-to-eat source of magnesium, too!
Beyond the Plate: Boost Your Mood in the Rest of Your Life Too
Head Out in Nature
Whether we consciously realize it, or not, our bodies are starving for nature. Scientific studies have proven that spending time in nature makes you calmer, happier, more energized, and gives you a clearer mind. Dopamine (a mood-boosting chemical) goes up. Cortisol (stress hormone) levels go down. Immunity function increases. And scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety, and confusion decrease as well. Bottom line: nature is powerful medicine!
Add Pops of Color
Color is not just for your food! When you pick out your clothes in the morning, reach for something more than basic black. Adding brightness also applies to your surroundings: Treat yourself to some gorgeous fresh-cut flowers to lend a bold burst to your kitchen or office. Channel happiness all around you by adding color to your life both on and off the plate.
When your home is filled with stuff, it’s easy to feel weighed down and overwhelmed. Nothing impacts my energy quite like an overwhelming pile of disorganized messiness! Reorganizing your environment can immediately serve as a real mood-booster, and creating a serene scene is especially helpful right now. So, spend a little time tidying up and releasing anything that doesn’t serve you. Remember, when you lighten up your space, you lighten up your mind. This podcast episode can help!
Need some motivation to move? Here it is: When we move around (in any way), we’re more patient, more focused, and more relaxed. Movement releases endorphins, which can reduce stress, bust bad moods, and promote restful sleep. Exercise of any kind also strengthens the mind-body connection, so you can tune into how you’re truly feeling.
Perform a Random Act of Kindness
The best kind of happiness is the kind that’s shared! Look for little opportunities to bring joy to those around you: compliment your child on a job well done, purchase from companies that donate proceeds to the front line, or hand-write a postcard to a sick or faraway friend. When you send happiness out into the world, you’ll find it surrounding you more than ever. Never underestimate the power of making someone else’s day to lift your own.
Even now, we can find easy (and delicious!) ways to bring more joy to your plate and to your life. Try it and see just how powerful it can be to choose your food to influence your mood!