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The Science of Mood Swings and How to Keep Them at Bay

improve mood, mood, mood swings

It happens to the best of us. One minute we’re elated and filled with joy. And the next we’re inexplicably beside ourselves with overwhelming anger or grief. Sudden and drastic mood changes can happen to anyone. At some point, we all fall victim to our emotions and it’s natural to experience all spectrums in this human experience.

The science of mood swings shows us that when such emotional shifts occur, it can result from a number of different things. Usually, mood swings are linked to lifestyle patterns, hormones, and stress levels. And while there may be numerous reasons as to why we experience them, we can optimize our lives so that they become manageable and less frequent. We can make small yet effective adjustments to our lifestyle to better regulate our mood and soothe our hearts when emotions run rampant.

Here are a few simple practices and lifestyle habits to keep your moody days to a minimum.

1. Get quality shut-eye.

We don’t need to fully understand the science of mood swings to know that no one’s in a good mood when they’re running on only a few hours of sleep. Getting less than the recommended six to eight hours leads to irritability, grogginess, and can have a profoundly negative impact on our mental health. We’re more prone to emotional outbursts and easily agitated. And, sure, that third cup of coffee may sound like the cure, but it isn’t going to fix anything in the long run. Studies show that symptoms of depression and even manic behavior patterns may be triggered when we reach a level of exhaustion. Make sure you’re carving out enough time for rest. Turn off your phone and emails at least an hour before bed. If that feels impossible in a tech-obsessed world, try doing it just once a week. Sip on a cup of calming chamomile tea and give yourself permission to fully unwind. Set yourself up for a night of pure, uninterrupted bliss as you drift off into dreamland. Allow your body to fully restore to take on the next day ahead.   

2. Develop a mindfulness practice.

Whether it be conscious breathing, seated meditation, or walking meditation, find the technique that best suits you and your lifestyle. When we take the time for introspection and mindfulness, we come back to our center. We come back to who we truly are. We are able to be with what is and come to realize that we aren’t, in fact, defined by our emotions. And, as a result, we may even notice that we become less reactive when things in our external world become chaotic.

3. Eat well and go easy on the caffeine.

You are what you eat, and your daily food habits may be playing a larger role in your mood than you think. In looking at the science of mood swings, countless research confirms that what we eat can have a direct impact on how we feel. A study found that a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet may help alleviate symptoms of depression. So, eat a well-balanced diet filled with nourishing and fiber-rich ingredients. Incorporate complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or apples to boost serotonin levels, the hormone and neurotransmitter known as the “happy chemical.” Avoid processed foods that cause blood sugar crashes and leave you feeling out of whack. And while there’s nothing wrong with your morning cup of joe, don’t overdo it. Too much caffeine can stimulate the nervous system, causing anxiety and energy crashes.

4. Sniff on some essential oils.

Get yourself an oil diffuser for about $20 on Amazon and let a soothing scent like lavender or eucalyptus lift your mood to a state of peace. When it comes to the science of mood swings and how to maintain them, essential oils have been proven to contain deeply therapeutic properties. A study found that lavender may help with depression symptoms while also improving sleep function. Orange can help with clarity and chamomile can reduce anxiety. Essential oils are a relatively inexpensive way to shift your mood, and transport you to feelings of ease and tranquility. Keep a bottle in your bag for those moments when you need some instant relief. Add a few drops to your hands, rub your palms together, and take three deep breaths. Let the healing scents soothe you.

5. Write it out.

It can feel impossible to navigate the myriad of thoughts and emotions going on inside our heads. Journaling is a great way to express your emotions while gaining insight and clarity. Taking even just ten minutes to scribble down your thoughts can help regulate your mood and release negativity. Plus, it can be used as an opportunity to jot down positive affirmations for a powerful mental shift. Affirmations stop destructive self-talk right in its tracks and remind us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

6. Get moving.

It’s no secret that a regular exercise routine keeps us healthy. But the effects go far beyond the physical. The science of mood swings suggests that exercise may be as effective as taking medication as it increases serotonin levels. Going for a run or taking a yoga class is an ideal way to de-stress and boost your mood. Both your physical and mental wellbeing will benefit greatly.

7. Seek out some professional guidance.

If you just can’t seem to keep your mood swings in check, consider going to see a professional. Yes, making adjustments to your everyday habits and lifestyle is a wonderful place to start. But sometimes it takes an outside, unbiased perspective to help us to truly understand the science of mood swings. If you find that your emotions are haywire more days than not, seek help from a doctor or therapist. They offer a safe space for you to convey your emotions freely, and can also give you the tools on how to best manage mood swings when they arise.  

The science of mood swings can be complex, but how we cope with them doesn’t have to be. Take the space to breathe when life becomes an emotional roller coaster and come back into balance. Find the effective practices that resonate to navigate your ups and downs with ease.

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