Happiness has been the subject of philosophical discussions for centuries, and many spend their entire lives trying to obtain it. But happiness on a day-to-day basis can really be boiled down to a simple idea - being in a good mood. When you’re in a positive mood, you feel better and life’s stressors don’t negatively impact you as much.
Also, mood is directly tied to productivity. This is apparent just from observational evidence. Think of someone who enjoys their job and truly feels that they’re making a difference. This individual is likely much more productive than someone who dreads going to work each day or believes themselves to be in a dead-end career. When you feel better, you get more done.
So how can you naturally enhance your mood to be more productive, to strengthen relationships with those around you, and to just generally be happier? There are several excellent methods, and three of the most effective ways of improving your daily mood are solid nutrition, fitness and nootropic supplements.
Modern research has opened many doors into understanding the exact types and amounts of nutrients that the human body and brain need for optimal function. Unfortunately, scientists and physicians have found that the typical contemporary Western diet—which is high in simple sugars and fats—is extremely unhealthy. In fact, a 2012 UCLA study found that high-sugar diets harm the brain and its cognitive abilities. However, omega 3 fatty acids can offset this damage. Therefore, when trying to improve your happiness, diet and nutrition play a huge role. A diet rich in certain fatty acids and fiber, for example, will help you reach your maximum cognitive and mood potential.
A comprehensive literature review appearing in the journal Neural Plasticity outlines the benefits of two omega 3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These two compounds have shown positive effects on cognitive function in animal studies. Additionally, DHA and EPA reduce anxiety and reactions to stress in animal models and have lowered stress in human studies.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods like salmon, fresh tuna, walnuts and olive oil. People who consume greater amounts of fish often have higher omega 3 levels than those who don’t. Not a fan of seafood? That’s no problem - omega 3 is readily available in convenient supplements.
Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds present in several foods. They neutralize free radicals, harmful particles that can damage cells. The Neural Plasticity review mentioned above also examined studies on the benefits of polyphenols, specifically their role in brain plasticity and mood. While there are currently no extensive studies on the effects on polyphenols in humans, animal models show encouraging results. Rats given polyphenols were more resistant to the effects of depression, and certain polyphenols even stabilized dropping levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline.
Renowned biohacker and nootropics guru, Dave Asprey, also endorses polyphenols on his blog to keep your brain “young.” He notes that these compounds can be found in dark green vegetables, green tea, coffee, blueberries and pomegranates.
Ever hear of a runner’s high? This term refers to the positive, slightly euphoric feeling that many experience during a strenuous workout or run. This sensation is due to the release of hormones called endorphins. Endorphins bind to opiate receptors in the brain, providing mild pain relief. Endorphin release is the reason for the “second wind” that many athletes experience during their performance.
Endorphins also act as stress relief. This is one reason why regular exercise is so important for positive mood. The endorphin effect can last throughout the day, allowing you to better handle stress and keeping you relaxed.
Nootropic supplements, natural compounds that improve cognitive function and enhance mood, are another way of ensuring day-to-day happiness. Most work to improve your mood by providing precursors to certain neurotransmitters. Your body and brain then naturally metabolize these precursors to raise neurotransmitter levels. Here are some examples:
L-tyrosine - This amino acid helps to produce both serotonin and dopamine. L-tyrosine can help you maintain a good mood through daily problems and stress.
Panax ginseng - Used for centuries in traditional medicine, this form of ginseng is used for both cognitive and mood enhancement. It may be taken as a supplement or added to your diet on a daily basis.
Vitamin D - Millions of Americans are vitamin D deficient due to our modern lifestyles. We spend so much time indoors that we often don’t get enough sunlight, which is necessary to metabolize vitamin D from dietary sources. This is a serious problem since vitamin D is essential for strong bones, cardiovascular health and mood enhancement.
Incorporating these methods into your daily routines will help enhance your mood and, which in turn, creates the right environment for happiness. While using one of these methods will usually have profound results in your daily life, using a combination of these methods will multiply the positive effects.