As the New Year that is coming our way, let us take time to reflect and decide how we want the New Year to be for us.
I recently read an interesting article http://www.joshuanhook.com/new-year-focusing-one-thing. And, I agreed with the concept! “As you think about the New Year, think about the one thing that if you really were to make a change, it would drastically improve your life one year from now. Maybe it is an addiction you have never been able to kick. Maybe it is a relationship you need to work on Maybe it is something in your career. What is that one thing for you?” If we focus on one thing, we can be successful.
Since mental wellness is my passion, of course, I thought about the connection immediately. Without mental wellness, goals cannot be met and success will be fleeting! Relationships suffer and consequently, so do we. I thought about this and decided that as the New Year approaches and provides us with a new beginning, the one goal that is a must is mental wellbeing!
I hope you will find the following useful as you consider your wellbeing and the new start that the New Year brings!
What Is Mental Wellbeing?
Mental wellbeing includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It directly impacts how we think, feel, act and how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Our mental wellbeing is the key for a successful life at every stage, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.
Many factors contribute to mental wellbeing including:
- Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
- Life experiences and how we view them
- Family history
- Nutrition and avoidance of additives and processed foods
- Physical activity
- Adequate sleep
- Strong connections with others
- Helping others
- Coping skills
- Knowing when and feeling comfortable asking for help when you feel you need it
Mental wellbeing allows people to realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, work productively and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
So what do we do to promote our mental wellbeing?
*Before doing anything consult with your doctor! This is not in lieu of medical advice in any way!
If you physically over-tax your body, say by overexerting yourself on a hot day or staying up for 24 hours with no sleep, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly “breaks down.”
We avoid such pitfalls by tending to our physical health, resting and drinking water when doing taxing work in the outdoor heat or making sure we get adequate sleep on most nights.
Our brain is subject to the same rules and it can only take so much stress before it breaks down. None the less we may neglect to tend to our brain health and mental wellbeing with the same dedication we give to our physical well-being.
Healthy Habits are Happy Habits
Embracing healthy habits will help keep your mood elevated naturally even in the midst of stress. Happy people tend to be healthy people, and vice versa. The following lifestyle strategies can also help to support emotional wellness:
- Be an Optimist.
- Have Hope.
- Accept Yourself.
- Stay Connected.
- Express Gratitude.
- Find Your Purpose and Meaning in life.
- Master using time management and prioritization to help you feel more in control of your life.
- Exercise regularly to boost levels of health-promoting endorphins.
- Actively pay attention to the moment you are in right now by not letting distracting or negative thoughts getting you caught up in emotional implications. This way you reduces stress and can increase mental wellbeing and undistracted focus.
- Eat well: What you eat directly impacts your mood and energy levels in both the short and long term.
- Proper sleep: Sleep deprivation is linked to psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and bipolar depression, while getting the right amount of sleep has been linked to optimism and greater self-esteem, as well as a greater ability to solve difficult problems.
- Animal-based omega-3 fats: Low concentrations of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are known to increase your risk for mood swings and mood disorders.
- Regular sun exposure: This is essential for vitamin D production, low levels of which are linked to depression. But even beyond vitamin D, regular safe sun exposure is known to enhance mood and energy through the release of endorphins.
“Food choices are key when it comes to your mental health. In a very real sense, you have TWO brains—one in your head, and one in your gut—both of which are created from the same tissue during fetal development. These two systems are connected via your vagus nerve, the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. It is now well established that the vagus nerve is the primary route your gut bacteria use to transmit information to your brain.
Maintaining optimal gut health is therefore paramount when trying to address your mental state. In this regard, the modern “Western” diet has several things working against it:
- Genetically modified foods can significantly alter your gut flora, thereby promoting pathogens while decimating the beneficial microbes necessary for optimal mental and physical health.
- Glyphosate—the most widely used herbicide on food crops in the world with nearly 1 BILLION pounds applied every year—has been shown to cause both nutritional deficiencies, especially minerals (which are critical for brain function and mood control), and systemic toxicity.
