Sneaky reasons behind low mood
Let's be honest, who can't relate to that feeling of getting out of bed on the wrong side, feeling grouchy and lethargic and wanting it to be time for bed again before the day has even started?!
I am sure we all have days of the 'unders': under active, under pressure and under a cloud as well as the 'overs': overburdened, overtired and overwhelmed!
The point is that whilst these should pass fairly quickly of their own accord, we can make life much easier for ourselves by being aware of some of the sneakier reasons behind a low mood.
There are many reasons behind low mood and some of these may surprise you...
1. The sun, too little or too much!
The weather, good or bad can have an impact on our mood.
Vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunlight is not uncommon these days and if you think you might suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder do ask your GP to check your vitamin D levels.
Less considered perhaps is that whilst the sun is a joy to behold when it shines in the sky, too much heat or humidity can also adversely impact our mood if we rush around, get overexposed, dehydrated, lethargic and sleep poorly as a result.
2. Feeling thirsty
By the time we notice that we are thirsty we are already likely to be dehydrated and according to a group of scientists from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory, even mild dehydration, as a result of our ordinary daily activities, can alter a person’s mood, energy levels and memory function.
Women are considered to be even more susceptible than men to the adverse effects of low hydration levels!
3. Bunged up and bloated
Dehydration, whether through forgetting to drink water or as a result of drinking too much caffeine and alcohol (which deplete fluid levels) can also contribute to the poor progress of poo through our internal pipes leaving us bunged up and bloated.
Those who are familiar with digestive discomfort will know all too well the impact on both body and mood of gaseous gunge that can't get out! If you relate to this you may also benefit from a gentle detox.
4. Food intolerances
While we are on the subject of troubled tummies, intolerances to foods are also associated with a range of mind and body symptoms including abdominal pain, joint pain, allergic reactions as well as mood swings, brain fog, poor concentration and anxiety to name but a few.
If you suffer regularly try keeping a food diary to monitor the effects of the foods you eat and seek out the help of a nutritional therapist if you can't see the wood for the trees.
5. Nutrient deficiency
Deficiencies of vitamin D, the B vitamins (particularly B6, B12 and folate), magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids can all lead to feelings of low mood and anxiety. Try introducing more foods rich in these nutrients into your diet to see if symptoms improve.
Eat a rainbow: As far as possible choose five to eight servings a day of the brightest, most colourful fruits and vegetables you can find to help ensure that you consume plenty of essential nutrients.
6. Skipped meals and high sugar intakes
The levels of glucose in our blood needs to remain stable for our mood to follow suit.
If we miss a meal or binge on sugar and refined foods our blood sugar levels will rise and fall like a roller coaster and our mood is likely to match! It is such a vicious circle to reach for the quick sugar fix (because we are too tired to find or make a healthier snack) then hit the high followed by the crash.
What you may not know is that the sugar fix also depletes magnesium, leaving us open to even higher stress and a lower pain threshold since our nervous system requires lots of magnesium to function properly.
I love the old adage: 'eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dine like a pauper.' Whilst this is a great thing to do to maintain a stable mood all day, some people fare better from regular smaller meals and light snacks.
Remember that night-time often means long hours without nourishment too so an oatcake or two before bed can help stabilise blood sugar and avoid 'getting out of bed on the wrong side' the next day.
7. Poor sleep and being overtired
Poor sleep and getting over tired are both detrimental to mood. Those who suffer already with stress are often the same people who get to bed too late and then sleep poorly through the night, putting even more strain on the adrenal glands.
Learning to pace ourselves and not get too tired in the first place as well as having as many early nights as possible is likely to boost mood.
The call of caffeine should also be avoided since it sets off another vicious circle: Caffeine depletes potassium and blocks the uptake of iron which in turn leads to longer term fatigue as the iron and oxygen cannot circulate around the body.
More fatigue leads to more low mood which leads to more caffeine and sugar intake which leads to depletion of vital vitamins and minerals which leads us right back to more stress and low mood!
Get the body moving instead so the oxygen can circulate and the exercise regime can help induce healthy sleep and recuperation.
8. Overdoing or undergoing it?
We all have heaps to do these days, whether at home or at work and it is easy to get into a 'driven' mode thinking we will rest when we have achieved just one more task and then just one more.
Whether you are glued to your screen, racing through chores or simply tackling your neverending to do list, 'too much work makes Jack a dull boy!' We get bored and boring and need to keep life balanced with plenty of rest, fresh air and making space for the loves (people, places and hobbies) in our lives.
Similarly, don't underestimate the effect of too little focus on a low mood. If we become isolated, keep our social circle too small or our interests too few, we are equally likely to suffer with low mood.
9. What does your home say?
Our outer environment tends to reflect our inner environment so if you feel low in mood take a look around your home and take note of how it makes you feel.
Do you have too much stuff (or too little!)? Are the rooms tidy or cluttered? Is it your haven of peace of your cavern of clutter? Have things been in the same place for years? Which colours have you chosen for the walls?
Clearing clutter, getting more organised, painting a room or moving furniture can all have an uplifting effect on mood and help to reduce stress and anxiety.
10. Who do you hang out with?
Ever heard the saying, 'stick with the winners?' Ever noticed that you feel different after spending time in someone's company, either better or worse?
Who we spend time with can affect how we feel and if we spend time with people whose world view tends to be low and negative we are likely to feel pulled down by them.
It is only human to feel low sometimes but there is a big difference between people who take good self care seriously and opt for positive action and those who seem to regularly fall into self defeating traps.
If you are having a tough time, look for a role model who has been there and come through the other side. Inspirational people are all around us and usually more than willing to share their stories.
How to lift your low mood
If you need an extra lift to get you back on track try Hyperiforce St. John's Wort to help encourage an emotional shift from low and fearful to happy and cheerful. Making some simple lifestyle changes is also an important first step in helping improve your mood.
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Originally written on 30/04/2015, updated on 20/09/2018.