How To Combat Depression With Healthy Choices

How To Combat Depression

In the midst of the global pandemic many people’s mental health has been put to the test, with gyms being closed it has led to the lack of an outlet for many and for some this has led to anxiety and depression, and for many it has led to suicide.

According to the Washington Post we won’t know the true extent of the US suicide count during the pandemic for at least two years, but in Japan it is a whole different story, as government statistics show suicide claimed more lives in October 2020 than Covid-19 has over the entire year to date.

Numbers via Japan’s National Police Agency:

Oct 2020 suicide rate – 2.153

Oct 2020 – Covid fatality rate – 2,087

And according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper,the Samaritans, which is a  UK based charity aimed at providing emotional support, found that calls during the COVID 19 had  exacerbated known risk factors for people already vulnerable.

As well as that, since restrictions began, the Samaritans answered more than a quarter of a million emails – a 37% increase compared to the same time last year.

From a personal perspective for me there is no better stress reliever than hitting the weight room, but I know that isn’t currently possible for everyone as each state and country have various restrictions limiting what you can and cannot do. So my aim here is to showcase other alternatives to help relieve anxiety and stress until normal existence and the gyms are open for business once again.

So let’s look at ways in which you can elevate your mood.

How to elevate your mood:

So how do you get out of a slump? Well. there are very simple ways to help elevate your mood. 

There are four main chemicals in your brain, and they are responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure, and these hormones are: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. 

  1. Dopamine – this hormone is associated with pleasurable sensations but it is also important in physical movement but is also crucial to your general well-being, and it also influences motivation.

How to increase dopamine levels:

  • Tyrosine – is an amino acid that is naturally produced in the body. Foods high in dopamine include:

Nuts, Beans, Whole grains, Soy beans, Beef, Lamb, Cheese, Dairy

  • Green Tea (helps increase increase dopamine and serotonin)
  • Probiotics (helps increase increase dopamine and serotonin)
  1. Serotonin – this hormone helps regulate sleep, appetite and your mood, and there is research to show that low serotonin levels is linked to depression. Over 90% of your serotonin levels are located in the gut and aids in the movement of the digestive system.

How to increase serotonin levels:

  • Green Tea and green tea extract (increases serotonin and also dopamine). A 2013 study found that drinking green tea ‘leads to lower post-stress cortisol and greater subjective relaxation’ Researchers found that  in a healthy Korean, green tea drinking population, those who drank green tea were 21% less likely to develop depression over non green tea drinkers.
  • Probiotics (again also helps increase serotonin and dopamine) – as mentioned earlier over 90% of your serotonin is located in your gut so probiotics makes sense.
  • Tryptophan – (increases serotonin)

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and the liver can use it to produce niacin (vitamin b3) which is required for DNA repair and  energy metabolism. Food high in tryptophan include:

Tofu, Soy, Eggs, Cheese, Fish, Peanuts,Pumpkin seeds, Sesame seeds, Milk, Turkey, Chocolate, Kiwi, Pineapples.

  • CBD – a 2014 study found that at high concentrations, CBD directly activates the 5-HT1A (hydroxytryptamine) serotonin receptor, and ‘exhibited an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects’.
  1. Oxytocin – this hormone helps promote social bonding and sexual pleasures, hence why it is also referred to as the ‘love hormone’.

How to increase oxytocin levels:

  • Yoga – a 2013 study found that a ‘yoga therapy group showed a significant improvement in socio-occupational functioning, and plasma increase in oxytocin levels.
  • Meditation – (increases oxytocin but also links to dopamine and even endorphin increase). This is a great way to relax the body and the mind and when you are not in fight or flight mode.
  • Music – a study from 2009 found that ‘listening to music during bed rest after open-heart surgery has some effects on the relaxation system as regards s-oxytocin and subjective relaxations levels. This effect seems to have a causal relation from the psychological (music makes patients relaxed) to the physical (oxytocin release)’.
  • Magnesium – magnesium rich foods help the oxytocin receptor to function well and magnesium rich foods include:

Pumpkin, Avocado, Dark Chocolate, Spinach, Nuts, Legumes, Tofu, Bananas

  1. Endorphins. – this hormone triggers positive feelings and is associated with the sense of well being and also pain relief. The levels increase when you partake in reward producing activities such as working out

How to increase endorphin levels:

  • Exercise – often referred to as runners high, endorphins are increased after exercise, and this doesn’t have to be a gym session, it can even be a simple stroll in the park. The American Psychological Association also says exercise helps your brain cope better with stress
  • Vitamin C – antioxidants such as vitamin C at high concentrations can increase endorphin levels (and dopamine)
  • Hot Chili Peppers – when eating a hot chili pepper the body ‘defends’ itself against the heat of spicy foods, so it releases endorphins to act as a painkiller. The thing that makes chilies hot is a chemical compound called capsaicin, and that is what causes the burning sensation, and essentially that is what triggers endorphins to be released

Please continue to stay safe and look after your minds as well as your bodies

If you are having suicidal thoughts and need to speak with someone then please contact:

Samaritans: https://samaritanshope.org/

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Tethr: https://www.tethr.men/content-tags/suicide

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4352

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/11/23/covid-pandemic-rise-suicides/\

https://abc7news.com/japan-suicides-suicide-rates-covid-women/8359064/

https://www.psycom.net/covid-19-suicide-rates

https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/suicide-and-self-harm/apparent-suicide-rates-did-not-increase-during-covid-19-pandemic/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/01/male-suicide-rate-england-wales-covid-19

http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=51861

https://www.samaritans.org/news/government-must-focus-suicide-prevention-following-impact-covid-19/

https://www.samaritans.org/about-samaritans/research-policy/understanding-our-callers-during-covid-19-pandemic/

Coffee/ Tea – https://www.thehealthy.com/home-remedies/overcoming-depression/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201500620

Kiwi – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728667/

https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-tryptophan

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728667/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29164993/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25390009/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3638388/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23625424/#:~:text=An%20increase%20in%20dopamine%20and,serotonin%20and%2For%20dopamine%20metabolism.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00518/full

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/9/1201

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-006-0573-2

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/probiotics-may-help-boost-mood-and-cognitive-function

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5319175/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4728667/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00426-017-0957-4#:~:text=Foods%20high%20in%20dietary%20tyrosine,%2C%20beans%2C%20and%20whole%20grain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768223/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11958969/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6784812/#:~:text=Psychologic%20stimulation%2C%20such%20as%20by,2).

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19583647/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1135623/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24923339/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3372568/

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Mehmet Edip
Mehmet Edip is a fitness writer, actor, and model who has worked in the industry for over 8 years. He focuses on achieving his physique through an all natural plant-based diet and shares his insight via his workout & nutrition guides.