Our brains are magnificent, complex machines and we won’t likely ever know as much about what they do and how they do it as there is to know. But thanks to researchers who are continually uncovering new data, we can come up with new ways to impact our brain’s functioning and our mood without resorting to medication or medical interventions. Here are several things you might find interesting*:
- Exercise (classified as 30 minutes of brisk walking three times a week) has been shown to be just as effective in reversing depressive symptoms as the popular prescription medication Zoloft. (This links to one study, but there have been several that show the same). In addition, the effects of regular exercise are shown to last longer than the effects of prescription antidepressants.
- Exercise also increases your brain’s ability to function by triggering new brain cell growth. Basically, regular exercise can make you smarter.
- When we are physically active, our brains produce dopamine and serotonin, two feel-good chemicals.
- Sunlight affects our mood by triggering special receptors in the back of our eye that stimulate the brain to produce both Vitamin D and serotonin. So, finding time to get physical exercise outside when it’s sunny is giving yourself a double dose of natural antidepressants.
- Sugar increases inflammation in the brain which has the effect of disrupting normal brain circuits and making it hard for your brain to produce the nerve cells necessary to create new memories. So if you’re working hard on a project for work or cramming for a test at school and you’re fueling your energy with pastries or ice cream, you are making things harder for yourself without even knowing it.
Remember, information is power, and the more you understand about how your brain and body work, the better choices you can make about keeping yourself healthy, happy, and smart.
*None of this is meant to substitute for medical advice from a physical or mental health professional. If you are struggling with severe depressive symptoms or learning challenges, please consult a healthcare professional.