We all know, life can be challenging itself, but poor mental health on top sometimes feels like a trap you can never get out of. I myself have experienced anxiety and depression and grew up supporting my Mother through chronic depression and alcoholism. This is why, topics like R U OK DAY are so important, to not only me, but to anyone touched by mental health. When I was affected and someone reached out to me, just knowing I was better understood, made it so much easier for me to see a psychologist, feel motivated to exercise and eat the right foods. It was the support I needed to change direction. I cannot wait for the day when mental health is looked at in the same way as having a cold, with no stigma attached. It is awareness that takes away stigma and the fear around mental illness and that’s why initiates such as R U OK DAY make such a difference.
I can honestly say, with my hand on heart, the reason I am the happy person I am today and the reason I can cope with what life throws at me, is because I lead a healthy lifestyle. It is a lifestyle within everybody’s reach….and one which of course involves indulgences here and there….!
R U OK?’S mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling in life. We must band together to overcome the struggle and know that we can all help out in varying and different ways, it’s about finding that way. I know good nutrition and a balanced lifestyle plays a role in achieving a healthy mood, so this week, I am sharing just that, ways to help improve mood through lifestyle and diet.
Lifestyle changes for a healthier mood
We all know too well that ultimately, stress takes its toll on the body and mind and can lead to feelings of overwhelm, the complete opposite of a healthy mood! Stress promoting habits are deeply embedded into our routine and can be very difficult to shift. Instead of thinking you must embark on a complete lifestyle overhaul, commit to a daily change of habit. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Wake up 30mins earlier and go for a gentle walk outside or spend 30mins undertaking a relaxing stretch/yoga routine
- Focus on the positives in life and write down one thing you are grateful for, practice this daily
- Let go – if you cant change it don’t worry about it, worrying helps no body
- Learn to say no, invest in you and prioritise your health
- Take your lunch break, eat lunch away from your desk and get outside
- Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask for help if you feel your plate is more full than it needs to be
- Try mediation, even if just 5-10mins daily
- Compliment someone, giving to another can help boost mood
- Turn off the noise – try sitting in silence instead of listening to music, podcasts or having the television on
Eating tips for a healthier mood
Poor blood sugar balance can lead to impaired tryptophan (amino acid) delivery to the brain, which results in low serotonin production (our happy hormone) and not to mention becoming ‘hangry!!!” Commit to breakfast daily and make sure to have some healthy snacks on board in case you get caught out. Healthy options include nuts/seeds, low-GI fruit, natural yoghurt, low-sugar homemade muesli bars and wholegrain crackers with cheese.
Protein at each meal and snack
Protein provides essential amino acids, which play a critical role in production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers within the brain and are responsible for mood. Healthy protein options include eggs, red meat, chicken, fish, pork, legumes, nuts/seeds, dairy, tofu and tempeh.
Enjoy healthy fats
Try to eat at least 2 daily serves of essential omega-3 fatty acids. The brain is 60% fat, essential fats are critical for the proper functioning of the chemical messengers in our brain, controlling mood and emotions. Research has linked low intake of essential fats with increased risk of low mood:
- 1 serving = 1 tbsp. olive, flaxseed, 150g fish, ¼ cup of nuts/seeds (raw & unsalted), ¼ avocado or 1 tbsp. LSA.
Promote a happy Gut
Our gut and brain are linked as they share many of the same nerve endings, hormones and neurotransmitters. There is more and more research looking at the connection between gut health and mood. So taking care of your gut can only have positive effects on mood! Aim to consume 25-30g fibre daily including LSA, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds, wholegrain carbohydrates. Add some fermented food to your diet also, rich in live bacteria, including kimchi, kombucha, miso soup, tempeh, sauerkraut and kefir.
Flavour with Spice
Saffron may be known as the spice to flavour and colour food, but in fact, it has been traditionally used as a medicinal plant to promote health for a long time. Saffron has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the body and preliminary research is showing its protective effects on mental health. Furthermore, turmeric, rich in the active compound curcumin, boasts similar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to have similar effects. Use to marinate meats, in salad dressings, sprinkled on roasted vegetables, in the base of curries or added to smoothies/juice.