Research has shown that improving your diet can help lift your mood and make you feel better about yourself.
When it comes to hot-topics on social media, nothing is more popular than some new diet that promises to change your life. There are handfuls of popular and trendy diets that claim to help with bodyweight, skin complexion, longevity, overall health, etc.… The verdict is still out on whether or not these diets actually can make good on their promises. But just this week, the research is in on something very exciting related to your diet and feelings of depression.
Released by the University of Manchester, and published in the Journal “Psychosomatic Medicine,” research has concluded that improvements in one’s diet can have a positive effect on feelings of depression. The research was completed through an analysis of data from about 46,000 participants.
Anecdotal evidence has long said that what we eat affects how we feel. Hasn’t everyone felt sluggish after a big meal? Or energetic after a light and healthy one? There’s also the claim that sugar can make people (especially children) more hyper. But, finally, there is research to support the idea that our diet actually directly changes how we feel about ourselves.
According to Dr. Joseph Firth, lead researcher on the project, adopting a healthy diet has the ability to boost people’s mood. Firth stresses that the positive effects from changing one’s diet for the better can help individuals whether they are diagnosed with depression or not. Meaning that, even if you do not have clinical depression, but notice that you feel down or sad more often than you’d like, changing your diet can help you. However, he is quick to note that researchers have not (yet) been able to prove that changes in diet are able to relieve anxiety.
Of note, the research showed that women experienced the largest boost to their mood when changing their diets.
So what does it mean to “improve one’s diet?”
Researchers describe “diet improvement” as: limiting fast-food and other “junk” food, eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more nutrient-rich foods (less processed foods) that are high in fiber, and decreasing sugar overall.
The study also looked at the role other lifestyle changes, such as exercise, can have on one’s mood. And it was found that increasing exercise, when done in conjunction with making improvements to one’s diet, has an even greater effect on one’s mood.
This research is particularly exciting because it continues to lend support to the idea that lifestyle changes are great adjuncts to therapy for individuals who are looking to boost their mood and get relief from depression. And whether you are in therapy or not, changing your diet is a great form of self-care and a great way of managing depressive feelings.
Dr. Firth and his colleagues state that they still aren’t sure why changing one’s diet helps with one’s mood. They postulate that these changes could be related to an individual feeling less fatigue, reducing overall bodyweight, reducing inflammation – or something else entirely.
Regardless of the reasons, the message is clear. If you are struggling with depression, consider improving your diet. You might not get the total relief you need from your feelings, but making dietary changes can at least help you feel better. And, importantly, making these changes will help you realize that you are not powerless in your fight to feel better about yourself.