ALIVE & FIT MAGAZINE Vol.15 Issue 57 Summer 2021: Nature’s Mental Health Pharmacy

Life can be a rollercoaster and riding the ups and downs is challenging. Covid created times of uncertainty, manifesting into fear for many. Some days fighting back tears is easier than smiling.Nobody feels amazing all the time. Being depressed is not a sign of weakness. A little down and feeling blue is normal from time to time, but when sadness takes over, its time to find a way to add pep back to your step. Shine like the bright star you are. The best doctors in the world are exercise, fresh air, sunshine, water, sleep, and diet. Living a long life includes ample amounts of simple uncomplicated happiness. Mother Nature provides us with the best remedies for feeling down in the dumps. The key to feeling aligned is a constant flow of the happy hormones.

Stocking up on key neurotransmitters and feel-good hormones is the health version of money in the bank. Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin are linked to overall health and well-being. 

Dopamine is an organic chemical produced by the body. Your nervous system uses dopamine to send messages between nerve cells. Increasing dopamine helps us feel satisfaction, pleasure, and motivation. Dopamine is often referred to as the reward chemical. Take time for self-care and celebrate small victories while dining on nutrient dense fabulous fare. Dancing to music you love and of course a great night’s sleep are two top-notch dopamine releasors. 

Serotonin is an indispensable chemical nerve cells produce. It sends signals between your nerve cells. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan, the same amino acid in turkey helping people snooze after the annual Thanksgiving feast. Serotonin impacts the whole body. A key mood stabilizer, helping reduce depression and anxiety, but also capable of healing wounds and maintaining bone health. Low levels of serotonin are linked to PMS and crazy carb cravings. Serotonin is found in the body’s stomach and intestines, helping regulate and support bowel function. Its imperative to maintain gut health with probiotics and feed the belly good bacteriawith fermented foods. Happy gut equals happy life! Serotonin is a magnificent mood regulator. Living a calmer, happier, and less anxious life is possible. Exercise, meditation, and relaxing music all increase serotonin, helping regulate mood swings. Living in the moment without sweating the small stuff is easier said than done, but a lifelong gamechanger. Increasing serotonin levels translates into sweet slumber.

Oxytocin is a key hormone, well-known for its role in labor and breastfeeding, but also vital to male reproduction. Oxytocin plays an integral part in building relationships, and often referred to as the love hormone. Oxytocin is also linked to sexual pleasure and social bonding. This feel-good hormone is opposite to the “fight or flight” hormone released in times of stress. Higher levels of oxytocin may have anti-aging and anti-obesity effects. Increasing oxytocin floods the body with love. Take time to cuddle, hug, and chat with loved ones. Practice self-preservationwith yoga, hot baths or a soothing massage. Spending time with loved ones, furry friends, and performing random acts of kindness without expectations is self-love. Essential oils have acalming soothing effect on the body, evoking feelings of love and peace. Rub sage or lavender on temples, burn candles, and combine your favorite essential oils with Epsom salts for a mood-boosting bath. Oxytocin is released by eating aphrodisiac foods, too. Dark chocolate, a cup of java, fatty cold-water fish, oysters, and even avocados help release the love hormone.

Endorphins are chemicals the body produces to relieve pain or stress. Endorphins are the holistic version of prescription anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers. Without the scary side effects and not lab manufactured, endorphins are natural and produced in the central nervous system. Low levels are associated with physical and emotional pain, fibromyalgia, and even addiction. Risk-taking behavior, alcohol, and drug use are one way people achieve a short-lived rush. Overindulging in decadent desserts is a mini endorphin surge due to the sugar. Its easy to ride the rollercoaster of feel-good releasing high calorie foods and ignore the impact in the short term, but exercise is a holistic lifestyle option long term. The runner’s high is an awesome and a very real thing. Schedule self-love or family date and watch a funny movie. Laughing is a great escape. Take a gentler approach with a hot rock massage or lose yourself in daily meditation. Endorphins are nature’s pain killers. 

The plan is simple and 6 key tools in your toolbox will have you feeling the flow of feel-good hormones sooner than you think. Exercise, fresh air, sunshine, water, sleep, and diet are your personal keys to unlock a daily dose of peace, love, and happiness.

