April 06, 2020 7 min read

Much of what we do, day-in and day-out, revolves around our moods and the ways we attempt to manage them. Your mood systems, as we sometimes refer to them, reflect your physical as well as your psychological being. If you ask the average person what causes mood, they will often tell you that events and circumstances control our moods: "She was rude to me", "The train broke down", "It put me in a mood." However, events and circumstances are often random, but our moods are closely related to how much sleep we had, what foods we are eating, gut health, what kind of exercise we afford ourselves, body posture, and even lighting. Our moods are correlated with brief biochemical reactions in our brain; hormones coursing through our bodies in differing concentrations at one time or another, blood sugar levels, muscle tension, and a host of other shifting physiological reactions - rather than factors often outside of our control. 


So it’s no surprise that there is a correlation between mood and energy levels, energy levels and productivity. Moods change. Events and circumstances do influence mood, but they happen on top of a biological structure that gives them greater or less importance. So let's look at ways we can make positive changes to our mood, so that we can better sustain those energy levels, and ultimately, lead a more productive life.    


Mood and Energy  

When we talk about energy, we’re not talking about short, pronounced bursts, often bought-on by stimulants - such as caffeine, taurine, ginseng, guarana, etc. - only to plummet minutes later. Sustained energy can lead to a sense of calm, and bring about equilibrium in the body. When we are calm and still, our ability to focus is enhanced: our train of thought can be maintained; problem-solving becomes achievable, and we are far more rational. This is fundamentally why equilibrium in our mood enables us to regulate our energy levels more successfully.


Consider the last time you wound-up in bed with a ‘stomach bug’ in the foetal position, drenched in self-pity. This is known as “sickness behaviour”, and it’s a form of short term depression. The bacteria infecting you aren’t just making you feel nauseous, they are controlling your mood too. Strange to conceptualise: bacteria in your gut and your feelings are generated in your brain. In fact, this is just an inkling of the power that microbes have over our emotions. 


Organisms in the gut have more recently been implicated in conditions that affect your mood, particularly depression and anxiety. The upside of better understanding this correlation is that bacteria doesn’t just make you feel lousy; the right ones can enhance your mood. According to Harvard Medical School 90% of the serotonin receptors are located in the gut.


But how can we improve our gut health? It may not come as a surprise, but the food we eat has drastic implications for how bacteria evolve in our gut. Our body is particularly good at producing ‘good’ bacteria, but it also needs help from vitamins and minerals that we can’t always produce naturally. Here’re some of the foods that we can rely on to give the gut a fighting chance of restoring order, which will lead to more positive, stable moods.

1. Dark chocolate
The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce nitric oxide (NO) [1]. One of the functions of NO is to send signals to the arteries to relax, which lowers the resistance to blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure. One study of healthy volunteers showed that eating high-flavanol cocoa for five days improved blood flow to the brain [2]. Cocoa may also significantly improve cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. It may improve verbal fluency and several risk factors for disease as well [3]. 

The active flavonoid compounds found in chocolate are also present in New Zealand pine bark extract in much higher levels, so if you don't have a sweet tooth you could try our capsules that contain 500mg of pine bark extract which has the equivalent polyphenol level of 50gms of dark chocolate.


2. Fermented foods

Kefir, sauerkraut, natto, and sourdough bread have the only published science (sorry kombucha) on their ability to help improve gut health by enabling live bacteria to thrive. It creates a process in which probiotics are created. These organisms breed healthy bacteria in the gut and could increase serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is fundamental in regulating behaviours like stress, appetite, and mood. Zespri also has a heap of research on the benefits of kiwifruit for digestion which also plays a role in the health of your gut. 


3. Berries
They are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which are crucial to counter an imbalance of harmful toxins in the body. Some studies suggest these antioxidants combat oxidative stress, which could play a key role in reducing depression-like symptoms. The anthocyanin levels of our Neuroberry blackcurrants are amongst the highest of all berries. Another easy way to get your daily berry intake up is by starting the day with a Nootropic Smoothie Bowl. Neuroberry blackcurrants also contain powerful and safe MAO-enzyme inhibitor activity, the MAO enzyme is responsible for chewing up serotonin and dopamine and oxidising in the brain [4], this process is normal but occurs in higher amounts people with depression, dementia, Parkinson, Huntington's and Alzheimer's.  

