Winter is coming, and all signs are pointing to it. Days are getting shorter and darker sooner. Temps are dropping and, for many, so are the moods. Yes, this is about the time that a good number of individuals (about five percent of the U.S. population, actually) gets hit with seasonal depression. And while there are many practical, easy-to-implement solutions that can help with the winter blues, one of the buzziest comes in the form of mood-enhancing supplements.
These natural pills are designed to harness the powers of botanicals and good-for-you nutrients to help uplift you and make you feel like your balanced self again. And with mental health and self-care being such hot topics of conversation right now, it’s no wonder brands and health pros alike are embracing these feel-better pills. They’re literally everywhere now.
All that said, there are a couple things to note before reaching for the bottle of pick-me-ups: First, the actual effectiveness of mood-enhancing supplements is still under debate and a lot of research has come back inconclusive on the matter, particularly in regards to some of the common active ingredients like tryptophan, SAMe, and folic acid. Also, despite their "natural" label, these products should be approached with the same caution you would take with prescription medication. “Supplements are not meant to be used without discretion,” says Shauna Faulisi, nutritionist and founder of Soul Wellness Method. “I would recommend not seeing them as a free-for-all … Anything you’re taking should be checked with a medical provider.”
However, if you decide (and are cleared by a doctor) to go the supplement route, you could very well find yourself on the path to happy. Just because they're natural and don’t come with a doctor-approved subscription, doesn’t mean they don't pack quite a punch. “Supplements add something positive [to the body],” says Faulisi. “They can be pretty powerful, even if they’re natural, and can alter [your mood swings].”
She goes on to explain that most mood imbalances, whether they be from stress, hormones, exhaustion, or even the change of season, all boil down to a deficiency in something. “Vitamin D, for example is a hormone our body naturally produces that’s responsible for multiple functions in the body,” says Faulisi. Vitamin D deficiency can come from lack of sun exposure, which makes the vitamin (or lack thereof) a believed culprit of seasonal affective disorder, as a shortage in this nutrient can lead to a dip in mood and even depression. Another common deficiency that can impact your mood negatively is magnesium. “This is super important for women,” says Faulisi. In fact, lack of magnesium can lead to all kinds of mood disorders including lack of emotion and increased anxiety.
More often than not, mood-enhancing supplements are packed with nutrients and active ingredients that level out the deficiencies that can impair how you function in life. For example, HUM Nutrition’s natural stress and anxiety depressant Big Chill features an adaptogen called rhodiola, which helps the body better adapt to stress. “I would recommend this for anyone that has a high stress lifestyle and is looking for another way to wind down,” says Sarah Greenfield, HUM’s director of education and lead nutritionist.
For those feeling extra down this season, Love Wellness offers #Mood Pills, a homeopathic alternative to traditional pharmaceutical medications for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and depression, says Lo Bosworth, the company’s founder and CEO. “The star ingredients in the [supplements] are organic St. John's wort, organic ginkgo leaf powder, and organic chasteberry,” explains Bosworth. “St. John's wort and ginkgo leaf have been used for centuries to treat mild depression, and we include organic chasteberry as it's clinically proven to improve symptoms of PMS and PMDD.”
Like any health or wellness plan, the key to getting optimum results is consistency. “[...] you need to allow the ingredients to build up to a level in the bloodstream to feel the benefits, rather than taking them on demand when you feel a bit off,” says Bosworth.
Keeping the rest of your body in a healthy spot is also important. “To get the best results out of your supplement routine, make healthy diet and lifestyle changes to see enhanced results,” says Greenfield. “You don't have to change everything at once, start with small changes for the best, long-term and sustainable results.”