Ten Factors That Can Affect Your Mood

Fernwood

July/August 2014


Feeling grumpy and have no idea why? Our mood is partially reliant on a plethora of external influences, but just a few lifestyle tweaks can have you feeling a whole lot better, writes Tatyana Leonov. 

1. Exerccise

Exercise makes you feel good – it really is that simple. So much so that, according to the Australian Fitness Expo Survey, 93 per cent of us exercise because it makes us happy. Exercise releases endorphins and increases serotonin, resulting in positive effects on mental wellbeing. Lucy Vaczi, a personal trainer and member motivator at Fernwood Broadway recommends that clients work out with the aim of improving both their physical and mental health, reporting that while she exercises to feel fit and strong, she also notices the immediate outcome exercise has on her mood. “If I go for more than two days without exercise I often start to feel irritated and agitated. Exercise relaxes me and helps clear my head,” she says. 

2. Food

“You are what you eat” isn’t far from the truth. The right nutrients in the recommended quantities not only nurture our body’s function, they also feed the brain. “Our food choices affect how we think, feel, how we interpret events, and how rapidly we age. You literally have to eat right to think right,” says Joanna Rushton, founder of the Energy Coaching Institute (energycoachinginstitute.com). “Having a healthy attitude is dependent on sufficient consumption of essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, based on individual requirements. A diet lacking in these essential nutrients can lead to mood swings, irregular blood sugar levels with energy highs and lows that impact our ability to think, process information and perform at our best.” 

3. Your relationship with food 

Eating the right food is one thing, but having a positive relationship with the act of eating is a whole other element that can significantly affect the way you feel. “Your relationship with food is a reflection of your relationship with life,” explains Kim Adams, a certified eating psychology coach (happyhealthygroovy.com.au). “Food is much more than simply nutrition; it is nourishment for the body and soul. If you are constantly dieting in order to lose weight you lose the pleasure of food.” People who drastically restrict their intake of enjoyable foods also limit their experience of pleasure in other parts of their life – it’s a lose-lose situation. The key, as always, is to find a healthy balance. 

4. Mindfulness

You’ve probably seen the #100happydays hashtag or come across posts on social media where people share what they are thankful for with friends. This works because the way we think and approach life plays a huge role in how we feel. “Approaching life with an attitude of openness and acceptance can help you gain perspective, rather than being weighed down by anger, sadness or disappointment,” says Will Shannon (willshannon.com), one of Australia’s leading authorities on iridology and natural medicine.

5. Stress

It’s an obvious one, but stress doesn’t just affect our mood, it often dictates it. Although it’s natural to worry when things don’t go to plan, it’s vital to remember that stressing about a situation won’t change it – only action will. Eva Lane, an energy healer from Anxious Relief (anxiousrelief.com), recommends that those who are stressed release the tension in whatever way works. “Stress plays a big role in moods because our minds and bodies are like sponges, soaking up tension from the world around us,” she says. “Do whatever works for you to minimise it.” Try a walk in the park, hit the gym, write down what’s bothering you and put the note away to deal with later, or talk to a friend or family member about what’s on your mind.

6. Sleep

“To get up on the wrong side of the bed” refers to waking up in a bad mood. Truth is, most people wake up grouchy more because they haven’t slept enough, slept badly or slept at the wrong time of the day. “Research shows people who are sleep deprived tend to be more irritable, angry and hostile; a short nap is all it takes to reset your mood,” says Sam Queen who manages After XII (afterxii.com.au), a nap hub aimed at helping Brisbane’s sleep deprived. Although a nap might help in the short term, in the long term it’s recommended adults get an average of eight hours of sleep per night. If you’re habitually getting less sleep you won’t just feel bad, your ability to function and perform everyday tasks will decrease too.

7. Water intake

Sarah Curulli, clinical pharmacist at The Hydration Pharmaceuticals Trust (hydralyte.com) advises people should be aware of the effect dehydration can have on mood and general disposition. “Mild dehydration has been linked to degraded mood, lowered concentration and a perception of difficulty with daily tasks.” Curulli stresses that on average people should aim to consume eight to 10 cups of water daily, especially during and after moderate exercise or when exposed to hot and dry conditions.

8. Colour

More than one hundred years ago, innovative educationalist Rudolph Steiner alleged that surrounding colours influenced mental wellbeing, and followers of the Steiner philosophy introduced his principles into their schools and communities (implementing different colour schemes for different age groups). As wishy-washy as this may sound to some people, colour can play an important role in how you feel. “Your choice of colour can impact your general wellbeing,” explains colour therapist Elizabeth Harper of Sealed With Love (sealedwithlove.com). “Red, orange and yellow are warm colours that boost enthusiasm, fuel passion, and stimulate joy, while nurturing cool colours such as green, blue, and violet offer a sense of peace, hope and contentment.”

9. Hormones

If hubby even hints that your bad mood is because you’re getting close to the “time of the month” most women will get cranky, but the truth is it could well be the reason that you’re feeling down. “During week one of a woman’s cycle oestrogen and testosterone levels are at their lowest point,” Joanne Marks (joannemarks.com.au), a naturopath practicing within Sydney’s eastern suburbs explains. “And in just a day after a period begins these levels start to rise which boosts the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. By week two oestrogen and testosterone are at their peak – so you feel more optimistic and cheerful, but they start to decline at the start of week three. This is where some people feel a bit weepy and easily irritated, while progesterone starts to climb, which is known for its sedating effects. The pre-menstrual week being week four finds oestrogen, testosterone, and progesterone once again beginning to plunge, and our mood vacillates from mellow to irritable in a heartbeat.” Nothing you can do about this one though ... which sort of puts you in a bad mood just thinking about it.

10. Sunlight

It’s a well-known fact that people who get the recommended amount of sunlight are happier – there are a plethora of studies solidifying this point. “Sunshine and natural light help our brain to release its own natural anti-depressant – serotonin,” explains Marks. The amount of vitamin D you make is related to the amount of skin exposed to the sun, and this varies from a few minutes during summer to two to three hours in winter, depending on where in Australia you are. People with naturally dark skin also need more time in the sun for the same effect. So how much and how often? Take cue from how you feel, taking into account specialist guidelines.