Happiness Is A Choice (AND Surprisingly So Is Depression)

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Scientists discover a way to improve your mood, drug free!

You’ve heard the news that happiness is a choice, but what if I told you, “So is depression,” would you be intrigued?

It turns out that your mood is regulated by a small structure in the brain called the hippocampus.  And within this region new neurons are created in a process known as neurogenesis.

Stay with me…

Scientists have proven that neurogenesis is directly related to mood regulation. 

Essentially our society could get to a point where the doctor hands out a lifestyle plan rather than an antidepressant prescription.   

The plan would simply have to promote new brain cell development and voila we could theoretically have the power to improve our mood, drug free.  

AND It’s Been Done!

In her Ted Talk, You Can Grow New Brain Cells: Here’s How, Sandrine Thuret discusses how you can improve your mood by increasing neurogenesis in 4 ways:

  1. Keep learning
  2. Move your body
  3. Have more sex
  4. Craft the perfect diet

Numbers 1-3 are self explanatory, but what would number 4 even look like?

Thuret reports that your diet must be in a caloric deficit of 20-30 percent (and include intermittent fasting) in order to boost neurogenesis.

If you want to eat your way to happiness you’ll have to include foods with high levels of flavonoids such as blueberries, and rich in omega-3-fatty acids like salmon and walnuts. 

A Harvard University study determined that in order to reap the benefits from these foods you must consume ½ a cup of blueberries at least three times per week, salmon twice per week, about one ounce of walnuts per day, and as much fresh spinach as you can handle (other foods qualify as well see this link for more suggestions).

What would a Lifestyle Plan even look like?

First, you need to decrease your stress levels and trim down your commitment calendar (stress shuts down neurogenesis).  Whether it’s your boss requesting that you work more, your son wanting a 3rd extra curricular activity tacked onto your already crammed shuttle service schedule, or your church that needs you to fill in for Sister Susan, who unfortunately just had wrist surgery. 

You are the gate keeper of your time.  Start doing your job.

With less to do you’ll have no problem completing the next step, which is getting the recommended eight hours or more of sleep per night.


Third, limit the amount of alcohol you consume.  This actually decreases neurogenesis.  If you must have something, reach for red wine.  That’s considered a neutral beverage due to it containing resveratrol (but mind your calories).

Fourth, craft the perfect diet plan filled with depression fighting power foods. 

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Sample Daily Diet:

Start your day off right with some nonfat Greek yogurt, topped with some berries and walnuts.  For lunch, fix your favorite grilled chicken salad and add in some strawberries to give it a delicious twist.  When dinner rolls around skip the fatty burger and fries and replace it with a grilled salmon fillet, spinach salad drizzled with olive oil topped with a few walnuts and blueberries.

Fifth, move your body.  Begin your morning with a brisk walk, every hour you sit, walk for 5 minutes, and wrap up your day with an evening stroll.

Sixth, read something of value, discover the history of your community, or turn off the Kardashians and watch a Ted talk instead.

Bonus step, squeeze in some extra physical activity and have more sex

That’s it!

Now every time you hear that happiness is a choice, you can respond, “And in some cases, so is depression”.

Happy neurogenesis!

Jessica is the author of Back 2 Love and How to Start a Mental Health Private Practice.  She owns a private practice in Minnesota where she lives with her husband and two kids.  Connect with her on Facebook.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and it is not meant to substitute the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.