Mother nature offers tranquility for the heart, soul, and mind. Turn off your personal device, get outside and enjoy your free gym membership. Fresh air is nature’s energy boost. Beautiful scenery enhances creativity. In about twenty minutes of exposure, the sun radiates a daily dose of happiness infused vitamin D. Sunlight helps regulate the release of valuable neurochemicals. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, an invaluable hormone needed to ensure quality shuteye. Nature is your personal diffuser. Cedar, pine, and fresh flower essence are major stupendous sources of stress busting aromatherapy. Hug a tree, pick wildflowers and wiggle your bare feet in water, sand, and dirt. Earthing or grounding is about making a physical connection with Mother Nature. The earth is essentially a battery with a frequency. The earth’s electrical current helps lower inflammation and blood pressure for starters. The calming connection of the earth’s electrons helps lower stress levels. A dose of fresh air, exercise and sunlight sets our circadian rhythm or sleep schedule. Sleep is essential for dealing with daily drama. Your bedroom should be a sleep sanctuary. Turn down the thermostat, use an eye mask, earplugs, and make sure all personal devices are set to airplane mode. Sleep is the key to catching all the curve balls life throws. Eating a nutrient dense diet provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support all the tasks your body performs day in and out. A plant-based diet with a variety of fresh and colorful produce equals a plateful of daily energy. Avoid high consumption of alcohol and overloading on java. The body builds up a tolerance, making loading up necessary to reap immediate rewards, but also more challenging to quit. 

Sometimes the blues linger, and supplements often offer a natural edge, getting you back on track. Having your doctor test vitamin D levels is a super start. Every person living north of the equator needs this crucial vitamin, no matter how divine their diet. The sunshine vitamin is stockpiled in the liver and by springtime stores are depleted.  Adding mushrooms, egg yolks, and wild fatty cold-water fish helps replenish stores. 

The gut-brain connection is real. Probiotics should be taken consistently. Fermented foods are your friend. Kombucha, tempeh, miso, and unpasteurized sauerkraut and apple cider vinegar feed the belly good bacteria.

Vitamin B6 is a key vitamin needed to synthesize dopamine and serotonin. Chicken, liver, and plant-based favorites bananas, sweet potato, avocado, chickpeas, and bananas are first-class choices. 

Magnesium is depleted daily from sweat, stress, and due to a slew of other reasons. Magnesium, a key electrolyte, must be replenished. Magnesium is a part of the trio of essential electrolytes working together to help maintain healthy blood pressure. It also helps regulate blood sugar, stabilizing the ups and downs of sugar crashes. Magnesium is a great pre-bedtime addition, helping relax muscles while sleeping. Magnesium is the answer for a final farewell to restless leg syndrome. A rainbow of fresh produce provides mega-amounts of magnesium. Look for fabulous flavors of powdered magnesium to help support daily water intake.

GABA a is a natural occurring chemical in the brain, invoking feelings of calmness. Gabba aids in falling asleep and staying asleep. Supplementing with GABA helps boost the brain’s levels and helps address anxiety, as well as sleep disturbances.

Stress underlines life’s battles, disrupting slumber.  Sleep deprivation impacts coping mechanisms. Following a sleep protocol supports shuteye. Cool room, eye mask, ear plugs, and lavender on temples and the soles of feet sets the mood. Eliminating blue light and personal devices is non-negotiable. When all else fails, supporting stress with herbs is helpful.

Ashwagandha, holy basil, and rhodiola are non-toxic plants, referred to as adaptogens. These herbs have been used for centuries to address acute or chronic stress, as well as anxiety. Available in tincture, powder, tea bags or an array of herbs combined in capsule form are a great go-to. Herbs are natural and not a quick fix, so a bit of patience is required. Throughout history,St. John’s wort was a popular plant for addressing depression and still a popular pick.

Take a pass on endless cups of coffee, opt for calming chamomile, lavender, and passionflowerteas.

Vitamins, minerals and herbs are natural, but a contraindication with medication is always a possibility. Consult with your Medical Doctor or Naturopath before adding anything new to your protocol.

Putting the needs of everyone else before our own is a recipe for disaster. Its impossible to please everyone. Learn to say, “No”. Learn to say, “Yes”. Trust your gut feeling. Let go of what you can not control. Run from drama and negativity. Most importantly, protect your peace. Be mindful of the things you put into your body, not just the foods you eat. Be mindful of what your body receives emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Speak kindly to yourself. Love yourself inside and out. Reach out for help, there is no shame in asking for support.