- High-fructose diets also feed pathogens in your gut, allowing them to overtake beneficial bacteria. Furthermore, sugar suppresses activity of a key growth hormone in your brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia. Sugar consumption also triggers a cascade of chemical reactions in your body that promote chronic inflammation. In the long term, inflammation disrupts the normal functioning of your immune system and wreaks havoc on your brain.
- Artificial food ingredients, the artificial sweetener aspartame in particular, can wreak havoc with your brain function. Both depression and panic attacks are known potential side effects of aspartame consumption. Other additives, such as artificial colorings, are also known to impact mood.
7 Foods to Enhance Your Mood
Eating the foods that follow may be a simple way to boost your spirits, as each is known to have a positive impact on mood.
1. Dark Chocolate without a high level of sugar
3. Bananas contain dopamine, a natural reward chemical that boosts your mood. They’re also rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B6, which help to soothe your nervous system, and magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive mood. Just be careful to limit them if you have insulin/leptin resistance.
Coffee appears to affect a number of neurotransmitters related to mood control, so drinking a morning cup could have an effect on your general sense of wellbeing. Research has also shown that coffee triggers a mechanism in your brain that releases BDNF, which activates your brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, thereby improving your brain health. Interestingly enough, research also suggests that low BDNF levels may play a significant role in depression, and that increasing neurogenesis has an antidepressant effect!
5. Turmeric (Curcumin)
Curcumin, the pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow-orange color, is thought to be the primary component responsible for many of its medicinal effects. Among them, curcumin has neuroprotective properties and may enhance mood and possibly help with depression.
6. Purple Berries
Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function and your mood.
7. Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats
Found in salmon or supplement form, such as krill oil, the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play a role in your emotional well-being. One study in Brain Behavior and Immunity showed a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3, while past research has shown omega-3 fats work just as well as antidepressant in preventing the signs of depression, but without any of the side effects.
Nourishing Your Gut Flora May Boost Your Mood and Protect Your Mental Health
As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of poor mood, autism, ADHD, depression, schizophrenia and a whole host of other mental and behavioral disorders. With this in mind, it should be crystal clear that nourishing your gut flora is extremely important to support a positive mood. It is recommended that you:
- Eat traditionally fermented, unpasteurized foods. Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, Healthy choices include:
- Avoid sugar and processed, refined foods in your diet. There is simply no question that eliminating refined sugars is the most powerful intervention the average person can make to improve their gut flora.
- Fermented vegetables
- Lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner)
- Fermented milk, such as kefir
- Natto (fermented soy)
- Take a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Whether you need a quick pick-me-up or you’ve been struggling with poor mood for a while, the best place to start to turn your mood around is likely not in your medicine cabinet but right in your pantry or refrigerator.
*Before doing anything consult with your doctor! This is not in lieu of medical advice in any way!
If, after making the dietary recommendations a goal and going for it, you decide the diet isn't for you and your family and friends can't tell any difference in your attitude, looks, demeanor, health, outlook on life, etc. . , you can revise your goal as you see fit.
If after revising it and trying it again knowing in your heart of hearts that you have given it 110% and you still cannot tell the difference, know that it was a great exercise in self-discipline and you also now have the ability to set goals in other areas of your life.
I have taken much of the information that follows from the book Maximum Achievement written by Brian Tracy.
If being physically and mentally healthy is in your belief system, you are congruent with the goal of mastering the dietary changes! Your mind contains a cybernetic goal-seeking mechanism. Once you have programmed a thought or desire into your subconscious mind, your subconscious and your superconscious mind take on a power of their own that seems to drive and steer you to attainment of your goal, whatever it is.
Unfortunately, less than 3% of adults have clear written goals with plans on how to achieve them. This summary will help you be on of those 3%. An important tip in developing goals is to use the word "I" with each goal and write it in the present tense. Your subconscious mind responds only to commands that are personal, positive and in the present tense.
Step 1: Develop Desire For Physical and Mental Wellbeing.
