Mind

This is how a naturopath suggests you address difficult emotions

You don't need to sit with these feelings.

By Bronte Chaperon

While there are many wonderful things in the world - beautiful sunsets, chirping birds and laughing babies - sometimes life isn't all sunshine and rainbows.

Bad things happen, and we may find ourselves in undesired circumstances, resulting in an anxious or sad mood that won't seem to lift.

While these emotions are normal - and can even be beneficial at times - prolonged periods of feeling sad can have a negative impact on your quality of life, so it's important to address your low mood when things are becoming a bit too much.

Naturopath at Lifestream, Karin Spicer, says addressing what is causing the low mood is the first step to feeling better.

"Is it lifestyle, stress levels, support system, personal reactions, diet, health issues or maybe a combination? It seems obvious but the first thing to look at is what is causing the low mood."

"Identifying and taking responsibility for making changes can be a challenge for some people but if you never change the root cause you are basically treading water rather than moving forward with healing."

Unsure what the root cause of your unhappiness is? You may need to see a doctor or therapist to help you.

They will be able to assess if your low mood is actually clinical depression or anxiety (that requires medication and therapy to deal with) or a bout of the blues.

If your low mood is situation-dependent and you feel a professional may not be needed, mindfulness may be a good practice to begin.

"I always recommend setting aside a time each day to empty the mind and focus on breathing - in through the nose, out through the mouth, think "calm" with each out breath," says Spicer.

Need help remembering to breathe in the nose and out the mouth? Try saying to yourself: 'Smell the roses, blow out the candle' as you do it.

In addition to breathing exercises, journaling can also assist you improve your mental health, and has been known to lower your heart rate, help you sleep better and help you achieve your goals.

If you've got a pad and pen in front of you but are unsure where to start, try writing about how you feel and what you're thankful for.

"Some people find value in keeping a journal to purge the thoughts that can run around in your head that add to those unhelpful feelings.

"However for some people it is a brain chemistry balance that needs support. It might be a person is low in Vitamin D, DHA from Omega 3, or serotonin - 5htp or Tart cherry can boost levels."

Spicer says that diets high in sugar can also negatively affect your mood, but, contrastingly, probiotics have the potential to help.

"There is exciting clinical research into probiotics recently completed which is showing that specific strains of probiotics can support the brain-gut axis which can support a healthy mood, especially during stressful times."

While having a holistic approach to tackling a low mood is best - engaging in regular physical exercise and working on mental strength will help greatly - taking any measures to improve your mood is a step in the right direction.

If you need immediate assistance call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland. To find a psychologist, call the national free Healthline service on 0800 611 116 or visit mentalhealth.org.nz