Even though we advocate prayer for anxiety relief, there’s also a lot of science behind mood disorders. The brain, like any other body part, needs proper nutrition. Also, serotonin, an important neurotransmitter, plays a central role in weight gain and mood. Let’s see how this information can help you cope with anxiety or depression.
Can diet affect mood?
According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, legumes and fish contributes to positive mood. Meanwhile processed foods, meat, and whole-fat dairy products can increase the risk for depression. Other studies show that increased trans-fats can lead to aggression or irritability. Even elevated diet soft drink intake has been shown to increase the risk of depression.
So if you eat healthier you are happier. But is this really news?
Serotonin’s effects on weight and mood
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is found in the intestines and central nervous system. Serotonin suppresses the appetite and elevates mood. This is partially why scientists believe SSRI drugs like Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, and Paxil are effective for depression and anxiety disorders.
Sunlight also increases serotonin levels, and for light related mood disorders, like seasonal affective disorder (or S.A.D.), the treatment is bright light therapy. Research from BYU shows that those who don’t get proper sleep are at risk for weight gain, and this is partially due to daylight’s effect on serotonin levels. Finally (you guessed it) exercise increases serotonin levels too.
So optimal serotonin levels can limit appetite and improve mood. Sounds great, right?
One would think that the SSRIs, since they increase serotonin availability, would be wonder drugs. If they make you feel better and suppress your appetite, what could be better? The reality is that these drugs have a limited success rate, and some people do not benefit at all. Others even develop a sort of dependence upon the medication.
Psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy are other methods mental health professionals use for treatment. More and more, the scientific community is also accepting spiritually based treatment options that should be offered to anyone suffering from mood disorders.
Tell me something I don’t know
It’s the same old story, right? Eat more fruits and veggies, exercise, sleep right and you’ll be happier. If it’s so easy, why don’t we just do it? It’s because we are creatures of habit. Once we get into a rut, it’s very hard for us to get out. Plus, the food-mood-sleep cycle can be vicious, and the accumulation of factors makes things worse. So what do you do?
First of all, take the advice seriously. God wants you to be strong. He designed your body beautifully, but it has to receive the correct care. Your body is God’s temple, so take care of it. Eat healthy, exercise and try to get adequate sleep (the BYU study showed that those who got 8-8.5 hours of sleep per night had the lowest body fat).
The world hurries around to find a magic pill, but there is none. We have to do the work. However, the motivation can be found in prayer.
Pray as if your life depends on it – because it does
Your time in prayer can be lifesaving. If spirituality is part of the treatment for mood disorders, then it can make a biologic change for improved health. So start to pray for this. Ask God to help you.
First, ask to be freed from any spirit of lack of motivation, tiredness, or frustration. Ask the Lord to rise up and fight for you on a spiritual level so that you can rise up to fight on an earthly level. Ask him to defend you from the temptations to eat junk food. Look to him to get you on your feet again to go out for a walk where you will enjoy the splendor of nature.
So ask God specifically to help you:
- Be motivated
- Eat healthier
- Sleep well
- Exercise regularly
The King of kings
There is a spirit in the world that wants to anesthetize and isolate us. If we are lazy and alone then we are more easily tempted and controlled. Recognize the enemy and fight back. Or even better, ask our Great King to fight for you. Jesus Christ reigns over the universe, but he will never force you to do anything. But if you ask with faith and trust, he will come into your life in glory to set you free. Begin today. Your road to health is found in prayer.