When it comes to our mental wellbeing, we all want a quick fix. A magic tablet that will take away the sadness, or at least, numb the pain. However, our mental health is a long-term consideration, and nobody can be happy all of the time.
We can work to improve our mood over a long period, however, and it is highly likely that there is a link between our nutrition values and our mental capacity. There have been many research studies into this correlation, including the SMILES trial that was conducted between 2012 and 2015. This incredible study showed that nutrition was more important than social factors, showing that we need to put a much higher significance on our diet to be happier. It is time to take control of your health and your mind. It all starts in your fridge.
Kick the Sugar
This innocent-looking white powder is a well-known bad-guy when it comes to your food. It gives your body an energy rush, that can be so inviting when you are feeling low or lack-lustre. However, what goes up, must come down, and a sugar crash is no joke. It leaves you feeling even more exhausted than you did before, so that you feel the need to reach for another sugar fix. It is addictive and it clings to your stomach, making it swell.
It is not just the weight issue that you have to worry about. Sugar can also cause inflammation in the brain, which can have a significant affect on your mood and be a contributing factor towards many mental disorders. A recent study has shown that it could even have an effect on your short-term memory and ability to make well-considered decisions.
Western Diets vs Meditterranean
Some studies have found a link between depression, anxiety and a Western diet. Meanwhile, those following a Mediterranean diet seem to be happier, healthier and at less risk of mental issues. A Mediterranean diet is high in grains, cereals, beans, nuts, seeds, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. It limits meat and dairy products and prioritizes eggs and an outdoor lifestyle. Meanwhile, a western diet favours processed, fried foods, refined grains, sugars and alcohol.
It has been found that a diet low in fat, sugar and alcohol is ideal for promoting neurogenesis – a natural process that occurs in the brain and has a direct link to your mood. This can also be accelerated by including foods high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as nuts, seeds and cod liver oil; curcumin, which comes from turmeric root; and polyphenols, found in seasonings such as cloves, as well as coffee, tea, berries and dark chocolate. This process is also aided by eating an optimum calorie amount based on your gender and level of activity. Regular exercise is also key to boosting neurogenesis, as well as happy hormones, including serotonin.
Think About How You Eat
The perfect diet is about more than just which foods you are putting into your body. Eating mindfully has been proven to help with weight loss, as well as your mental state. It is important to consider your emotions before taking that first bite – are you eating to help suppress a negative mood, or are you truly hungry? If you make sure to only eat when you are hungry, you will be better able to plan healthy meals that feed your soul, as well as your body.
Take time away from screens and other distractions to truly savour your meals. If you are watching the television, or eating at your desk, you are not concentrating on your food, which can lead to overeating and a feeling of dissatisfaction. Eat slowly and deliberately, chewing your food properly before swallowing. This is beneficial to your digestion, as well as your mind.
Eating mindfully gives us the chance to learn more about our triggers, which in turn gives us the power to control them. By eating in this way, you will enjoy your food more and be more likely to stop eating when you are full up. Since overeating has been pinpointed as having a negative effect on neurogenesis, mindful eating can have a positive effect on your overall mood. Eating mindfully over a long period of time also helps you to become more in tune with your body, so you can understand what foods will best nourish you at any time. This helps you tailor your diet towards what works best for you.
Drop the Restrictions
The road to wellbeing is a journey of freedom, not constraints. It is helpful to forget about any difficult healthy eating ‘diets’ that you may have adopted – there is no space for paleo or keto programmes here! Instead, just focus on filling your fridge and cupboards with healthy, fulfilling foods. While structured diets are not necessarily a problem in themselves, they do mean you feel guilty every time you fall off the wagon. It is okay to enjoy a chocolate bar once in a while, for example, so long as you eat it mindfully and in moderation.
Of course, if you have the option to choose a healthy snack, rather than one high in sugar or flour, that is much better for your body and mind. So, ensure you have a comprehensive shopping list that incorporates lots of fresh, seasonal foods and ensure snacks are easy to put together when needed. Reducing sugar and flour helps your gut to produce healthier bacteria, so that it can work more efficiently. This has a direct effect on your health, weight and mood. You can also fuel your gut with lots of fibre, fish and fermented foods.
One fantastic tip is to make sure you never go shopping when you’re hungry. If you have a full stomach, you will be more likely to stick to your list and pick up foods that you know are good for you. Remember, every meal is a chance to practice healthy eating and mindfulness in an effort to improve your mental health. If you forget, or you just want to eat something that you know is not good for you, that’s fine -we all deserve the occasional treat. Just own your decision and try and practice again at your next meal. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
If you are looking for solutions to live a more positive and rewarding life, then Vitacodis may be able to help you. Visit Vitacodis website and sign up for the newsletter to receive the latest updates about Vitacodis, newly published online video courses and other services.