If you ever feel like your “down and out” moods last a little too long, this blog post is for you. We’re all allowed to feel sad, stressed, upset, and any other wave of emotion that crashes upon us. It’s when it starts to feel like we’re struggling and doggy paddling our way through life that our emotions can become problematic.
Bills will always need to be paid, there will always be someone whose life seems to be way cooler than ours, and inevitably, life’s blessings will ebb and flow. That doesn’t mean that we can’t be generally happy through it all, though. And sometimes, that means asking for a little help. For me, prolonged low-energy and stress/sadness means calling in mood enhancers as backup. Particularly natural mood enhancers. They have been my saving grace, and now I can’t imagine life without them. Unlike a lot of over-the-counter, chemical-filled mood enhancers, there’s no crash-and-burn effect with natural mood boosters. Plus, I look forward to taking them in the morning and afternoon!
When I first heard about natural mood enhancers, I was a little skeptical. Could certain herbs and plants reeeally be the fix for my low moods? Even though I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea, I was desperate. It felt like clockwork that I was ruining my own day with an emotional roller coaster, and it was starting to affect my health. Stress, sleep, and nutrition are the three keys to a happy, healthy mind and body. Sure enough, my moods were causing me stress, which were affecting my sleep, which were making me crave unhealthy foods. Sound familiar? Eventually I realized I had to take back the reins on my life. To do so, I had to take control of my moods, and so I decided to give these natural mood boosters a try.
Based on my own experience and research, here’s what I’ll cover:
- What are mood enhancers?
- How do they work?
- Are mood enhancers safe? Natural vs. pharmaceutical mood enhancers
- Best natural mood enhancers
What Are Mood Enhancers?
Let me start out by saying that mood enhancers are not just for people with mood disorders. The way I feel about mood enhancers is how I imagine some people feel about coffee in the morning, or candy at the movies. With them, life is great. Without them, well, life could be a whole lot better!
This isn’t to confuse mood enhancers with prescribed mood stabilizers. For anyone who deals with heavy onsets of depression, anxiety, or mood disorders, prescription drugs can be life-changing. However, if you just get a little too torn up about things like carpool lane traffic or chipped nail polish, natural mood enhancers may do the trick.
When we’re overworked, exhausted, stressed, and perhaps undernourished in the process, it’s no wonder we may get a bit cranky or moody. Natural mood enhancers are ways that we can even out the ups and downs we feel each day. It’s like pulling the ends of a big squiggly line to even it out a bit more. Just like some women beg for a regular period, some of us yearn for a regular mood. Introducing natural mood enhancers into our daily regimen can help some of us be the best wife, mom, sister, colleague, and person that we can be.
Natural mood enhancers are virtually safe for anyone, unless they have a specific allergy to them. Of course, before introducing any new supplements, it’s best to consult your doctor or primary care physician, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How Do Mood Enhancers Work?
Mood enhancers interact with our hypothalamus in the brain to balance and activate the releasing of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. The goal of mood enhancers is to promote mental and physical comfort to get out of fight or flight mode, support a positive mood, and enhance overall well-being. In a nutshell, mood enhancers are meant to optimize our perception of the world and boost positive feelings.
Are Mood Enhancers Safe?
Knowing that just because a food is sold in Whole Foods doesn’t make it healthy, I wanted to dive a little deeper into the benefits and safety of natural mood enhancers versus over-the-counter, pharmaceutical mood stabilizers. Lo and behold, here are the major side effects associated with one of the common, over-the-counter mood enhancers in the United States, 5-HTP :
Side effects of pharmaceutical mood enhancers
Some people who have taken it have experienced:
- Serotonin syndrome 
- Rumbling sensations
- And more
Is taking a pharmaceutical pill over a natural mood enhancer worth the risk of all of these side effects, and more? If you’re not convinced, let’s take a look at the potential side effects of a common natural mood enhancer, ashwagandha:
Side effects of natural mood enhancers
- Large doses have been shown to cause stomach upset. 
To break it down, the over-the-counter mood enhancers were associated with a long list of side effects, whereas the only side effect of the natural mood enhancer is the occasional stomach ache if you take more than the prescribed dosage. Again, this is not to say that prescribed mood enhancers and stabilizers are bad. Those should be discussed with your doctor directly and have been shown to help people everywhere deal with more severe, chronic mood conditions. When it comes to pharmaceutical mood enhancers versus natural mood enhancers, for me, I prefer the natural route. They give me peace of mind that pharmaceuticals just do not.
To me, it was a no-brainer. After my own research, and many second and third opinions from doctors and naturopaths, I ended up with a pantry full of natural mood boosting supplements and herbs, and I couldn’t rave about it more.
