The reality of life is that we can’t always bring the fun to the party. We can’t be expected to show up every moment of the day wearing our best happy face, especially when we recognize the inauthenticity of this act when we’re really just playing the role of happy to please others. For those of us who make a living by creating content and manifesting creative ideas into work (myself included), prolonged periods of depressed mood is a huge hindrance our ability to use our assets when they are needed. This lack of consistency can turn into a nightmare and prevent you from being the best version of yourself – trust me, I’ve been there.
Some strategies to promote positive mood and foster creativity that I’ve found successful have ranged from walks in nature and breathing exercises, to exercise and forcing a change of scenery. Sometimes all you need is to get the blood flowing, change your surroundings temporarily, and appreciate an altered perspective to boost and stimulate your mind. However, sometimes this just doesn’t cut it. But rather than attempting to fill the void with a pharmaceutical or a substance that will later cause you to crash, consider a possible alternative – a more natural remedy to promoting positive mood.
What are Natural Mood Enhancers?
There exists a myriad of vitamins, supplements, and herbs out there that claim to boost mood and increase happiness. But what do these substances really do? What does it mean to be a “natural mood enhancer?”
A natural mood enhancer is any substance derived by natural means from plants that has an effect on mood. Just having plants around you and living a greener lifestyle will obviously offer psychological benefits, but the act of caring for your plants can also help decrease stress and anxiety. Generally speaking, mood-enhancing herbs and natural compounds can be an effective way to balance out mental discomfort, aid in adapting to stressful situations, and even make it easier to focus on the tasks at hand. While these supplements are not produced in pharmaceutical settings, sometimes they are even recommended by medical doctors to aid in holistic healing, recovery, and promote the overall wellness of an individual.
So, what are some of the best natural mood enhancers for both creativity and happiness?
1. Valerian Root
This plant is commonly regarded as nature’s natural antidepressant. Not only has it been used for centuries to calm the mind and promote restful sleep, but it also contains a number of compounds that have been known to reduce the breakdown of certain chemicals in the brain, resulting in decreases in anxiety and stress. In fact, some studies have shown Valerenic acid (found in Valerian Root) have similar effects on the brain to Valium and Xanax, without causing dependency, addiction, or other negative side effects common to pharmaceuticals. In addition to promoting relaxation and inhibiting stress, studies have found that Valerian Root also assists with focus and concentration.
2. St. John’s Wort
For anyone familiar with natural mood boosters derived from herbs, St. John’s Wort might be the most recognizable. This plant’s use in medicine can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, and was actually named after John the Baptist. Coincidentally, the bright yellow flowers of the plant blooms around the same time as the feast of St. John in late June. St. John’s Wort is most commonly used to combat depression, while others use it to help heal wounds, reduce insomnia, and even help those with kidney conditions. Some studies even support the notion that St. John’s Wort is not only as effective as many pharmaceutical treatments for depression, but have far fewer side effects. However, even though St. John’s Wort is natural, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s harmless. If you are taking any prescribed medications for anxiety, depression, or other conditions effecting mood, consult with your doctor to find out if there are any potential adverse drug interactions.
3. Kava Kava
This plant has been a celebrated homeopathic substance used for hundreds of years by Pacific Islanders. This evergreen shrub flourishes in tropical climates, and is traditionally consumed in a drink resulting from grinding the plant into a paste and mixing with water. Studies have shown that Kava Kava can effectively be used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety with few or no adverse side effects. Another fascinating thing about Kava Kava is that it has also been studied to protect the brain and its neurons from degenerative cognitive diseases and conditions.
My personal favorite natural mood enhancer is Ashwagandha – an ancient ayurvedic herb that provides many benefits to both the brain and body. Due to its chemical makeup, it has been found to improve focus and increase energy levels, all while reducing stress. The plant, which is a small yellow-flowered plant native to North Africa and India, can be harvested for powder extracts from the plant’s leaves and roots. Do you ever feel that the stress weighing on your shoulders is holding you back from being your most creative self? Studies have also shown that Ashwagandha significantly reduces cortisol levels in the blood (a chemical byproduct indicative of stress).
5. L Theanine
This is a naturally-occurring amino acid commonly found in tea leaves, so you are most likely consuming small amounts of it if you drink green or black tea regularly. While you typically consume it in smaller doses if you’re just getting it from tea alone, it can have more dramatic effects on your mental state when taken as a supplement. In fact, studies reveal that L Theanine has the ability to relax the mind without inducing drowsiness – an ideal benefit for those who want to reduce stress levels while staying focused.
6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (found in Fish Oil)
That’s right – those who reap the benefits fish oil has on the heart might also be enjoying the natural enhancement it has on mood. There has been a significant number of studies and research that has revealed the positive impact fish oil has on those suffering from depression. Interestingly enough, fish oil has also been studied to increase attention and focus in children with specific learning difficulties.
This hard-to-pronounce compound isn’t as complicated as it reads – it’s a naturally-occurring amino acid that is found in many of the foods you eat. While your body produces some Phenylalanine on its own, you rely on your intake of food to obtain the amount you need (unless you already take it as a supplement). Not only is this compound used for pain and skin disorders, but years of research supports the fact that Phenylalanine has successfully helped to boost mood and reduce the symptoms of depression.
Any list about natural mood enhancers isn’t complete without the mention of 5-HTP. This common amino acid is used by the body to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes activity between your brain cells. When people have low levels of serotonin, health problems such as unwanted weight gain, increases in anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders may occur. 5-HTP has been studied to significantly reduce the symptoms of depression, presumably because it helps increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. Additionally, people who take 5-HTP as a regular supplement might also benefit from its weight-regulatory effects. Some studies have shown that 5-HTP has helped with weight loss in obese individuals.