January is always hard to face and with current news, it feels even harder this year. Food and lifestyle can have a profound effect on our mood and wellbeing and it does not need to cost a fortune or take a huge amount of effort to start reaping some benefits. We recommend starting with 5 tips. Read more below or watch Heather in action on Virgin Media Weekend AM.
Get the basics right to feel your best
- Stay well hydrated. Our brain needs water to function well and many studies show how even being slightly underhydrated can have a negative effect on mood and concentration. Many of us don’t drink enough water, so top yourself up throughout the day. Or if you prefer warmer drinks while it’s cold, have herbal tea instead
- Try to get some exercise, ideally outside and in the morning. Exercise is a known mood booster. Light hitting the back of the eye earlier in the day can help production of the sleep hormone melatonin later to support better sleep, which in turn helps mood
- Getting enough sleep is fundamental to mood and no one feels great when they are tired. Bedtimes may have got later over the Christmas break. The darker January evenings are a great time to get back to earlier bedtimes to allow us to get the minimum 7 hours sleep most of us need to feel our best
Eat regularly and try to establish regular patterns
- Our bodies like regular patterns to support our natural circadian rhythm, for exercise, bedtime and food. Try to follow regular eating patterns, with meals at the same time every day where possible.
- It’s also important to fuel ourselves regularly. If we go too long without eating, our blood sugar levels can dip and for some of us, this can lead to a drop in energy or mood. Think of the expression Hangry! Avoid going longer than 4 or 4 ½ hours without eating, which for most of us is 3 meals and 1 healthy snack in our longest gap, usually the afternoon
- Chose healthy snacks most days to support blood sugar and provide additional nutrients. Ideas for healthy, easy and tasty snacks
- Piece of fruit and palmful nuts
- Natural yoghurt with berries and seeds
- Oatcakes with nut butter or cheese
Think positive. Focus on what you should be eating, not what you shouldn’t
- More treats may have crept into the average diet over the last few weeks and January is always a good time to focus on healthier choices. But rather than focusing on what you cannot or should not eat, try instead to focus on getting enough healthy food to support your health and mood
- The Mediterranean diet has been shown in studies to support mood and stress resilience. Not pizza and pasta but the more traditional Mediterranean diet rich in veg, fruit, pulses and healthy fats. Think about eating a rainbow, with lots of different colours on your plate
Eat healthy fat for your brain
- Most of our brain (over 60%) is made up of fat, especially Omega 3 fatty acids. As a result, fish oil and the associated Omega 3s are vital for a healthy mind. Omega 3 makes it easier for serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps with mood, appetite and sleep) to pass through the membranes of our brain cells
- Our best source of omega 3 is oily fish: salmon (ideally wild or organic), mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring. Aim to eat a portion 3 times per week to get enough omega 3. If you don’t eat fish, plant-based sources include pumpkin, hemp, chia and ground linseeds and walnuts. 1 – 2 portions daily to get enough
- Your omega 3 levels can be tested in blood. If you want to have your levels checked, get in touch with us to find out more
Mind your gut – your second brain
- Having a healthy gut and in particular a diverse and plentiful microbiome plays an important role in mood. More than 90% of serotonin, our feel-good hormone is produced in the gut.
- For optimal gut health we need to eat a diet rich in prebiotics: Veg, fruit, pulses, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to provide food for beneficial bacteria
- Try including some fermented food, a natural source of beneficial bacteria. Good food sources include natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, providing beneficial bacteria. If you are new to fermented food, introduce them in small amounts to start with as they cause bloating initially. Find more ideas on how to introduce and even make your own fermented foods here
- Your gut health plays a fundamental role in many areas of wellbeing. If you are struggling with persistent IBS symptoms it can be helpful to check your microbiome health. Our team use the GI Ecologix stool test to look at underlying microbiome issues that impinge on your overall health and wellbeing, including your mood
To find out more about any of these, please get in touch.