Food to help support your mental health

Food to help support your mental health

DISCLAIMER: I just thought I’d post this little disclaimer in case it wasn’t obvious. This isn’t an alternative option to seeking help, stopping your medication or treatment plan. Instead, adding these foods to your diet should be seen as a complimentary practice. Always check with your medical practitioner before you’re going to change your diet as certain foods can influence the metabolism of some medication.

There’s been quite a bit of research over the last few years on whether or not diet can assist in improving mental health, especially depression. Research has shown that the Mediterranean Diet can have potentially have a positive impact on mental health. You’re incorporating healthier food options into your diet while eating less or eliminating the more unhealthy ones. So what food should you include in your diet to help assist your mental health?

Colourful fruits and veg
As they say, ‘eat the rainbow’. Increasing your vegetable and fruit intake and making sure they come in a variety of colours will not only make sure you’re getting in plenty of gut loving fibre, but also anti-oxidants and a wide range of nutrients and minerals. Fruit and vegetables also consist of complex carbohydrates, which one of the most important energy sources for your brain. It also stabilises your body’s blood sugar reducing the risk of the 3pm sugar craving.

Wholegrains and fibre rich food
Dietary fibre plays an important role in the human body. Not only does it feed our healthy gut bugs and promote a healthy digestive system, soluble fibre has also been proven to help reduce cholesterol. Wholegrains also release a type of amino acid which triggers your body to produce serotonin which can help with sleep and mood improvement. So what foods should you include? Think leafy green veg like kale, legumes, brown rice and quinoa.

Maintaining healthy gut bacteria
Recent studies have shown a link between gut health and mental health. This is why it’s so important to make sure the food we eat will help our guts maintain healthy gut bacteria. Too many sugary processed foods starve the healthy gut bacteria and instead feed the unhealthy ones which can lead to an imbalance. Symptoms can include bloating, stomach cramps and feeling sluggish, but it can also affect our mental health. Eating colourful fruit and veg, wholegrains and fibre rich foods are a great way to encourage healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics is a great way to promote a healthy gut. You can include fermented foods rich in probiotics such as kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt. If you opt for yogurt, make sure it is the correct type, as lots of yogurts these days

Things to eat less of:
Alcohol can have a negative effect on our sleep. You might think it’s making you sleepy and it’ll help you fall asleep, but not only does it affect our mental health (it’s a central nervous system depressant), it also interferes with our biological clocks (circadian rhythm) which can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Eating too many sugary treats aren’t only bad for our healthy gut bacteria, it can also trigger a chemical imbalance in the brain which can cause depression. Keep the added sugar to the odd treat.

Saturated fats, while delicious, can be bad for brain function. Studies have also shown people who have diets high in saturated fats (think processed foods and take aways) are more likely to suffer from depression. While the odd take away won’t be the end of the world, limiting saturated fats in our diets can be beneficial for our physical as well as our mental health.

Diet can be an important tool to assist us in improving our mental health.

5 Tips for staying healthy over the Festive Season

5 Tips for staying healthy over the Festive Season

Aaah, the holidays. A time of indulgence, where justifying having just one more plate comes easy. There are however some very easy ways to try and celebrate in a more healthy way without sacrificing fun.

Stay hydrated:
It sounds obvious, but how many times do we start off with good intentions only to wake up the next day feeling worse for wear? Make sure you have some water on you during the day and take regular sips, even on the days you don’t have anything planned. This will make sure your body stays hydrated. If you’re having any alcoholic drinks, make sure you have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have. Not only will your body thank you for it, if you’re out having drinks, your wallet will thank you too.

Choose healthy options:
If you’re making a big feast, make sure you include some healthy options. Not everything on the table has to indulgent. Include plenty of veggies and make sure you have plenty of greens as well to have along with your roast. Same goes for any festive parties if you’re somewhere where this can be done safely. If you know you’ve got a work function or catch up with friends but you’re unsure if there will be any healthy food options, make sure you eat before you arrive. That way you can have a few bites, but you won’t be so hungry that you end up eating too many unhealthy treats.

Don’t give up:
Just because you had one (ok, maybe more than one) days of unhealthy eating and little movement doesn’t mean you now have to give up trying to be a little healthier. Just accept that sometimes we might want to enjoy a special occasion with friends and family and can’t always make sure there are healthy options available. The next day get back to your usual healthy food choices and make sure to get some exercise in. Life’s all about balance.

