Forty million American adults live with anxiety disorders, and it’s not uncommon for depression to accompany anxiety. Nearly half of the people diagnosed with depression also have a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.
Even if you don’t have an anxiety disorder or depression, it’s normal to get stressed out from time to time. Anxiety is a normal part of life, and everyone experiences it at least occasionally. It’s also natural to feel depressed now and again.
Social media would have you believe the only way to drink your way to happiness is through beer, wine or liquor, but that’s just not the case. There are several ways you can help keep anxiety and depression at bay, and you don’t have to go further than your kitchen to do it.
A University of Pennsylvania study found that chamomile extract was associated with improved mood in people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The mildly sweet flavor of this tea makes it an enjoyable comfort drink for most people. It may even help you get to sleep at night.
Foods that are rich in folic acid can help combat depression. Dark, leafy greens like kale contain folates that can help prevent mood disorders and disorders of the central nervous system, according to Dr. Edward Reynolds at the Institute of Epileptology at King’s College in London. Just be sure to limit the amount of sugar in your smoothie by sticking to low-glycemic vegetables for ingredients. Sugar can increase anxiety in some people.
Dairy products contain a substantial amount of vitamin D, and deficiency in this vitamin has been linked to depression. According to the CDC, about a fourth of the population is at risk for vitamin D deficiency. You might need more vitamin D in your diet and not even know it. Greek yogurt can provide a solid foundation for a vitamin D-packed, healthy smoothie, assuming you don’t load it up with sugar. Vegans can get a similar vitamin D boost from tofu smoothies.
Believe it or not, coffee can be an antidepressant. It stimulates the central nervous system and elevates levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body. While too much coffee can lead you to feel anxious, a few cups a day might help keep the blues at bay.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help treat depression in people who do not have anxiety disorders. It makes sense that drinks like flax milk can help you when you’re feeling down. Substitute flax milk for cream in your morning coffee or tea, or use it instead of yogurt in a smoothie for a boost of omega-3s and happiness.
Tart cherry juice
Regular consumption of tart cherry juice can help you relax and reduce insomnia — a common problem for people living with anxiety. Tart cherries pack a big punch of melatonin, the substance that naturally regulates our sleep-wake cycles. It takes a little time before tart cherry juice starts to influence your cycles, but it’s worth the wait.
Two substances, EGCG and L-theanine, are found almost exclusively in green tea. EGCG has been shown to have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. L-theanine is an amino acid that has been shown to have calming effects on the brain. In a study published in Trends in Food Science & Technology, researchers found that people who drank green tea produced more alpha brainwaves, indicating increased levels of relaxation.
Dehydration can lead to anxiety or increase anxiety symptoms. When your body is in a state of dehydration, it can’t function properly. Even just a 1.5-percent loss of water in the body can alter your mood and leave you feeling blue. It’s just one more reason to make sure you drink enough water throughout the day.
What’s your favorite healthy drink for boosting your mood?
— Megan Winkler