Mind, body, heart and spirit blog series:
Body: the power of healing foods, energising movement, and tuning out
Some elements of lockdown may be ‘lifting’ – but for many of us our energy is not.
The strain of ongoing uncertainty is wearing us out. Loneliness and isolation can make us feel flat. With many special summer plans cancelled or heavily question-marked, it might be like somebody has popped all your balloons, or that the world exists in black and white...
Well, one way to put some colour back into your world is to eat some happy foods, put a pep in your step with some physical activity, and tune out depleting drama by muting technology (at least some of the time).
In the previous blog in this series about keeping your mind, body, heart and spirit healthy throughout the current coronavirus crisis, I talked you through some ways to take control of your mood with ‘tools’ like reflection, self-discovery, letting go, acceptance, journaling and meditation.
Today, I’m going to walk you through the positive impact of a healthy diet and exercise routine, as well as why it’s important to take a break from your phone, laptop, and TV once in a while…
Nutritious food on your plate = a smile on your face
The great thing about us humans is that we are resilient, and we can use this time to heal and strengthen ourselves – mind, spirit, and body.
Just as taking control of our thoughts can help us to feel less powerless, it’s up to each of us to take responsibility for our physical health. There is so much that we can do, starting with what we are eating.
Here are 7 items to include on your shopping list for a brighter mood:
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries - high in vitamin C to help the body cope with the stress hormone cortisol
Black beans and lentils - rich in magnesium, a calming and relaxing mineral
Dark chocolate – increases serotonin (A.K.A. happiness) levels due to L-tryptophan
Mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout - all have high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids which can alleviate anxiety
Kale and raw spinach - contain bliss enhancing nutrients
Apples, bananas, oranges - packed with fibre and vitamin C to promote well-being
Herbal teas – try refreshing mint or ginger for a morning boost, and calming chamomile at bedtime
Some of the foods we eat are laced with artificial chemicals that research shows will damage and prematurely age our brains and increase the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer as well as depression, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and dementia.
So, beware of food that’s highly processed, sprayed with pesticides, high on the glycaemic index, artificially coloured and sweetened, and stored in plastic.
With that in mind, these are a few things to LEAVE OUT out of your shopping basket or trolley:
Cakes, biscuits, sweets, fizzy drinks - foods loaded with sugar can cause your blood sugar – and your mood - to spike and then crash
Crisps and other salty snacks – salt will dehydrate you and that can cause headaches and lethargy
Ready meals - processed food is usually full of unhealthy additives such as artificial preservatives
Alcohol – drinking too much can make you feel depressed, as well as compromise your immune system by affecting the monocytes (white blood cells that protect you from viruses)
Always go for food and drink that loves you back, not addictive items like these.
Look for organic food where possible and choose options that use natural or no preservatives or colours. Non-organic farming typical of mass production uses hormones and antibiotics that can wreak havoc with your body and mind.
And drink more water! It’s such an easy way to support healthy blood volume to deliver oxygen to the brain, preventing physical fatigue and balancing your mood and emotions.
Dancing (or cycling, walking, and stretching!) away from sadness
Food can be wonderful medicine – as can exercise! Don’t fear – exercise doesn’t have to mean marathon training, pumping iron, or team sports (unless those are your thing).
Rumour has it, exercise might even be fun…
Movement is therapy because it will increase the feel-good chemicals in your brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. When you exercise, you release endorphins that act like as analgesics, which means they also diminish the perception of pain.
Exercising regularly has been proven to reduce stress, minimise anxiety and feelings of depression, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate more movement into your life:
jog around the block – or just a stroll
take the dog out for a walk
put your favourite songs on and dance around your living room like no one’s watching
check out some home workouts on YouTube – there are plenty of free ones that don’t require equipment
do some yoga or stretching in your garden
plant some flowers or do some weeding
ride your bike somewhere new
If you exercise outdoors, you’ll also be topping up your vitamin D levels A.K.A. the sunshine vitamin! Inadequate vitamin D levels can lead to feelings of tiredness and low mood.
Seek medical advice before you start a new exercise routine if you’re pregnant or have any health conditions.
Be mindful of your screen time
Don’t watch the news, particularly late at night. If you want to keep up with the latest developments, limit yourself to once during the day and only for a limited time – whether that’s on TV or online. The news is seldom positive, and you’ll sleep better if your brain isn’t trying to process what you’ve just viewed.
Even though our smartphones, iPads and laptops are helping us stay connected to our loved ones, try to turn them off at least an hour before bedtime too. The light from the screen can disrupt your sleep hormones.
Social media can sometimes be unhelpful if your self-esteem is low. You might see something in your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed that triggers feelings of comparison or low self-worth. Spring clean your social media account and mute or unfollow any accounts that make you feel negative or anxious. Follow people that lift you up, and organisations with a happy vibe and clean ethics.
This time will pass
Everybody and every ‘body’ needs more love in the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in at the moment.
Let’s energise ourselves to take full advantage of a brighter future by taking care to be healthy as possible right now.
If you need support, I am planning to hold a weekly Zoom session to connect with one another and to offer more tips on how to get through this uncertain time.
Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to receive an invitation to join the group.