A desire is completely personal and comes from within. It is a burning that comes from within and has the power to change our very nature and core.
Step 2: Develop Belief.
If there is any doubt in your mind that you may not be able to achieve something, you don't give it your all. In fact, you may very well just set it aside. In order to fully achieve anything, you must believe it is possible at a cellular level. Make your goal of following a nutritious and brain wellbeing diet obtainable.
Step 3: Write it down.
Having a goal of eating optimally for your wellbeing and longevity, is not a goal if it is not in writing. Until you put it in writing, it is a fantasy. Once your goal is in writing, it is concrete. Then, put this in an envelope to read when you need encouragement and motivation.
Step 4: Make a list of all the ways that you will benefit from achieving your goal.
This is similar to what was recommended above. The reasons why you set your goal are the forces that will move you in the direction of the goal. Reviewing this on a regular basis will assist in keeping you motivated.
Step 5: Analyze your position, your starting point.
This will provide a starting point, a baseline, to measure your progress.
Step 6: Make a list of obstacles that stand between you and the accomplishment of your goal.
After listing all the possible obstacles that you can think of, re-list them in order of difficulty to overcome. The one you list first is your "rock" that you must climb. The obstacles you list may be internal or external. An internal obstacle would be a belief that you have about yourself or an attitude.
Step 7: Identify the additional information you will need to achieve your goal.
There are multiple resources available on many subjects. If there is an area you are pursuing, research it and empower yourself with all of the information you can. Successful people are those who obtain and have information. Setting a goal and going after it without knowing why you are going after it is a sure-fire way of stopping short of your goal.
Step 8: Make a list of all the people whose help and cooperation you will require.
This list may include family, friends, co-workers, your doctor and whomever else you deem appropriate. You are going to require the help and encouragement of others in achieving any goal. Although you want to be careful in selecting only those who you know will support and encourage you in the fullest.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who seem to sabotage others, especially when it comes to trying to lose weight or achieve better health. Educate the people you select on the reasons you are working toward your goal. If you present it well, they may even decide to join you and then you will be really supported and held accountable!
Step 9: Make a plan.
Write out in detail the entire plan: what you want, when you want it, why you want it, and from where you are starting. List the obstacles to overcome, the information you will need and the people you need to help you. Use steps 1-8 to help with this.
Step 10: Use visualization.
Visualization is so powerful. What you see is what you get. And what you eat provides the energy that enables you to become what you want. Picture yourself sitting at a table and only selecting foods that add life and health to the body and brain.
Step 11: Make the decision in advance that you will never, ever, give up.
As they said in Apollo 13: "Failure is not an option."
I have become frustrated at times also with eating optimally and making healthy choices, but I have NEVER given up. When you realize how important food choices are to your core being, you will want to persevere.
Surround yourself with those who are choosing wisely and who care enough about you to hold you accountable. We all have days, or weeks, where we slip. The important thing is that you realize this, admit it and get back on course.
Be VERY Clear About Your Goals
Clarity accounts for probably 80% of success and happiness. Lack of clarity is probably more responsible for frustration and underachievement than any other single factor.
- 1. Decide exactly what you want to achieve.
- 2. Write it down CLEARLY and in as much detail as you can.
- 3. Set a specific deadline. If it is a large goal, break it down into sub deadlines and write them down in order.
- 4. Make a list of everything you can think of that you are going to have to do to achieve your goal. As you think of new items, add them to your list.
- 5. Organize the items on your list into a plan by placing them in the proper sequence and priority.
- 6. Take action immediately on the most important thing you can do in your plan. This is VERY important.
- 7. Do something every day that moves you toward to attainment of one or more of your important wellness goals.
Fewer than 3 percent of adults have written goals and plans that they work on every single day. When you sit down and write your goals, you move yourself in to the top 3 percent of people in our society. And you will soon start to get the same type of results that they do.
I truly hope that the steps assist you in your journey toward mental wellness and optimal health and in creating the life you choose. Setting goals is necessary if you are going to direct your life. May you be blessed with wisdom and love as you go about setting goals and achieving them!