Tag Archive for: mood management

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW – October 27, 2021

I’m sure it’s safe to say we’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat” at some point in time. Recent research into food and its effects on the body and mind may have us saying a new phrase: “Change your food, change your mood.”

Our brains are made of neural pathways, transmitters, and chemicals that make up and regulate our thoughts and moods. The foods we eat impact the balance of these chemicals. Something as simple as our lunch choice could have the power to impact our feelings and emotions, for better or worse.

For example, serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter, makes us feel happy. When serotonin levels drop, one may feel sad or depressed. Serotonin is directly linked with an amino acid found in food, tryptophan. Diets consisting of foods with low or no tryptophan levels lead to depleting serotonin in the brain. This in turn then can cause irritability, aggression, lowered mood, and impaired memory.

Diets including foods with high levels of tryptophan can provide the opposite effect and raise serotonin levels naturally. Turkey is one food that is high in tryptophan, so don’t just relegate turkey to Thanksgiving dinner! Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are also foods to eat to get a mood boost from tryptophan.

Another dietary tweak that could lower risk for depression, especially in women, is to drink coffee regularly. Coffee boosts dopamine and norepinephrine, which are also feel good neurotransmitters in the brain. A National Institute of Health study tracked women over a ten-year period (1996-2006) and found women who drank coffee regularly throughout the week had lower reported depressive episodes than non-coffee drinking women.

How about a sweet treat to go with your coffee? Dark chocolate has been found to increase serotonin levels naturally as well, leading to improved mood. Bananas can also be included on a list of foods that will decrease negative mood-related symptoms thanks to their high vitamin B6 levels.

Other amino acids, such as L-theanine and Omega-3, a fatty acid, minerals such as magnesium and zinc, and antioxidants can reduce anxiety symptoms. Salmon is a great source of Omega-3 and can also alter dopamine and serotonin levels, packing a double advantage to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and Swiss chard, contain magnesium which can lower anxiety. Blueberries are another food with potential to alter one’s mood. Flavonoids, an antioxidant found in blueberries, assist in regulating mood, in addition to the other health benefits eating fresh fruit provides.

The foods listed above are not an exhaustive list. If you are considering a major change to your lifestyle, please consult a physician and/or nutritionist. Changing your diet, such as eating a banana for a snack, or swapping out the lettuce in a salad with dark greens, can impact overall health and mood for the better.

By Tiffany Harper, Courier & Press, January 30, 2018 –

My favorite program to facilitate as a Youth First Social Worker is Reconnecting Youth (RY). This program is taught in a high school classroom setting and is co-facilitated by Youth First Social Workers and trained teachers. It hones in on three major components in a student’s life:  school achievement, mood management, and drug and alcohol control.

To improve school achievement students are taught strategies to raise grades, improve attendance, and demonstrate a better attitude in the classroom.

To assist with mood management students are taught coping strategies and encouraged to share their struggles with one another in order to combat issues such as depression and anxiety.

To reduce drug and alcohol involvement, they are encouraged to place themselves in sober environments, use refusal skills, and set goals to reduce or abstain from substance use.

In the RY classroom an atmosphere is created so students can feel welcome, bond with others who may or may not have similar life experiences, and learn major life lessons that can be applied in their everyday lives.

Students are encouraged to set goals on a daily basis in an effort to improve life success. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to be involved with this evidence-based program.

Students express the most appreciation for the portion of the class called “shared agenda,” during which students share struggles and successes with each other and offer support and encouragement.

A student from class this year made some heartfelt statements during the class graduation ceremony that illustrate its direct impact on student growth and functioning:

“Sophomore year I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after making a second suicide attempt. I felt ashamed to be depressed and I felt so different from everyone else, but in reality I wasn’t. To me RY was a safe haven, a place I finally felt like I belonged. I learned I wasn’t so different. I remember walking in on the first day thinking ‘I don’t think I belong here,’ but boy was I wrong! My classmates taught me that being sad was okay and that there is no shame in asking for help. I learned how different our lives are and even how similar. I gained friends I thought I’d never have and even some self confidence! I finally realized how precious life was, especially mine…I know that going forth in life I will be a much stronger person thanks to this program. RY taught me to love and appreciate myself and every little thing in life and that is something I will never forget.”

As teens navigate through challenges in their lives, Reconnecting Youth can provide support, bonding, and encouragement to make healthy lifestyle choices and good decisions. You can find more information on Reconnecting Youth and Youth First’s other programs at youthfirstinc.org.