There are many different ways that people seek to improve their mental health. Some good practices include regular meditation and exercise, healthy diet, therapy, and high-quality sleep – all of which can be instrumental for improving well-being and happiness.
However, many people may end up seeking additional tools to enhance their life further. Dissatisfied or concerned with the use of pharmaceuticals, many people may turn to nootropics, natural supplements, and brain foods.
Nootropics are a unique class of drugs and supplements that improve mood, cognition, and longevity. They are characterized by a lack of serious side effects and have distinct properties that set them apart from pharmaceutical drugs.
There are many different nootropics and supplements out there, and it can be hard to know where to begin. Below you will find some wonderful nootropics that may be a good starting point for improving your mental health and well-being.
Ashwagandha is an herb with a long history of use in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine. It’s an adaptogen: a supplement that restores the body to its optimal functioning, resulting in reduced stress, reduced fatigue, and improved mood.
Extensive studies show that Ashwagandha can provide numerous benefits to mental health. It significantly lowers cortisol and stress levels and reduces anxiety and depressive symptoms. It’s even been shown to benefit well-being and social behavior directly.
Many people have reported very positive and beneficial effects of ashwagandha supplementation. If you are struggling with stress and anxiety, it may be a powerful tool to help you out, especially when combined with exercise.
Magnesium is a dietary mineral that plays an essential role in the body and is absolutely critical for maintaining mental health. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to numerous mental health problems including ADHD, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Magnesium is hard to acquire from our diets. Western diets, in particular, tend to be very low in magnesium, and as such almost all westerners are deficient in it.
Consider eating a diet with magnesium-rich foods such as avocados, seeds, nuts, legumes, beans, and spinach. Alternatively, you can also take magnesium in its supplement form. Magnesium glycinate is considered to be the most effective form to take, as it is relatively bioavailable and does not cause any GI discomfort.
3. Fish Oil
Fish oil is an omega-3 fatty acid that is important for brain health and longevity. It consists of both EPA and DHA, which provide benefits to mood and cognition, respectively.
Fish oil appears to be useful for alleviating depression, bipolar disorder, and for reducing stress and anxiety. It also improves blood flow and oxygenation in the brain and has strong anti-inflammatory actions. For these reasons, fish oil is considered to be among the best natural nootropics available today.
If you like fish, eating a few 6 oz portions of salmon a week appears to be a great way of getting ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
For those who don’t like seafood, supplementation can be just as effective. Viva Naturals, Nordic Naturals, and Nature Made are among the best fish oil brands.
Theanine is an amino acid found in teas and some other natural sources. It has the unique ability to promote relaxation and improve attention simultaneously. It has also useful for reducing anxiety and stress as well.
Theanine is excellent for quieting the mind and achieving a flow-state or zen-like meditative state, whether it’s through yoga, meditation, or regular daily activities. Typically paired with caffeine, Theanine can reduce anxiety or jitters and help you focus your attention even further.
Theanine is most commonly found in green and black teas. It is particularly abundant in Gyokuro green tea. Otherwise, supplementation is often desirable as its reasonably cheap.
5. Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng is an herb that shares some similar properties with Ashwagandha. Ginseng also an adaptogen that promotes homeostasis, thereby improving overall mental and physical health.
Ginseng is effective for improving mental health and stabilizing mood. It has a calming effect and may help promote healthy social behavior and reduce aggression.
Ginseng comes in many forms, and it may be a bit confusing to know which is the best form to take. The best kind of ginseng appears to be Korean red ginseng (a type of Panax ginseng), which seems to have strong anti-depressive properties and is effective for improving general mood.
How to Use Nootropics Effectively
I’m a big proponent of nootropics, but I always like to issue a few caveats and tips to ensure people can get the most out of them.
Here are 4 steps to increase the likelihood of nootropics improving your mental health:
1. Nootropics are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle; things like sleep, exercise, and diet should always be a priority. Nootropics are sort of like icing on the cake; they work best to help you reach new heights when you’re already giving it your all.
2. Not all nootropics are created equal. Not everyone responds to them in the same way; they may work excellently for some and do not affect others. Be patient. Taking a dozen nootropics at once won’t do you any good if you don’t know how they’re all affecting you.
3. To get the most out of nootropics, it helps to identify your own goals so you can determine what you want to use them for and what you want to get out of them.
4. Once you’ve established your goals, it’s important to research nootropics using so that you will be informed enough to manage your expectations appropriately. Best of luck!