On July 18, “Naked Nelson” was detained for stripping off his clothes and trying to open an emergency exit on a flight from Boston to Oklahoma City. Athletes from the New England Revolution, a Major League Soccer team, helped apprehend the man and detained him until officials arrived at the scene. Yet it is unclear what sort of mood “Naked Nelson” was in to drive him to such extremes.
Robert E. Thayer who is a professor of psychology at California State University Long Beach has written several books regarding moods. In his 1989 book "The biopsychology of mood and arousal" he defines a mood simply as a relatively long lasting, affective or emotional state. The state of mind of the nude man on the airplane therefore qualifies. Yet his mood, like an increasing number of other mental states, from attention deficit disorder to social anxiety disorder, would be classified as other than normal.
In a world in which such classified moods are often medicated, understanding factors that contribute to certain degrees of emotional states may be helpful in dictating a more positive mood. In the hunt for contributing factors that influence the mood food, sleep and exercise are among the most commonly referenced.
In his studies on nutrition and the brain, MIT Professor of Neuropharmacology Dr. Richard Wurtman, found reason to believe that the nutrients in foods are precursors to neurotransmitters. These messengers that carry information from one nerve cell to another are crucial to moods. In the article "How Food Affects the Mood," by Sue Gilbert, Wurtman says that depending on the amount of precursors present in the food you eat, the greater or lesser quantity of a certain neurotransmitter is produced. Protein rich foods are known to enhance alertness and carbohydrate-rich foods are more of an aid in stress-reduction and relaxation—leading to a healthy night's sleep.
With the word "sleep" comes many factors associated with moods. For example in a dream, if a person sees the color red it may mean love—or danger. Association with the color red could also raise blood pressure and make the heart beat faster.
Moreover, a person's mood while awake may influence that person's mood while sleeping. A study called "The Relationship of Dream Content and Changes in Daytime Mood in Traumatized vs. Non-Traumatized Children" analyzed the effect that living in a traumatic environment has on dreams. The results of a week-long dream diary from 413 Palestinian children showed surprising results, which prove that a person has less control over the state of mind associated with sleep then commonly assumed. "The more afraid, angry and worried children felt in the evening, the more happy recreation dreams they reported, and the happier evening mood they reported, the more threatening stranger dreams they had."
Controlling one's mood with a decent amount of sleep each night, however, is a different story. Mathew P. Walker, a Psychology and Neuroscience professor at University of California, Berkeley led a study to test how lack of sleep affects a person's mood. Researchers kept volunteers up for 35 hours then recorded brain activity based off the reaction of a series of negative and positive thought-provoking images. Results showed the emotions of the sleep deprived subjects to be significantly more elevated then those with healthy amounts of sleep.
A study that dealt with short term mood improvement in people diagnosed with depressive disorders but weren't taking medication or exercising regularly was shown to create a sense of well-being and vigor. The study, published in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine called Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, tested volunteers who were in an exercise group that consisted of walking for 30 minutes. That group was compared with a similar group that substituted a 30 minute resting period for the exercise. As a result, both groups reported feeling good, but only the active people said they had elevated feelings of contentment and energy.
With all this in mind, perhaps eating right, sleeping well, and exercising regularly will serve as useful advice for “Naked Nelson.”