DISCLAIMER: DO NOT USE ANY DRUGS OR SUBSTANCES WITHOUT CONSULTING A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. THIS IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.
Like many of you, sometimes I feel blue for no good reason
– an inexplicable, irrational state of just feeling down. What brings it on is difficult to pinpoint. Fortunately, I have discovered some ways to get rid of it.
That black cloud following you around can be lost and you can bask in the sun again. The worst thing to do is wallow in it and believe that it will never pass. Bottom line – do whatever you need to do to get rid of it. Life is too short to spend time in such a paralyzing state.
The way to get rid of it might be a “happy pill”.
But a “happy pill” can be an activity, a place, a person, or an actual pill.
The obvious happy pill is exercise.
You hear it all the time, “I started exercising and I feel so much better!”. This statement implies not only physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The four “selves”. The four selves (your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual self) do not operate in a vacuum, separated from each other. There is constant interaction between the selves. Exercise is obviously affecting the physical self, and positive, constructive exercise will affect your entire being, especially your mind. More than just a pacifier, successful exercise spills over success to the other areas of your life. Effective exercise has been a lifelong reset button for me and brought me back from the brink of disaster (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) MANY times.
A happy pill can also be a place. I believe many of you notice how invigorating being near the ocean is. There is nothing quite like a trip to the beach, in any season, standing in the sand and looking out over the ocean, to calm the soul. Finally, able to take a deep breath, you realize how small you and your problems really are.
If you are naturally a “down” person, I strongly recommend you find yourself “up” people to spend your time with. Surrounding yourself with other “down” people will only lead to negative, destructive, soul-sucking behavior. A turning point for me was finding my now wife, Katie – the most naturally happy, “up” person I have ever met.
Finally, there are happy pills, supplements and medications that exist to take that edge off when all your other lifestyle changes still leave your mood lacking that spark of happiness. I have experimented with many. Here are a few of the highlights.
I will confine my analyses to OTC supplements, since I have virtually no experience with anti-depressant (prescription) medications.
When we talk about fish oil as a supplement, what we are really talking about supplementing is two Omega-3 fatty acids: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
There are several reasons one might take fish oil. Improved cardiovascular health, lowering triglycerides, increasing HDL, help with joint pain, reduced DOMS (Delay Muscle Onset Soreness), or even help with body fat loss. I believe the biggest benefit from fish oil comes in the form of helping the brain. The thing to remember about the brain is that the brain is the fattest organ in your body – about 60% fat. That’s a big number, which is why it makes sense to me that you can affect the brain so directly by the fats you eat. While there is much research currently being done in helping children with ADHD, there is a significant amount of research that shows that supplementing fish oil can reliably help people battling depression (study, study, study) . However, the research is pretty mixed in this conclusion. Also, there is justifiable and growing concern about the ingestion of fats that may be oxidized, or rancid. This is why it is especially important that you choose a high quality fish oil supplement, and also keep it refrigerated. After trying all the other supplements here, I have settled on fish oil as my most reliable go-to. I have tried several other the years. Here they are, in chronological order:
Udo’s Choice Oil
MRM SMART BLEND
Carlson Labs Elite Omega-3, 800 mg, Gems Fish Oil Soft Gels
Ascenta Health Nutrasea Dha Omega-3 High Dha Liquid – I am currently leaning towards this brand because of their high standards of quality control.
When we are talking about Vitamin D, we actually mean Vitamin D3, not Vitamin D2, as explained here. Make sure you purchase D3, not D2.
You are unlikely to get all the Vitamin D3 you need from your exposure to the sun. A big reason is that everyone forgets to mention the fact that in order to get your body to make significant amounts of D3, you MUST expose large areas of the body like the bare torso, chest, back and legs- face and arms is NOT enough. Also, you cannot get the sunlight exposure you need behind windows – the glass filters out the UVB, not the UVA, which is BAD. This article does a good job of explaining these issues more thoroughly. Additionally, if you are like me and even burn spending a day at the beach UNDER AN UMBRELLA, basking in the sun for your vitamin D can be disastrous. I have identified a really great product for getting those Vitamin D levels quickly and efficiently in the healthy range: Optimal Vitamin D3 Liquid by Seeking Health
In addition to promoting the normal growth and development of bones and teeth, vitamin D has a bunch of benefits including improved resistance against a variety of diseases, regulating mood and warding off depression (study, study, study), preventing heart disease and reducing cardiovascular risk, and even raising testosterone (in men) up to 25% (study, study, study). Some professionals go so far as to say, “if you have to choose between taking a multi-vitamin and taking Vitamin D3, take the Vitamin D3”.
I consider L-Tyrosine a powerful secret that I do not often bring up. Although I do not feel like it removes the symptoms of depression directly, it does help immensely by helping you think more clearly and, therefore, help you problem solve your way through various, stressful life challenges that may inconveniently arise. Simply put, I am smarter and more focused when I am consistently taking L-Tyrosine. I take 1.5 grams L-Tyrosine, 2-3 times/day between meals on an empty stomach for max results. This supplementation appears even more effective when I keep my daily carbohydrate intake below 100 grams. In retrospect, I realize now that I only stop taking it when life is going very smoothly and return to it when I seem to have persistent trouble solving problems. The research supports that L-Tyrosine enhances memory, reasoning and physical performance (study). L-Tyrosine appears to boost mood and support optimal functioning of the central nervous system (study). L-Tyrosine makes you more resistant to environmental stress (study, study).
UPDATE FEB 2018: As stated above, I periodically return to using L-Tyrosine. A couple months ago, I began consistent doses again and, coincidentally, was able to complete a huge project that I had been previously stuck in the mud on. I must repeat emphatically that I am simply smarter and more able to focus for long periods of time when I take this simple, inexpensive amino acid.
There are 3 more products that I have experimented with over the years: GABA, St. John’s Wort, and Happy Pills (yes, there actually is a supplement named “Happy Pills”.
I tried GABA for the first time when I was first competing in bodybuilding shows (those competitions where you stand up on stage in front of a couple thousand people… yeah… those). I started taking GABA because the “word” among some of the old time bodybuilders was that GABA helps your body release more Growth Hormone (GH). Some research on GABA does support this fact. Is it an increase in GH that helps enhance mood while taking GABA regularly, or some other mechanism. Hard to say. For me, the thing that sticks in my mind about GABA is the “GABA flush” (not fun!), deeper sleep, and waking up each morning visibly leaner. However, I generally DO NOT recommend GABA. I have recommended it here and there for clients with specific situations, but only after much explained.
I learned about the anti-depressant effects of taking St John’s Wort from a friend. At the time, it seemed to work quite well. I stopped taking it when I was trying to figure out why I was getting persistent rashes on my hands. It was not the St John’s Wort, or any other supplement I was taking. The reasons I had severe rashes on my hands was because of a gluten allergy. No more gluten = no more rashes! Magic!
Happy Pills is a formula based supplement. The ingredients include St John’s Wort, a form of Tyrosine, and Vitamin D3… coincidence? I think not. When I used them years ago, they did the trick.
I hope this article can help anyone who is looking for non-pharmaceutical ways to combat feeling down. Of course, no judgement here if you feel medication is the best route for you. Happiness is elusive – do whatever you can to hold onto it.
Thank you for reading.