Nutritional advisor Tracy Breuning from Bio-Kult reveals how simple things can boost your mood during these uncertain times.

We can all have periods of low mood and feelings of uncertainty can be common in the current climate. Unsurprisingly, levels of stress and anxiety have soared since the pandemic took hold. A study conducted by the University of Nottingham and King’s College London of more than 3000 UK adults showed that in the early stages of lockdown, 57 per cent reported symptoms of anxiety. Some 64 per cent showed common signs of depression. Women and young people were the most affected. Scientists are warning that mental health will deteriorate again with the prospect of more lockdowns during the winter.

For some, a low mood will often pass in a few days or weeks. However, if these feelings are continuous each day or persist over a period of time, then it is best to talk to a healthcare professional to support you.

However, if you want to try and improve your mood, there are some simple things you can do that will make you feel happier…

1. Try laughter yoga

Laughing yoga is about deep breathing exercises and playful laughter and has been shown to have positive health benefits especially in stress management. Laughing forms strong bonds with ourselves and others.

2. Random acts of kindness

Research has shown that doing things for others can stop us focusing on our own worries and boost our mood. Research has even shown benefits to toddlers from acts of altruism. It could just be a thank you or a smile. It may be planting seeds in a pot for a friend or neighbour that will bloom in a few weeks. There are lots of suggestions here.

3. Stay connected

Studies show that as humans we like to feel we belong to something. Positive social connection, be it by post, phone, online or over a garden fence can boost our love hormone oxytocin, which increases self-esteem and optimism as well as dopamine, which can boost our drive.

4. Support your gut health

Around 90 per cent of our feelgood neurotransmitter serotonin is manufactured in the gut. Support your gut flora diversity with prebiotic foods such as bananas, apples, oats, asparagus, onions, garlic and leeks. Try your hand at making fermented foods which is a great way to introduce beneficial species of bacteria to the gut. To make a simple Sauerkraut you just need a kilner jar, a white cabbage and some salt. Sauerkraut has been shown to have good levels of beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria.

You could also consider introducing a multi-strain live bacteria supplement, Such as Bio-Kult Boosted, containing 14 different strains, to support your gut integrity and microflora.

5. Clean up your diet

Eating sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods can cause a surge in blood sugar and temporarily elevate serotonin levels, but on the downside, those foods tend to be pro-inflammatory which has been linked to low mood and depression.

Serotonin is derived from the protein Tryptophan and some foods we can introduce into our diet which are high in tryptophan are chicken, turkey, fish, cheese, eggs and oats.

As well as high Tryptophan foods research has shown other foods which can support positive mental wellbeing including omega 3 and vitamin D Foods high in omega 3 include cold-water fish, green vegetables, grass-fed meat, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

Good food sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, some mushrooms and fortified foods such as some dairy foods, cereals and orange juice. Interestingly, our gut flora balance appears to have an effect on vitamin D levels, and supplementation with live bacteria, such as Bio-Kult S.Boulardii (RRP £14.99, available from the Bio-Kult website) which also contains vitamin D3, has been shown to help increase levels. Non-food sources of Vitamin D include natural sunlight and there is much research on supporting low mood with natural light therapy. Get out into the daylight if you can or if not make sure you sit by a window during the day.