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Managing mood with healthy behaviors  December 1st, 2011

As we have all experienced, college is a busy time of life. It’s important to make the most of your time in college, enjoying freedom and friends and accomplishing your goals and graduating. With so much going on, it’s understandable that many people deal with stress and anxiety over piles of homework and midterms or relationship stress from friends, family and boyfriends or girlfriends. Some may also feel more depressed being far from family or loved ones and as we enter into the darker, colder months of the year.

The good news is that it’s easier than you think to combat these moods and feelings! It’s not a gimmick or quick fix pill, just three healthy behaviors you can easily and slowly incorporate into your schedule: exercise, sleep, and healthy eating.

Exercise releases our feel good hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine and can also improve your sleep.1 Some great choices are walking, yoga, or Tai chi. OSU offers yoga, tai chi, and walking PAC classes2 and Dixon offers yoga classes. For those who desire more interactive forms of exercise some options include joining an intramural sports team, taking a team sport PAC class, or going to a fitpass class at Dixon.3

Sleep and mood have been found to be closely associated: sleep can affect your mood and your mood can affect how you sleep.4 Although it may be challenging, try making it a priority to sleep at least 7-8 hours a few times a week. As you have probably experienced, a good rest can take your mood from sluggish and cranky to refreshed and confident, leaving you ready to tackle your day!

Here are some Good Sleep Habits to ensure a restful sleep: 5

  • Create a pre-sleep routine to relax & prepare your body for sleep
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep
  • Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule
  • Avoid napping close to your bed time
  • Refrain from eating or drinking too much before going to bed

Healthy eating can directly affect how you feel: a balanced diet can help you feel mentally alert & energized, but a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can make you feel drained. Incorporate these mood boosters into your meals to provide you with consistent energy throughout the day: whole grains, foods with fiber, like fruits and vegetables, and lean protein.

Try to limit sugar and refined carbohydrates like white bread & bagels, cookies, cake, candy bars, and crackers. These mood killers may give you instant energy, but not consistent energy, making you crash and burn.6

Some healthy eating suggestions:

  • Whole wheat sandwich with turkey & cheddar.
  • Whole wheat tortilla with beans, guacamole, & salsa.
  • Low fat yogurt with whole grain granola
  • Apple slices or celery sticks & peanut butter
  • Oatmeal with sliced banana

Everyone has their own busy schedule and everybody is unique, so try out the different tips and find out what works for you. Incorporate them into your week until they become healthy habits that will improve your mood!

Danielle Swearingen, Senior dietetic student volunteer