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7 Natural Ways to Reduce Depression and Improve Mood

24 January, 2018

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

mood foods.jpg What we eat affects not only our physical health but can also have a big influence on our mental health. Important mood-regulating hormones rely on the following:

  • Protein - amino acids (from protein) are the building blocks of mood-lifting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Therefore it is important to eat high-protein foods such as beef, chicken, eggs, fish, turkey, legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Healthy fats - sixty percent of our brain is made up of fat, and eating the right type of fat is crucial for its function. A particularly important mood-boosting fat is known as omega-3 fats. This is obtained primarily from oily fish, and some nuts and seeds.
  • Vitamins and minerals - hormone and neurotransmitter production require many vitamins and minerals. These include B-vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and folate. These are obtained from an assortment of coloured vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and legumes.
  • Avoid these mood-lowering foods - pro-inflammatory foods can have a very detrimental effect on our mood. These foods include processed and packaged foods, takeaway foods, soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, and foods high in refined sugar.

2. Take Mood-Lifting Supplements

saffron-sml.jpgThere are several natural supplements that research has confirmed can support a healthy mood. A good-quality B-complex and fish oil capsules can improve mood by boosting mood-lifting neurotransmitters and improve the brain’s responsiveness to these chemicals.

St John’s Wort is also a popular option to improve mood. Unfortunately, this herb interacts with many medications, making it a poor option for many people. The quality of St John’s Wort can also vary substantially.

Saffron (the spice) is an under-appreciated, natural antidepressant that has been proven in many clinical studies to improve mood and reduce depressive symptoms. In fact, in a number of studies, it has been proven to be as effective as antidepressant medications for the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. Although saffron is incredibly expensive, you only need a tiny amount every day (30mg or a 90mg extract equivalent). This makes it very cost effective. It is important to take a high-quality product that has been listed with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). BCN’s Saffron Ultra fulfils these criteria.

3. Exercise Regularly

Exercise.jpg Physical activity (exercise) can have significant positive effects on mood. In fact, in some studies, it has been shown to be as effective as psychological therapy and antidepressant medication.

Exercise improves mood by increasing levels of serotonin and dopamine, lowering stress hormones, reducing inflammation, and increasing proteins in the brain that promote the growth of neurons (brain cells).

Choose a type of exercise that you enjoy, are able to do regularly, and is appropriate for your fitness level. Even a small amount of exercise is better than none at all.

4. Get Regular Sunlight

sunlight2.jpg We are fortunate in Australia to be blessed with an abundance of sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can improve mood as it seems to boost levels of mood-lifting brain chemicals. Vitamin D (which we obtain from the sun) is also positively associated with improved mood.

So go outside, open your blinds, sit next to a window, or spend your lunch breaks outside to increase your sun exposure. Obviously be sensible with your exposure to minimise your risk of burning and skin cancer.

5. Carefully Choose Your Social Group

friends.jpg Our mood is substantially influenced by the people we associate with. If we spend time with people who are negative, regularly put us down, always talk about the bad things in the world, or regularly gossip, we will eventually see the world through their eyes. However, if we are around positive, energy-boosting people, their attitude will have a positive effect on our worldview and ultimately, have a positive effect on our mood.

It is therefore important to reduce your time with ‘toxic and energy-draining’ individuals and increase your time with positive, uplifting people.

6. Regularly Engage In Pleasurable Activities

guitar2.jpg How we spend our time has a profound effect on our mood. In fact, regularly engaging
in pleasurable activities is one of the most crucial ingredients to effectively improve
one’s mood.

What do you like doing? How did you previously spend your time when you were last feeling good? What are (or were) you interested in doing? Do you have any hobbies you previously engaged in?

These are some of the questions you need to ask when brainstorming options for pleasurable activities. Although you may not ‘feel’ like engaging in these activities, it is important that you spend time doing these things every day. When our mood is low, we often predict that we will not enjoy an activity, however, this is just one of the characteristics of depression. You may be surprised by how wrong your predictions may be.

Completing a ‘Pleasant Events Schedule’ is one way to help come up with ideas of pleasurable activities. For a free copy, email us at

7. Learn CBT

CBT.jpgCognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) is an effective psychological treatment for depression. It helps us to identify and change unhelpful thoughts that might be fueling our low mood.

How we think, and the core beliefs we have about ourselves, the world we live in, and our future has a profound influence on our mood. Many of our beliefs are developed during our childhood, and they can stay with us forever if we don’t take active steps to change them. CBT uses several strategies to help people identify and change unhelpful thoughts and behavioural responses.

You can learn CBT by seeking support from a mental health professional such as a clinical psychologist, you can purchase a good self-help book, or you can complete an online CBT course. For a list of high-quality and free online CBT courses, email us at