Step No. 1: Get to Know Your Hormones
OK, this one doesn't exactly sound like fun, but the fight against bad moods demands it. According to Dr. Will Cole, a Pittsburgh-based functional medicine practitioner, your hormones can cause moodiness, increased stress, and a general run-down feeling.
Keep an eye on your adrenals, in particular. These glands near your kidneys produce several important hormones, including cortisol, your body's primary stress hormone. "Adrenal fatigue happens when your adrenal glands aren't properly releasing cortisol," explains Dr. Cole. "Cortisol is high when it should be low, low when it should be high, or it's always high or it's always low."
"In order to have a healthy brain, you need to have a healthy gut."
While retail therapy, a few cocktails, and, um, cake may feel like the best remedies for a bad mood, Dr. Cole recommends instead making positive lifestyle changes—from eating more mineral-rich foods to getting your daily dose of probiotics—to help get those hormones back in balance. (We understand if you need that cake, too, though!)
Step No. 2: Take Care of Your Body's Second Brain
Oh, you didn't know you had two brains? Yeah, that's a thing. "In order to have a healthy brain, you need to have a healthy gut," explains Dr. Cole. "Your gut is often referred to in medical literature as your 'second brain.' And in fact, 95% of your happiness neurotransmitter, serotonin, is made and stored in your gut."
Chocolate Probiotics, $30, sakara.com.
To keep your second brain happy and healthy, look to incorporate fermented, probiotic-rich foods into your diet. Over time, the beneficial bacteria in foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha can make positive changes in your body—they can even lessen anxiety, says Dr. Cole. Fermented foods aren't your thing? Add a probiotic powder to your smoothies instead.
Step No. 3: Maximize Your Magnesium
Magnesium is abundant in our bodies and responsible for hundreds of biochemical reactions, explains Dr. Cole. "It's key in helping to regulate cortisol and bring down stress levels," but most of us are deficient in it. Spinach, Swiss chard, black beans, and avocado are all magnesium powerhouses, so try to incorporate more of them into your diet. At the same time, avoid refined flour: the refining process strips out the naturally occurring magnesium.
Step No. 4: Add in the Adaptogens
Ashwagandha, $37, sunpotion.com.
Adaptogens are plants and herbs that help your body to resist stress: maca root powder, ginseng, and the rhodiola plant are all adaptogens. While mainstream Western medicine hasn't yet embraced these stress-reducing wonders, they've been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Organic Licorice Root Tea, $5, traditionalmedicinals.com.
"Ashwagandha, a type of Indian ginseng, is my go-to mood booster," explains Dr. Cole. "You can add the powder to anything, from smoothies to tea." Another root that works as an adaptogen—and happens to be delicious? Licorice! So go make some licorice tea and get started on your new happy self. Your body will thank you.