Do you wake up each day feeling sad, moody or irritable? Do you worry about many things and feel extremely frustrated when everything doesn’t turn out right? If so, you are possibly experiencing low mood disorder.
Low mood disorder is a condition that has existed since the dawn of time. In the past it was called melancholy and many poets and artists that suffered from it reflected it in their paintings and books. Indeed, it is common to feel sad, angry, irritable or other unpleasant emotions.
However, if you’re experiencing low mood persistently, and it has been affecting your relationships or even interfering with your work, you have to be more cautious because low mood disorder can also be a symptom of depression.
Sadly, depression has become an epidemic in modern times, and it is predicted that it will be the second-greatest cause of illness in the world by 2020. Mood, be it low or high, can change due to health, lifestyle, emotional and environmental conditions.
Are You Suffering from Low Mood Disorder Or Are You Depressed?
If you have low mood, you don’t have to panic immediately about having depression. At times, when you feel sad, you may often say, “I’m depressed.” It’s a common term we use when referring to sadness or when we feel down. But depression is much more serious. Depression is a clinical diagnosed condition in which a person experiences low mood symptoms, plus some more serious signs and symptoms.
In depression, you feel sad constantly, and this feeling usually persists for more than 2 weeks. You also feel hopelessness or helplessness. You will likely lose interest in doing the things that previously gave you pleasure such as your hobbies. If you love going out and watching movies, then you might not like it anymore and prefer staying home.
Moreover, you often feel fatigued and low in energy even when doing simple physical activities. Because of this, you have the tendency to keep on sleeping in an attempt to regain energy. Otherwise, some people experience difficulty sleeping as they are bothered by their thoughts and sadness. Depression can affect your eating habit as well. You may either have low or no appetite or you might overeat. As a result, you can either lose or gain weight.
Depressed people also experience social withdrawal. They may avoid social interactions with everyone even with their loved ones. Above all, depression is life threatening because a depressed individual may think of doing harm to himself/herself and may even have suicidal thoughts.
On the other hand, low mood disorder is manifested by low self-esteem, sadness, too much worrying, always feeling tired, and being moody or irritable. Typically, we might experience this anytime when we have a bad day, have been into a bad situation or have been very stressed out. But the symptoms, particularly sadness, DO NOT last for two weeks or more. However, if your low mood disorder is persistent, check yourself if you have any other depression symptoms. See the infographics above for the comparison of the symptoms of low mood disorder and depression.
Note: Depression is only diagnosed after thorough examination conducted by a medical doctor, usually by a psychiatrist and other medical practitioners specialised in mental health including psychologists.
How Should You Manage Your Low Mood Disorder?
Low mood disorder can be managed successfully, so that you don’t suffer from it on an ongoing basis. You can live your life with a mostly good mood. There might be occasions when you feel sad or angry, but those emotions don’t necessarily have to become depression ever again. Once you know how to differentiate between these and know how to manage low mood disorder to handle these feelings, they will become less and less frequent and eventually you might not remember the last time you were feeling low. Wouldn’t that be a turning point in your life? Once you know what triggers your low mood, you will be on your way to a joyful, or at least peaceful, life. And if the blues return, you will know how to get rid of them again. Practice makes perfect.
Low mood disorder can have three main causes: lifestyle habits, emotional or psychological factors and health conditions. The thing is, lifestyle and health are so intertwined that what you eat, drink, how much you move and how you sleep defines what your health is or may be in a few years. This article presents strategies to manage low mood disorder due to lifestyle and health related aspects. Emotional and psychological issues are of a different nature. Nonetheless, the strategies presented below will support any treatment addressing emotional and psychological issues.
Find the most likely cause.
On a physical plane, low mood disorder can be related to deficiencies in protein, vitamins and minerals, or it can be caused by chronic inflammation.
9 Steps To Overcoming Low Mood Disorder
To overcome low mood disorder, you need to be aware about the factors contributing to such condition. Consulting your health practitioner will be helpful to determine whether your low mood disorder is caused by nutritional deficiencies, thyroid gland disorder, hormonal imbalance, blood sugar problem, Celiac disease, any inflammatory disorder or stress. The following steps will also serve as your guide to overcoming low mood disorder:
1. Have yourself checked for vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
First of all, the easiest thing to do is to ask your doctor to test you for vitamin deficiencies. Check your levels of Iron, Vitamin D, Folate and Vitamin B12. Low levels of these vitamins and minerals can lead to low mood disorder or even depression. Strategies to increase their levels with nutrition are detailed below.
2. Ask your doctor to test your thyroid gland activity.
There are several thyroid conditions that have low mood as a symptom. If your levels of thyroid hormones are within the standard range, but close to being too low, your glands might be struggling to keep you active and happy. There are some nutritional strategies that can help; an example is increasing your intake of iodine in your diet. Eat plenty of fish and seafood, try adding sea algae to soups and stews.
