New Year’s for most represents a fresh start. For some, New Year’s inspires the desire to introduce healthier habits into their lifestyle. Regardless of your resolutions this year, being mindful of our diet can have a massive influence on not only our physical health but also our mental health.
Below are 5 top tips to help maintain and promote positive mental health.
1. Eating regular meals
Eating regularly is crucial in order to maintain not only good concentration, but stable blood sugar levels. Around 20% of the energy we consume daily is used by our brains. If our blood sugar becomes too low and our brain is unable to get the energy it needs to maintain normal functioning, this can lead to us becoming irritable and low in mood. The type of food we eat regularly is also important. If our blood sugar rises and falls rapidly, this can lead to some experiencing the symptoms of anxiety.
Ensuring that we regularly eat foods which contain slow-releasing energy can help combat this effect, some of these foods include:
- Nuts & seeds
Having smaller, more frequent meals may also help you achieve this.
2. Sharing meals with other’s
Eating our meals with our family or friends can be a really important part of our day. This experience has been shown to not only help our social and biological health but our psychological health too. This is achieved by giving us the opportunity to reflect, feel connected and supported by those around us.
We all have busy lives so finding the time to eat with those we love may at times seem challenging. One great tip in allowing us to share our meal times with others is to prepare and cook the meals as a group, this not only will divide the tasks into easier segments, but will only enrich the experience further.
3. Limiting caffeine
Grabbing a morning Coffee or Tea is part of most people's normal morning routine. Whilst consuming caffeine can have some great benefits, particularly around boosting our energy levels, overconsuming caffeine can have a negative effect on our mental health. Intaking too much caffeine can be really simple, with foods such as chocolate also containing caffeine! There are risks of doing so however. With its stimulating properties, caffeine can not affect aspects of our life such as our sleep (see our blog on sleep hygiene for tips!), but can even trigger anxiety and low mood symptoms.
A great alternative to a standard Coffee or Tea can be found in herbal Tea’s which boast great health benefits. The change doesn't have to be as drastic as cutting out Tea and Coffee all together with some great decaf options available.
4. Water, water & more water
Our brains are made up of around 75% water. Just as our bodies do, the brain requires water to aid normal processing. Ensuring we are getting enough hydration therefore is massively important to maintain healthy brain functioning. Dehydration can impact our mental wellbeing by making it harder for us to think clearly and focus. Our brain’s systems begin to slow down having experienced mental stress, leading to problems with confusion, irritability and even depression.
Some great tips to help you drink more water can be as simple as carrying a reusable water bottle with you. This is a really simple way of reminding yourself to drink water, whilst also making it easier to track how much water you have drunk. Setting daily goals depending on activity levels is also a really good way of hydrating your body for its needs.
5. Variety is the spice of good mental health!
Within recent years there has been a lot of evidence suggesting that a varied diet has direct links to lower chances of having low-mood, this is largely due the range of different vitamins and minerals a varied diet exposes an individual too, alongside our gut health. Having good levels of vitamin intakes as well as healthy gut bacteria has been shown to influence bodily functions such as our immune system, metabolism as well as our brain and mental health. Below are some examples of key vitamins and minerals and what food these can be found in:
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is known to aid the production of serotonin. Although this vitamin is largely sourced from direct exposure to sunlight, mushrooms can be a great source of Vitamin D too
- Vitamin B1, B3 & B12
Deficiencies in B vitamins can cause issues with mood, leaving us feeling low, irritable and tired. Animal proteins such as meat, egg’s, fish and dairy are a rich source of vitamin B’s as well as meat free alternatives such as cereals
Selenium is a mineral which most know little about. This small but mighty mineral is key in maintaining positive mood states, as a deficiency in selenium has been suggested to increase the chance of low mood. Selenium can be found in a wide range of foods such as nuts and seeds, wholemeal bread and meat and fish
Another important nutrient in healthy mental wellbeing is Zinc. Zinc helps the body respond. to stress. Low levels therefore have been shown to increase the changes of low mood. Oysters are a fantastic source of Zinc, having around 500% of your daily needs in one serving.
If you would like further help and advice on this issue or any others, please feel free to get in touch with us on 01642 505580.
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Mental health foundation