Move your body:
Many of us tend to exercise less over the festive period due to an increase of parties. This year however we might be spending less time socialising and more time at home due to current Covid-19 restrictions. It’s tempting to limit our movements from the chair where we’re working from home to the couch where we’re watching Love Actually for the 4th time this week, but getting some movement each day will help you feel energised and during your day and a lot less guilty when you have your advent calendar chocolate each night. You don’t need a gym membership or even need to head outside to be active. Put on your favourite playlist and have a solo dance party at home, or hop onto YouTube and choose one of the many free workout or yoga classes available there. There’s also plenty local yoga teachers and fitness instructors who are offering online options for their classes.

You can’t eat it if you haven’t bought it:
How many of us buy treats with the idea that we’ll spread it out over the next few weeks and then find ourselves 20 minutes later with it all in our bellies? We’ve all been there and the current uncertainty around lockdowns and restrictions isn’t helping. The best advice someone once gave me was that if you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. I make sure to make some healthier sweet treat options (recipe for my raw chocolate brownies here), but they’re usually quite filling and rich in fiber which means you can’t eat too many. There are no lollies or chips or cookies in my cupboards, mainly because I know if it’s there, I’d be snacking on unhealthy treats all day. Instead, if that 3pm sweet treat craving hits, I’ll first have a glass of water as often I’m actually thirsty, not hungry. If that doesn’t do the trick, I’ll have some fruit or one of my healthier sweet treats to tie me over.

While these tips are relatively easy to incorporate, the most important thing to remember is that if you do happen to overindulge, accept it and move on. There’s no point in obsessing over it or remaining negative about it. We’re all human. Instead focus on moving forward and getting back to incorporating a healthy diet and movement into your day.

5 Tips that helped ease my anxiety

I have always been an anxious person. As a child the feeling of my stomach doing flip flops, nausea and my throat closing up was all too familiar. Unfortunately, it got even worse as I got older. I am incredibly risk averse because I always fear the worst will happen. There are even days where I dread leaving the house, not because I don’t want to go out, but because I’m too anxious and worry something might happen to my fur-kids while I’m away.

I thought I was alone feeling like this, but it turns out anxiety is pretty common, especially in our fast paced world. So I thought I would share how I manage my anxiety and maybe you can find something that will also work for you.

Have a regular yoga asana practice
I have always heard people tell me that yoga worked wonders for their stress levels, better sleep and their anxiety, but to be honest I didn’t really buy into the whole hype. That’s to say, until I finally started practicing regularly. It’s didn’t make my anxiety disappear, but I began to notice the symptoms in my own body much sooner, which meant I could take action to make sure it didn’t get bad. I also found the movement quite calming which meant my anxiety was much less severe.

Meditate
Another one I used to roll my eyes at, but it seriously works for me. Finding that stillness, even just for 5 minutes each morning means I start my day calmer and much more relaxed. If I know I have a busy time coming up, or will need to do something out of my comfort zone I make sure to increase my meditation to sitting for longer, or practicing twice a day.

Pranayama
More specifically, Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. During this breathing practice, you sit in a comfortable position and then breathe in through one nostril, close it off, open the other nostril with a finger and breathe out. You then breathe in through that nostril, close it off with your finger, open the other nostril and breathe out. Repeat until you’re done. I know it sounds a little strange but counting and focusing on the breath really helps to calm my body and allow me to focus on one thing, instead of all the worst case scenarios playing out in my head.

If you’re unsure how to practice Nadi Shodhana, I made a little instructional video a while back which you can watch here.

Get out in nature
There is just something calming about standing bare feet on the grass, or sitting underneath a beautiful tree or listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the sand. Heading outside, even just for 5 minutes immediately makes me feel more relaxed.

Asking for help
I think so many of us feel ashamed asking for help, but reaching out when you need a hand is important. Speak to your GP, your partner or a trusted friend. There is also no shame in taking medication or seeing a professional to help you get hold of your anxiety. Have an honest conversation with your GP. Sometimes all you need is something mild to help you through especially tough days, or they can provide you with a referral to see someone who you can work with. My partner knows when I have bad days and always makes sure to offer support. I am especially anxious when flying so he makes sure I have the seat I prefer and holds my hand when we take off and land or is ready for hugs when turbulence gets bad and I need a shoulder to cry on. My GP also knows that flying is tough for me, so I make sure I pop by to have a chat and stock up on medication I might need to help me with my anxiety.

Hopefully you’ll find one or a few of these tips useful if you suffer from anxiety. The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone and that it’s more than ok to reach out if you need help.