3. If you are a woman, check your sexual hormones level.
Low levels of the hormone progesterone or high levels of oestrogen can promote low mood disorder and depression. If you are taking the pill, consider other methods of preventing pregnancy or improving your skin (if taken acne). Talk to your doctor about getting a milder one if you want to continue taking the pill, and ask them about the side effects of the pill they recommend to you, including mental health effects. If you had a baby in the last 1-2 years, ask your doctor to test your hormone levels. You might be running on adrenaline to keep going, having exhausted all your sex hormones to raising your children. Or you might have even exhausted your adrenaline. The nutrition and lifestyle strategies below will also support you in managing low moods.
4. Check your protein intake.
If you are eating mainly fats and carbohydrates, you might have be deficiencies in protein and amino acids, the building blocks of the happiness molecules enkephalines and serotonin. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, increase your intake of leafy greens, they are rich in easy-to-digest-and-absorb amino acids. They are also rich in folate, magnesium and iron. Also, increase your intake of pulses (lentils, chick peas, beans) with brown rice (3:1 proportion on your plate). This food combination will increase the quantity and availability of amino acids in your diet. Try sprouting lentils and mung beans and add them to your salads.
5. Regulate your blood sugar levels.
Observe your mood from morning to evening for a few days. Notice if you feel low on awakening, happy after breakfast and low again before lunch or dinner. If your blood glucose levels become too low when hungry, it might mean that your blood glucose levels are not properly regulated and that might be causing your low mood (or anger or both!). Low fasting blood glucose levels might also indicate potential problems related to the regulation of insulin (insulin resistance), and therefore of the transportation of glucose to your brain cells. Insulin resistance is related to inflammation, so keep reading.
Regulate your blood sugar levels by eating whole foods: plenty of vegetables and fruits preferably raw. If you eat grains, eat whole grains: they have more fibre, vitamins and minerals. They make you feel satisfied for longer than refined grains. Avoid white refined grains (and sugars) altogether, they are literally and metaphorically deadly.
6. Ask your doctor to test for Celiac Disease.
Celiac disease is more common than generally thought and one of the symptoms is depression. It is accepted nowadays that gluten intolerance can range from mild to severe. Severe cases are easier to diagnose due to many symptoms occurring: stomach and gut aches, bloating and diarrhoea occurring after gluten-containing foods are consumed, with weight loss, low mood disorder and depression as long term symptoms. It is much more difficult to diagnose mild cases, where symptoms can be tiredness, a struggling immune system with frequent colds and flu, and a host of other seemingly unrelated symptoms.
7. Gorge on anti-inflammatory foods
Low mood disorder and depression are inflammatory health conditions. Therefore, reducing your body’s inflammation will help in maintaining healthy levels of the happiness molecules in your body, including in your brain. Suffering from health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, bowel disease, allergies or intolerances or arthritis means that your body is inflamed. Even if you are healthy and only have some minor aches and pains, and mild water retention, it means that your body is becoming inflamed. Inflammation is the most common health condition today and it is highly related to lifestyle and nutrition.
To reduce the inflammation naturally, take good quality fish oils, about 3-4 g of EPA and DHA per day. EPA and DHA have been demonstrated in research studies to impact positively in mood and lower inflammation. Eat fish at least twice weekly if you don’t have allergies to seafood. Increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruit, eating at least one large (when I say large I mean large) leafy green salad per day. Rocket, spinach, dandelion leaves and dark coloured lettuces are all full of goodness. Increase your intake of berries and deeply coloured veggies and fruits: blueberries, raspberries, carrots and beetroot. Lower your alcohol consumption to one glass per day maximum. Avoid drugs and smoking; they are highly inflammatory.
Make your meals a feast of colour, with a side of fish or poultry, instead of eating meat with a side of veggies. Make the veggies the main meal, and the meat the side dish.
8. Exercise and rest to recover, and get ready for a wonderful life
Exercise at least 45 minutes daily, alternating between aerobic and resistance exercise. For example, you could do 45 minutes of intense aerobic exercise three times a week: running, cycling, dancing, boxing. And, you should do three times a week of weight training, to increase your lean muscle mass. If you are not doing any exercise at the moment and your energy levels are not that high, start slow: two or three times 30 minute session per week to start training, and increase as you become fitter. Avoid getting stressed by doing too much too soon, which could be counterproductive.
Sleep when you need to rest and recover, on average 7-8 hours per night. Go to bed early because the hours you sleep before midnight are twice as restful as the hours after midnight.
9. Manage stress
Meditate or have quiet “you” time, two or three times a week. Fifteen minutes is enough to develop awareness of yourself and your surroundings. If you need emotional support and can afford it, seek a counsellor, a psychologist, an alternative healer or other practitioners with whom you feel comfortable. When depression is present we tend to suffer from problems more than when we are feeling good. Some problems even disappear when we are feeling well, or become a minor issue easily resolved.
Have fun, do things you like doing. Have some time for yourself every week, even if it is brief, doing things that are relaxing and make you happy. Of course, exclude from these activities all those related to drinking alcohol or drugs, sleeping little and eating junk food!
Make these steps a habit for life. Congratulations, you are on your way to a joyful life.
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