Happiness comes easy for some, but for many it’s a daily struggle. Some carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, while others see beauty in all things. Unhappy people deal with internal strife, fears, early-life trauma, genetic predispositions, major injuries, losses, etc. Our set points for happiness differ, as do our circumstances. Yet, what we do about our circumstances makes all the difference. So does what we eat, because nutrition is the foundation of wellness.
Happiness starts by getting some sun. Vitamin D is produced in the skin from sunlight, and available as a supplement. Upwards of 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily is optimal for bone and muscle strength, cancer prevention, cardiovascular function, autoimmune disease prevention, and infection resistance. It also enhances a sense of well-being, improves sleep, reduces inflammation, and relieves depression, which contribute to happiness.
Equally important for happiness are omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart, brain, mood, joint, skin, immune, allergic, digestive, metabolic and vision health. Our eyes and brains contain high levels of DHA – the mature form of omega-3 – which improves nerve-cell growth and communication. Omega-3s reduce inflammation, a process that fuels depression, anxiety, cognitive dysfunction, heart disease and cancer. Low omega-3 is linked to cognitive dysfunction, while omega-3 supplementation benefits depression, anxiety, bipolarity, ADHD, and behavioral problems. Fish oil keeps prisoners from rioting, and makes for happy mothers and babies. Omega-3 deficiency is a risk factor in major psychiatric and personality disorders, despair, homicide and suicide. Omega-3s also protect against the dumbing-down caused by sugar. Arthritis relief is also worth a few smiles. Animal sources include fatty fish, grass-fed meat an dairy, and fish and krill oil supplements. Vegetarian sources include algae, flaxmeal, walnuts, hemp and chia seeds. Other healthy fats found in olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables also decrease depression risk.
Many fats are prone to oxidative damage (rancidity), which contributes to aging and chronic diseases. Omega-3s are protected by several antioxidants, including carotenoids, vitamin E, curcumin, CoQ10, olive oil and extracts, fruits, vegetables and green tea. Yellow carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin) protect omega-3s in the brain and eye to prevent dementia and blindness, which can lead to dependency, depression and unhappiness. Neural tissue is difficult to regenerate, and needs antioxidant protection.
Adults with higher antioxidant levels are more optimistic. Carotenoids from fruits, vegetables, or supplements are especially effective. High carotenoid intake is linked to numerous health benefits and longevity, based on a 62-study review. Sadly, most Americans fall into the moderate to high disease risk category, based on their low carotenoid consumption.
Raising serotonin improves mood. Serotonin is made from tryptophan. 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) has been shown to raise serotonin levels. Vitamins B6 and B12 help maintain serotonin levels, and help reduce irritability, weakness, insomnia and calm nerves. Vitamin B6 increases omega-3s in cell membranes. SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) also promotes mood-elevating neurotransmitters.
Other happy pills
Theanine from green tea is calming and promotes sleep. Phenylethylamine (PEA) is an antidepressant found in chocolate and blue-green algae. Magnesium calms muscles and nerves, improves mood, and fosters sleep. Fiber makes for happy gut bacteria, which return the favor by removing toxins from our bodies. Sweets and carbs are among the most comforting foods, despite some serious drawbacks. Nevertheless, a little raw honey daily is healthy, and will boost tryptophan in the brain to increase serotonin. The list goes on and on. Experiment a little with these mood-elevating foods and supplements. You’ll be happy you did.
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