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Mood Enhancers That May Be Unsafe continued...

5-HTP. This is a precursor to a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Although some health care providers recommend it for mood problems, others are more cautious. “It is not clear whether 5-HTP is immune from the same problems L-tryptophan had,” Fugh-Berman tells WebMD, referring to an amino acid that was taken off the market in 1989 due to a dangerous contaminant. This concern has been largely disputed, and 5-HTP is generally considered safe, and effective for depression when taken at150-300 milligrams daily. 

As you evaluate other mood supplements, keep in mind that the FDA does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. This makes it harder for you to assess their strength, purity, and safety. Fugh-Berman advises doing your own research on effectiveness and adverse effects, using reliable, unbiased sources, and by consulting groups that independently evaluate dietary supplements.

Lifestyle Changes for Enhancing Your Mood

“If you look at the research on exercise for depression, it’s equal to or better than medication for depression -- probably the best outright alternative treatment for depression,” says Emmons, who often recommends mild, rhythmic activities such as walking, biking, or jogging. “It may not be enough for a lot of people, but it’s a good place to start.”

Reporting in a February 2008 issue of Cerebral Cortex, German researchers described PET scans and recently available chemicals they used to prove that running does, in fact, release mood-enhancing endorphins. The more released, the greater the effect.

How much exercise is enough to enhance mood? Three hours of moderate activity per week may do the trick, according to a study published in the January 2005 American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Emmons also strongly recommends a variety of stress management techniques, such as learning meditation to self-regulate thoughts, called mindfulness.

“People with recurring depression tend to get triggered very quickly -- almost like a track is laid down, a slippery slope,” he says. “It pays to put some real effort into learning to recognize this immediately and to learn ways to steady yourself.”

Even certain computer games can help create more positive thought patterns. Based on scientifically tested tools published in the journal of the American Psychological Association, MindHabits is one example. It helps players reduce stress and boost esteem by training the mind to refocus the way it perceives the world.

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