Hack Your Daily Mental Health (Part Two)
How we feel on an emotional level really affects how "healthy" our body actually is over all. You can give someone the "best, most perfect" diet in the world, have them be extremely physically fit but if their mind is not healthy and happy then disease will still enter the body. This is why stress and mental illness are among the most common reasons disease occurs within the body, and also why when it comes to taking care of yourself, there is no better place to start than your mental/emotional health.
Now we have all been there and said that before when it comes to mental/emotional health. We feel low, anxious, depressed or stressed and resolve that starting tomorrow we are going to "worry less", "love more", "be happy", and so on and so forth. We proclaim this like it is as easy as snapping our fingers...which it is but isn't (this is a whole other story for a whole other post!). But making the decision to try to take small everyday steps towards helping yourself to feel better is the best place to start. Each and every small thing you do is something that will lead you in the right direction and set you off on the path to "worrying less", "loving more", and "becoming happier".
As I said in part one (if you have not read this yet I suggest that you go back and do that first and foremost), I know how it feels to be depressed, anxious and stressed out and feel like it does not matter what you do, your probably still going to feel like crap. I have been there. I have felt that. I know its not easy to read something that says do this and you will be happier, and then truly believe it enough to implement it into your life. But what I can tell you from my personal experience is that once you start taking the smallest little steps to truly taking care of yourself and putting yourself first daily you will see a difference. You will feel a difference. It might not be over night....because lets be real for a moment thats not how ANYTHING in life works....but over days and weeks things start to shift, a little slowly at first, and then all of a sudden you realize that there are many moments through out your day where you truly feel happier, calmer, and more at ease.
Now without further jibber jabber here are the last 5 of my small daily hacks that will help to bring more ease and balance into your mental health and wellbeing.
Get outside. Seriously....just go outside. There is no way around this one. There is no way to "fake" it. You just need to go outside. Fresh air from the outdoors contains more oxygen (yes even in cities), which our bodies need for literally everything they do. These higher levels of oxygen forces us to breathe deeper and creates a calming affect on the mind....this is the same calming affect that is talking about in Part One under deep breathing. But it isn't just the high oxygen levels that do wonders for mental health and wellbeing.....it is also all that amazing GREEN color! Plants have a certain pigmented green in them that can actually physically not be recreated by humans, as this "green" colour literally vibrates/moves faster than we can perceive which again gives off a calming effect. This movement is also similar to that of our own cells which our brain then recognizes and creates a sense of "connection" to. Being outside in the sun also gives us a natural hit of vitamin D (as long as you are not wearing high SPF sunblock) which is one of the vitamins that is needed to stabilize mood and promote brain health. I recommend getting outside each and everyday in nature, which I know can be difficult depending on where you live and the time of year. BUT chances are no matter where you live you either have a park, green space, a group of 3 trees, an open field or a flower bed accessible to you. Take a true 10-30 minute break from your day (no phone, earplugs, computer, book, ipad, work folders etc) and sit/walk/stand in that space. If its cold dress warmly. If its hot make sure you have a hat and shorts on. Just get outside.
Make Bacteria Your Friend. Most of the breakdown of food into nutrients is done by the digestive enzymes and good bacteria which are found in ones gut. BUT about 70% of people are living with over growths of bad bacteria, reduced numbers of digestive enzymes, and not enough good bacteria in their guts..... OR in other words their gut health is actually compromised. Some signs/symptoms of this are; constipation (having less than 1 good bowel movement a day), undigested food seen in bowel movements, chronic bloating, low energy, headaches, joint pain, and unstable moods to name a few. Now your probably wondering what all this has to do with your mental and emotional health. Well here is the thing, 80-90% of your serotonin is made in your gut by good health bacteria breaking down food into nutrients, which means that if your gut health is compromised then you are not producing as much serotonin as you should be. To make sure that you have a healthy gut consume probiotic and prebiotic rich foods at least once a day, avoid over consumption of sugar/alcohol/caffeine (these kill off good bacteria and act as food for bad bacteria), and take a good quality probiotic supplement when traveling or after taking antibiotics. Some of my favourite probiotic rich foods to include daily are; kimchi, kombucha, saurerkraut, kefir, miso soup, grass-fed yogurt, pure dark chocolate, pickled vegetables, and tempeh.
Seek Support. So often we do not seek or ask for support and help during trying, difficult times because we "think" that it means we are weak, that then something must be truly wrong, that others will judge us for it, or that the support person will think "we are f@cked up". All of this could not be further from the truth. Seeking out a place or person to help support you during this time of need actually shows that your are strong. It tells yourself and the world that you believe that you are worth fighting for. That you believe in your ability to get better. It is also important to seek out supportive professionals (such as counsellors, coaches, and support groups) because it gives you a safe space in which people are skilled in the art of listening, and knowledgeable about the what it is you are going through so you can unload your deepest thoughts and feelings. Sure unloading and talking to your friends and loved ones might seem like the better alternative, and it is definitely important to have friends/loved ones/family to talk to, but support professionals can listen without being bias because they are not involved in anyway in your life other than to help you and listen.
Up Your Magnesium Game. More and more we are starting to learn just how important magnesium is to over all health because of its many applications within the body. Magnesium is needed for proper muscle function, digestion, blood sugar regulation, energy production, circadian rhythm and mood stabilization. The problem is that( like most other nutrients) magnesium is severally lacking in our diets, even those of us that eat fairly healthy. The lack of magnesium is our diets is linked to the fact that most of our food (even organic food) is grown in soil that is lacking in all minerals because of years of improper farming practices and environmental pollutants. What this means is that we really need to focus on eating magnesium rich foods with EVERY MEAL and taking a daily magnesium supplement. Some great magnesium rich foods that should be eaten as much as possible are; dark leafy greens (especially chard and spinach), dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, black beans, avocado, figs, cashews, almonds, and grass-fed yogurt.
Compassion. I see this all too often and I have been guilty of it myself all too often. We have compassion for our friends, loved ones, the postman, the dog, the cat, the squirrel, the tree and every other living thing we encounter but not ourselves. Learning to truly be compassionate and gentle with yourself is an amazing thing and if you only pick one thing on this list to do THIS WILL BE THE BIGGEST GAME CHANGER. When we truly have compassion for ourselves we drop judgemental, shameful and frustrating feelings/thoughts about ourselves because we recognize that no matter is going on we are just where we need to be. We recognize that no matter how big or small the "mistake" we made was there is always a way to fix it, learn from it, or move forward from it. We pick ourselves up and give ourselves the biggest hug no matter what. We truly recognize that we are not the same everyday and in every moment and so their is not always a constant black and white, right and wrong. You can start incorporating compassion for yourself into your everyday life in small simple steps and let it continue to grow as you get more comfortable with the feeling. A great place to start is actually with all the tips that your reading here. Try incorporating all these daily tips that I have mentioned in each of these blog posts and if you forget to do one of them one day or maybe you feel to low, or like "today just isn't the day or x", then bring compassion in. Tell yourself that it is okay that you didn't (insert whatever it is that you did or didn't do here) that day because that is what you truly needed in that moment and then picture giving yourself a gentle hug and just move forward and onwards. The moving "on" or "forwards" is the key. Not dwelling. Not shaming yourself for something you did or didn't do. But just letting it go. After all it's in the past and there is nothing you can do about it now except shed some light on it, learn from it, love it, and continue on from it.
This brings me to the end of my daily tide and true tips and tricks for mental health. As always if you need any support or would like to dive further into any of these please do not hesitate to reach out.