Mood Regulation

Written on November 10, 2008. Written by .

Entrance to the Ents World
Finding stability through lifestyle choices.
Photo courtesy of Doblonaut

Methods for improving life quality can be split into two categories: external and internal. External methods attempt to change the world to better suit your needs, whereas internal methods are cause you to change yourself to better suit your conditions. You will never have complete control over the world or yourself, but you will always have some degree of control over both, which you can exploit to your benefit. When it comes to internal methods, a huge factor is your mental state or mood. Mood can be broken down into several categories including energy level, confidence level, and motivation level. However these are not usually independent levels, they tend to run together in an upward (or downward) spiral sort of fashion. Furthermore, oscillating mood levels is possibly the main source of cyclic psychology. For example, your decision to make a risky investment might sound like a great idea when your confidence level is high, but it could look less appealing if your confidence level falls. The same doubts could have arisen from the rational realization of new information, but that seems to be less common. So to minimize cyclic psychology and get yourself on the upward spiral, working on mood regulation is a good starting point.

Cognitive therapy has been conclusively shown to improve the mood of depressed patients according to many psychologists. Since cognitive therapy is merely a way of training people to promote more positive thoughts, this essentially proves that mental habits play a large roll in determining mood. This topic will be saved for a later post. Meditation can also be useful for mood regulation as was discussed in a previous post.

It is also widely accepting that biochemical factors play a very significant roll. These biochemical factors are affected by genetics, illness, sleep, diet, and exercise. We don’t have any control over our genetics, and we only have limited control over illness, so we might as well just focus on the others. Sleep is crucial for a good mood, though different people have very different needs. This topic will also be saved for a later post.

Exercise and diet both affect mood through the production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. Selenium and Vitamins B and D have been linked to serotonin production [source], so it is important to be sure that your diet is not deficient in these. Another primary factor is carbohydrates since glucose is required in the brain to produce serotonin. Experiments indicate that low levels of carbohydrates produce negative moods, probably due to decreased serotonin production. This also explains why eating too many carbohydrates will decrease your energy level—serotonin calms you down and will act like a tranquilizer.

To stabilize mood, you need to be sure to keep your blood glucose level stable by eating regulary (don’t skip meals) and eating low-glycemic index foods (not sugars). Also, minimize caffeine and alcohol since these cause crashes. Other nutrients that have been linked to mood enhancement include omega 3 fatty acids and folic acid [source]. Experiments find that depressed individuals tend to have lower levels of these nutrients in their systems and some tests show that supplementation can help to relieve their depression symptoms.

One source advocates eating early (before 7pm) so that digestion will not interfere with sleep [source]. Another source found a correlation between increased fat intake and higher moods [source]. I hope to learn more and post about this topic again in the future.

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