4. Beans & Lentils
Equally rich source of plant-based proteins and B vitamins - essential for the neuro-transmission of dopamine, and serotonin (mood-enhancing endorphins) - which also provide sustained energy.

 

5. Prioritise Rest and Sleep
Sleep hygiene techniques aim to improve sleep quality and help treat insomnia. They include adjusting caffeine use, limiting exposure to the bed (regulating your sleep time and having a limited time to sleep), and making sure you get up at a similar time in the morning. Did you know Ārepa counters the effects of caffeine with the help of l-theanine, which in itself improves sleep too? [5]

The other mainstay of better sleep is to reduce exposure to light – especially blue light from laptops and smartphones – prior to sleep. This will increase the secretion of melatonin, which helps you get to sleep.


6. Get a Dose of Nature
When the sun is shining, many of us seem to feel happier. Adequate exposure to sunshine helps levels of mood-enhancing chemical serotonin. It also boosts vitamin D levels, which also has an effect on mental health, and helps at the appropriate time to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.


7. Exercise
It has proven to be the most immediate, effective means of elevating mood. Increasing your heart rate can actually reverse stress-induced brain damage by stimulating the production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, which not only improve cognition and mood but improve thinking clouded by stressful events. Exercise also forces the body’s central and sympathetic nervous systems to communicate with one another, improving the body’s overall ability to respond to stress.


Physical activity increases body temperature, which can have calming effects on the mind, leading to less sheep counting and more shuteye. Exercise also helps regulate your circadian rhythm, our bodies’ built-in alarm clock that controls when we feel tired and when we feel alert.


From building intelligence to strengthening memory, exercise boosts brain power in a number of ways. Studies on mice and humans indicate that cardiovascular exercise creates new brain cells—a process called neurogenesis—and improves overall brain performance. It also prevents cognitive decline and memory loss by strengthening the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

Read more: Prescribing regular aerobic training might be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's. 

 

8. Stay Hydrated
While mild dehydration is a loss of 1.5 percent of a body’s normal water volume, a level of hydration just one percent below optimal can affect mood, make it more difficult to concentrate, and produce a headache.

Our hearts and our brains consist of more water than the rest of our body. It’s pretty important stuff if we want to function at our best, physically and mentally.

While the human brain is made up of about 75 percent water, the first way that dehydration affects the brain and alters how we think and feel is by slowing circulation. This lowers blood flow, which means less oxygen travelling to all parts of the body, including the brain.


9. Posture
According to cognitive scientists, you’ll likely be slumped over with your neck and shoulders curved forward and head looking down.

While it’s true that you’re sitting this way because you’re sad, it’s also true that you’re sad because you’re sitting this way. This philosophy, known as embodied cognition, is the idea that the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also triggers our mind. In a scientific first a study proved that poster effects recovery from a negative mood [6]

Two minutes of “power poses” a day can change how we feel about ourselves. This isn’t just about displaying confidence to others around; this is about actually changing your hormones–increased levels of testosterone and decreased levels of cortisol, or the stress hormone, in the brain.


Conclusion:  

It’s important to note that the link between mood, energy, and productivity is a complex one. Successfully changing or regulating your mood is ultimately a subjective process. However, we strongly believe that you can form strong, mood-enhancing habits by being mindful of what you put in your body. Your gut is a second brain. It will set robust foundations for slowly combining other methods of controlling your emotions, such as: journaling, meditation, and managing stress & anxiety. Having control over your gut will sustain your body with the nutrients your body needs to operate at a high level. Having control over your gut will lead to a healthier mind. A healthier mind will lead to more positive, stable moods. Regulating your mood will, in turn, affect the consistency of your energy levels by reducing the risk of frequent ‘highs and lows’ - both of which are equally taxing on your energy reservoirs 


We’re not one-dimensional and our approach to mental health shouldn’t be either. The food we ingest is important, but we can also make changes to our lifestyle. Exercise, sunshine, prioritising good sleep habits, staying hydrated, and how we carry ourselves - or our posture -  are all very effective ways of positively changing the way we feel. Unfortunately, failing to forget about one or more of these habits can render us moody, so it’s important to remain vigilant about how we look after our bodies’.    


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Subscribe and save

There are no items in your cart.

Continue Shopping