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Food and Mood


Nutrition provides your brain with the chemical capacity for feeling your best. Research shows those who consume ample
fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish report significantly less psychological distress and have up to a 35% lower risk for
depression. Here are a few ways to improve your mental health, one bite at a time:

1. Eat plants with every meal. Aim for 5-9 half cup servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

2. Aim for at least 1 serving per day of dark, leafy greens. Spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, and brussel sprouts have several micronutrients important for mood and cognition such as B vitamins, folate, fiber, magnesium, and more.

3. “Hanger” is a real thing. Get adequate calories by eating every 3-5 hours, and include complex carbohydrates and protein with every meal to stabilize blood sugar and mood. This also helps prevent crescendo eating (overeating later in the day from being too hungry).

4. Unsaturated fats help improve cognitive functioning. They also reduce inflammation. Enjoy fatty fish twice per week and include foods high in omega 3s every day (flax, chia, and hemp seeds, olive and canola oils). You may also supplement with fish oil – just make sure it contains EPA, the omega 3 with the most promising evidence base for mental health improvement.

5. Choose whole grains. Whole grains such as oats, brown or wild rice, whole grain breads, and quinoa provide complex carbohydrates as well additional B vitamins and fiber.

6. Make time for micronutrients. Did you know that 95% of the serotonin in your body is made in the gut? Eating ample fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains provides the micronutrients needed to generate neurotransmitters and supports a healthy diversity of beneficial bacteria in your colon (the microbiome).

7. Include probiotic foods. A diverse microbiome has been linked to positive mental health. Fermented foods such as low fat yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso may help support a healthy diversity within your microbiome.

8. Limit caffeine intake to 400 mg/day. That’s around 2-3 cups of coffee. This will minimize caffeine’s physiological responses that are similar to those of anxiety and help you maintain good sleep hygiene.

9. Proteins and complex carbohydrates are key for energy. Having these macronutrients throughout the day provides your body with the building blocks and energy needed to make “feel good” neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. However, too many of them can make you feel lethargic, cause mood swings, and trigger feelings of depression. At meals start with a fist size serving of grains or starchy vegetables and a deck of cards size serving of protein (along with your fruits and veggies) and then adjust your portions for appetite and activity levels.

10. Find pleasure outside of food, too. Pleasure often overrides physical signals of fullness, leading to excessive intake, so make sure you find enjoyment in many avenues in your life, not just food! Here are some recommendations: reading a great novel, spending time with close friends, a hot cup of herbal tea before bed, taking a hot bath, moderate and enjoyable physical activity, yoga, taking regular study breaks, and expressing gratitude.

11. Love your body. Research shows that body dissatisfaction is associated with a fourfold greater increase in BMI over a ten year follow up. Taking time to appreciate what your body does for you helps you make respectful and enjoyable choices for your body, ultimately contributing to a stable and healthy weight.

12. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Eating mindfully encourages healthy choices, a healthy weight, and reduces risk for extreme eating behaviors and weight gain. Your body is wise. Listen to it!

13. Be mindful of medication effects. Some medications should be taken with food for optimal absorption and effectiveness. Some may increase or decrease appetite, leading to changes in weight. And still other medications may affect which foods are safe for you to eat. Be sure to consult with your psychiatrist, pharmacist, or dietitian to see what is right for you.

14. Eat every food you like without excessive amounts.

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Mental Health Tactics

Awareness event to promote positive mental health - SpunOut.ie ...

We find ourselves ignoring the fundamentals like our health, family, friends, community etc.

All that neglect causes dysfunction in our lives.

We try desperately to fix the problem after it becomes a significant issue. In other words, we are attempting to reverse the damage once it has already become a disorder.

It is important to remember that prevention is a big piece to eradicating depression and anxiety.
 
Yes, there are some things that are simply unavoidable such as genetics and certain life stressors, such as a death of a loved one or a lay-off from a job. 

However, if we focus on areas of our lives we can control, then we would have a much easier time coping with events that are out of our control; the “curveballs” of life. 

Though the word “habit” can have a negative connotation, it more accurately describes a behavior done repetitively as a routine.  A habit can be a choice, and a healthy habit is a healthy choice. These lifestyle amendments are time-tested and clinically proven to be effective in preventing the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. 

5 simple strategies we can incorporate into our day-to-day routine to lay a healthy foundation and maintain our mental wellbeing.

1- Protect Your Sleep, Your Life Depends on It!

Want to Be a Better Worker? Get More Sleep

This is perhaps the most important intervention to our mental upkeep. 

Chronic sleep problems affect 50% to 80% of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10% to 18% of adults in the general U.S. population.

Do mental health disorders cause sleep disturbances or does insomnia trigger a cascade of symptoms leading to a mental health problem? The basic answer is both can occur.

Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability. 

In 2010, the American Medical Association along with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recognized insufficient sleep as a serious health risk amongst adolescents.

It is not too surprising that sleep issues in our teen years can persist into adulthood.

The brain likes patterns; repetition, routine. If it receives signals on a regular basis, even unhealthy ones, it will lock into that pattern.

Good sleep hygiene is of the utmost importance in preventing sleep disorders which can lead to other comorbid psychiatric illnesses. 

Good sleep hygiene entails behaviors such as:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed around the same time each night.
  • Do not eat a heavy late meal.
  • Watch tv in a room other than your bedroom.
  • Turn the T.V. off 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Put down the electronics 30 minutes before bedtime.  The screen, even on dim mode, can still be stimulating to the brain via the eyes.

2- Maintain a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet for women | BBC Good Food

Our eating habits can play a large role in our mood regulation throughout the day.

Big carb loads can lead to big carb crashes which can cause fatigue, concentration issues and irritability, symptoms that are also apparent in depression.

Protein, healthy non-saturated fats, fiber and some simple carbohydrates should all be represented in our meals. 

Moderating our food intake will give us the best chance of having a good day.  

3- Get Regular Exercise

Four exercise routines you can do at home | OSF HealthCare

Any activity that induces our heart rate to increase is considered exercise.

For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, which equates to about 20 minutes a day.

Yes, we all have very busy lives, but we can all find a way to carve out 20 minutes for ourselves for this very important task. 

In fact, healthy diet and exercise will circle back up to improving our sleep.

If we engage in habits #1-3, our bodies will certainly thank us.

4- Get Involved in Your Community

How to Keep Seniors Involved in Social Activities | Supporters Rights

People who have similar goals as us can have a profoundly positive impact on our mental wellbeing.

Donating our time towards a community project, or simply socializing is a quality way to help our self-esteem and build a network of support.

Interacting with fellow human beings reminds us we are not alone and gives us an outlet to share our thoughts and feelings.

Community can be the forum in which topics such as depression and anxiety can be discussed freely.   

5- Find a Hobby

Green Background clipart - Drawing, Green, Text, transparent clip art

Lack of motivation and anhedonia defined as decreased pleasure in pleasurable activities are classic hallmark symptoms of depression.

Finding an enjoyable activity serves a preventative role in combating the onset of depression and anxiety, as it can be a healthy outlet at the end of a stressful and can be a positive distractor from any negative thoughts.

Engaging in an activity that brings us pleasure and enjoyment has a physiologic effect on our brains, triggering a release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and newly discovered brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is our ammunition in fighting depression and anxiety.

Hobbies such as crafting, boxing, book clubs, gardening and many others will also circle back up to emphasizing the importance of socializing and being around others, as isolation can be a trigger for depression and reinforce anxiety. 

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