When I ask my nutrition patients what makes them happy, for most they describe happiness as a feeling of physical and mental balance. When we are happy we all radiate health. People say we are glowing. In fact, we feel like we are glowing!
Feeling unhealthy or ill is certainly one of the major reasons for people to feel low, down, depressed, frustrated, and even angry. Physical symptoms can range from headaches, aches and pains, stomach and/or digestive issues, to physical and emotional exhaustion.
These stress factors often wreak havoc on people in their daily lives and on their health. So how do we break this vicious circle and naturally increase our happiness and well-being?
90% of serotonin—our feel-good hormone—is produced in the gut from a dietary amino acid called tryptophan. It's a very important neurotransmitter that relays signals throughout the brain. Of the more than 40 million brain cells, most of the brain functions are influenced in some way by serotonin, including sleep, mood, sexual desire, appetite, and social behavior.
1. Eat whole foods for a happy heart
Certain foods, particularly those with tryptophan, can make you feel good, not only in a comforting way but also on a hormonal level. Eating a balanced, whole food diet with small amounts of animal products is one of the key elements to keeping us feeling good.
Studies show that tryptophan depletion can alter the judgement of intimacy in romantic relationships, so it could help you feel more connected to your partner.
Eat a diet of mostly vegetables and fruits like pineapple, along with soybeans, oatmeal, chia seeds, pepitas, nuts, salmon, and a little turkey. Avoid sugar, milk products, and processed food.
2. Exercise for a happy body
Exercise can help to improve mood and raise serotonin levels.
Moderate exercise also makes you feel physically better, more in touch with your body, and helps to decrease stress. Being in a stressed state causes the body to release adrenalin and cortisol, which make you less patient and less able to connect.
These should only be released when you are under threat. So leave the stressors behind and rid your body of these hormones by running or biking, or by whatever physical activity you enjoy doing.
Try exercising after work with your partner or a friend. You’ll feel more energetic and happier together, as well as giving each other the incentive to keep going.
Start slowly though! This is the most important thing I tell my patients. From zero to 100 can be counter-productive.
3. Get sunlight for a happy soul
Sunlight makes us happy because it increases serotonin in the brain, particularly on bright days, but even in winter. We know it can treat seasonal depression, but studies show that it can also be effective for other forms of depression.
Compared to decades ago, when life was more agriculturally based, we live in a sunlight-deprived society. If you are feeling frustrated or upset, go outside the morning, for lunch, and after work. Increased exposure to bright light makes people less argumentative and generally in higher spirits.
You can buy a special lux lamp for fall and winter, but if you can, there is nothing like the real thing.
4. Micronutrients and probiotics for a happy brain and gut
Make sure you have vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to supplement your morning routine.
They help to fuel brain, nourish your immune system, feed your gut with essential bacteria, and bring you back into balance, both mentally and physically. This will allow you to better cope with any stressful environment you find yourself in.
Buy eating a whole foods diet, you'll be getting the essential micronutrients needed for a physical and mental health.
Give your gut probiotics to nourish the brain—a healthy gut helps your brain know what’s what by sending the right signals to the brain.
Feeling healthy, as a definition by the World Health Organization, describes health not only as physical health, but also emotional and mental health, and only with all three can you truly be healthy.
Becoming healthy in the body will spill over into your work and personal life!