Best Natural Mood Boosting Supplements & Herbs
Specifically speaking, some of my personal favorite natural mood boosters are cacao, matcha, and naturally-occurring probiotics. Here is some more information about my top 5 favorite natural mood enhancers.
Raw cacao has been used as a mood enhancing supplement for centuries. In traditional cacao ceremonies, everyone would gather around, holding a warm mug of cacao water or milk, or whole, raw cacao bites. They would first inhale the rich, healing chocolate aromas, then slowly and mindfully consume their cacao treat. Known for its euphoric effects, it’s no wonder so many people crave chocolate when they’re sad! It’s been scientifically proven that chocolate releases endorphins, and even the scent alone can increase brain activity. 
2. Green tea
Another ceremonial ingredient, green tea has been known for its immune and mood boosting effects starting as far back as 2800 B.C. in China. Green tea contains natural mood-enhancing nutrients like l-theanine, catechins, and other antioxidants. One study examined over 9,000 men and women to find that consumption of tea at least 3 times per week showed 21% lower prevalence of depression.  I love the ritual of making green tea. Packing the tea bag with leaves, boiling the water, and waiting for the tea to steep all help me slow down and practice patience. The mindfulness of making tea may also contribute to overall mood, as mindfulness helps to strengthen our brains’ present-moment pathways. 
Adaptogens deserve a gold medal for being the BEST natural mood boosters. Adaptogens are herbs and plants, such as mushrooms, that are often referred to as “stress-response modifiers,” because they help the body to adapt. They are like the ultimate chill pill, helping us to better go with the flow and not let surrounding stressors affect us as much. They aid in regulating stress-response hormones and help to fight an extensive list of health offenders like chronic inflammation, cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, cancer, among other aging-related diseases.  The only downside to adaptogens is that they can be a bit pricey, which is why I like to buy them in blends.
Adaptogen blends combine a variety of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms to provide the most benefits, with the best bang for your buck. After going through quite a few blends myself, my favorite is the Stress-Relieving Adaptogen Blend in SkinnyFit Skinny Greens. It combines anti-inflammatory turmeric root, antioxidant American ginseng, calming ashwagandha root, and rhodiola root, which is known for increasing mental capacity for physical, chemical, and environmental stress. For me personally, these are the stars of adaptogens. They provide the calm energy I lack, and all of the immune boosting vitamins and minerals my body needs. What’s even better is that taking an adaptogenic green juice powder, like Skinny Greens, makes it super easy and convenient to get the benefits of 36 different superfoods and mood-boosting adaptogens in your day (not to mention affordable). All you have to do is mix it with water and that’s it!
4. Oregano oil
Growing up, I truly believed oregano fixed everything. My mom would give me a few drops for a sore throat, a drop for “good luck” before a dance performance, and hello, we season pizza with it! As an adult, I learned that my mom’s good luck drops were actually for stage fright. Oil of oregano is shown to decrease anxiety! One study showed that acute administration of oregano extract resulted in mood-enhancing activity in human subjects.  Some people can’t stand the taste of it, but since I grew up on it, I’m used to it. If you have trouble with the flavor, drop it into some bone broth, herbal tea, or even on top of your avocado toast!
5. Turmeric or circumin
I’ll be honest with you, I have hopped on (and hopped off) the turmeric latte train. I know all of the benefits of turmeric, but for the love of coffee, please keep it out of my sips of morning sanity. I like to take my turmeric in savory ways—stews, bone broth, scones even, but not in my latte. Turmeric, or circumin (the spice’s most active compound), have exemplified incredible anti-inflammatory properties. In terms of mood enhancing, one study showed that one hour after use, it drastically improved cognitive function, memory, and mood.  It is also important to mention that because of circumin’s lack of bioavailability (ability to enter the body’s circulation), it is best when paired with black pepper. Black pepper increases turmeric’s bioavailability by 2000%. Yes, you read that right!
The Bottom Line On Mood Enhancers
There you have it. The ultimate rundown on mood enhancers, natural mood enhancers, and my favorite natural ways to get happy. Remember, these are my personal favorites. What works for me, may not work for you, and vice versa. But before turning to medication, remember the three main keys to health—sleep, stress, and food.
Ultimately, our health is in our own hands. Whatever makes you feel good and empowered is great. For me, it’s natural mood boosters and daily rituals that make me feel like the best version of myself. Mood enhancers are not to be taken lightly, nor should anyone be shamed for taking them. If you’re considering adding some natural mood enhancers to your daily regimen, consult a doctor and don’t be afraid to get a few opinions! It’s your life, and you should be excited about how you’re living it each and every day. If you are struggling with a mood disorder, aside from support from a doctor, consult your friends and family. Surround yourself with people who love you and want to see you happy. Remind yourself of your worth, your joy, and your light. That is all that matters at the end of the day. So, however it looks for you, go and get happy!