You just ate a bowl of pasta and feel tired. Or you ate a tuna salad and feel ready to tackle the day. Ever wondered why you feel differently after eating? We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) have been curious about this as well. After doing some research on nutrition, we now have a better understanding of why food affects us so much. For example, recent studies show that a healthy diet may not only prevent depression but could effectively treat it once it’s started.
An evolving body of research on nutrition shows that a healthy diet can help prevent depression. The field of research on how food affects us psychologically is called nutritional psychiatry. Nutritional psychiatry is relatively new and it is not limited to one place or group. Nutritional psychiatry observes data regarding the association between diet quality and mental health across cultures, countries and age groups. One topic within these groups is depression and how the food we eat contributes, fixes or prevents depression.
An example of this research in action is a study mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Researchers took a look at whether improving the diets of people with major depression would help reduce or eliminate their depression symptoms. Half of these people were coached on their nutrition by a dietitian. The other half were given one-on-one social support, a common technique for reducing depression. “After 12 weeks, the people who improved their diets showed significantly happier moods than those who received social support. And the people who improved their diets the most improved the most.” (Wall Street Journal) Other subsequent studies have found similar results: Eating a balanced diet that has fewer processed sugars, grains, etc. will help with depression.
In 2013, Dr. Jacka helped to found the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. This Society held its first conference in the summer of 2017. Dr. Jacka also launched Deakin University’s Food & Mood Centre. This is an institute that focuses on researching and developing nutrition-based strategies for brain disorders, such as depression. With new and evolving research on how food affects us, other conferences and universities are including these findings in their lectures. An example of how this information applies is by the production of serotonin, which regulates mood and sleep. Not enough serotonin can result in depression.
Eating a ton of high-processed foods and refined sugars often increases the risk of mental and physical health issues at any age. If we think about our heart or other muscles in the body, we take extra effort to condition them and keep them healthy. The brain is not much different. Our lifestyle choices reflect our brain’s health. Mental health should be just as important as physical health. A healthy brain is more resilient in difficult times, like while when we feel depressed. “A bad diet makes depression worse, failing to provide the brain with a variety of nutrients it needs… And processed or deep-fried foods often contain trans fats that promote inflammation, believed to be a cause of depression.” (Dr. Ramsey)
A bad diet also affects our microbiome, A.K.A., your gut bacteria. The bacteria in our guts have complex ways of communicating with our brain by signaling the body to produce different chemicals and hormones. This communication changes our mood. Think about when we get “hangry” from not eating, or the opposite, happy when we eat strawberries. To maintain a healthy and stable mood, we need to maximize the good bacteria and minimize the bad.
It is not to say that a good diet can replace medicine or therapy. However, it can serve as a supplemental treatment. The added bonus is that it can prevent other health problems, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more!
Be open to the cornucopia of food.
There are so many different diets and articles out in the world for “healthy eating.” The main point is to eat in a way that your body responds best to. As some might say, “hacking” your body. A diet made up primarily of fruits and vegetables, good fats and proteins, yogurt and cheese, legumes, nuts, seafood, whole grains and small portions of red meat can provide nutrition our brain needs. It can also regulate our inflammatory response and support the good bacteria in our gut.
If we take everything in moderation and monitor our health, we can maintain a healthy lifestyle. The critical point is to listen to our bodies so we can understand what we need. Is it sleep? An activity like hiking? Or do we need to eat more berries and yogurt because we are feeling down? If we begin making small changes based on these observations, we can bring more caring into our bodies and lives.
Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on topics on UCA benefits: Medical Bill Negotiation, 2020 Clear Sighted Year, and Gut-Brain Connection! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!
Each day can bring about new challenges. The trick is to maintain a healthy and active mind to that you are able to be more resilient through stressful moments. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) strive to provide our members caring tools and resources for mental well-being. These resources can help us all be proactive with our mental health. To start, let’s look at why having a strong mind is important.
Strengthening the mind is connected with improving our emotional intelligence. According to an article in the “Journal of Abnormal Psychology,” the successful route to take is to incorporate a “positive activity.” A positive activity is often an activity that a person enjoys doing, such as meditation or writing letters of gratitude. In this research article the authors, K. Layous, J. Chancellor, and S. Lyubomirsky, study the effects of positive activities on mental well-being. They state that “…promoting Well-Being can reduce negative emotions, negative thoughts, and negative behaviors.” Overall, maintaining happiness and a positive mental outlook leads to better physical health.
Our memories help shape us, our identities and our relationships. It goes without saying that our memories are very important to us all. There are tools to help strengthen our memory, such as UCA’s caring apps for memory fitness. Some of these apps are games that help build and strengthen our ability to recall information. Other apps can be puzzles to help with exercising the brain’s ability to problem solve. Other ideas that work well for us include learning a new language or musical instrument, as well as volunteering and socializing through acts of kindness. In conjunction with healthy nutrition and lifestyle, the mind is just like a muscle, it needs exercise in order to grow stronger and stay in shape.
When to seek help for memory loss…
“If you’re worried about memory loss — especially if memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities or if you notice your memory getting worse — talk to your doctor. He or she will likely do a physical exam, as well as check your memory and problem-solving skills. Sometimes other tests are needed as well. Treatment will depend on what’s contributing to your memory loss.” (Mayo Clinic)
There are many ways we can be proactive with our mental health. Being active in your community, sharing caring with others and yourself are some examples of working on your mental well-being. And as mentioned above, learning a language like Spanish or Japanese will streacha nd build your brain to be more resilient. Below are nine that we have come up with that can help strengthen our minds in different ways. Check them out to see how we all can build our mental health to be the best it can be!
Love our blogs and want to read more? Unified Caring Association has other caring blogs such as Advanced Directives of Peace of Mind, and Caring Challenge x 365 Days that inspire us all! We also share caring and inspirational posts daily on social media (Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter). Follow us to get a little extra caring in your day!
Want to have a lifestyle that is more relaxing? What if we could develop a habit that will keep us rejuvenating, support healing, healthier choices, and allow us to sleep better each night? We at Unified Caring Caring Association (UCA) want to help share caring and ways for everyone to live a happy and fulfilling life. One way to set ourselves up for success is to practice mindfulness activities (A.K.A. meditation). With a clear mind, we can set effective and attainable goals. Want to learn how to start a lifestyle habit? Read on for a “how to.”
For over a thousand years, meditation has been used for increasing relaxation and mental resilience. This resilience helps enhance overall well-being and health. Over the past five years the number of adults meditating in the U.S. has increased to 15.5%, and 5.5% of children are also meditating.
There are four main elements that most meditation formats have in common:
Meditation: In Depth – This is an article that gives a great summary of meditation and research on how meditation helps us free up space in our brain to be able to make better decisions. In this article is a three minute Q&A video with Dr. Amishi Jha about her definition of what mindfulness is.
Another way to learn more about meditation is to jump in and try it out. Here are two samples of videos that UCA members have access to:
Meditation helps us get set for our day and going through the week with clear heads. With an open and flexible mind we can tackle the mountain of dishes in the sink and the quarterly board meeting all in the same day. When children become more adept at meditation, it can help them focus in school and allow for a boost of energy to get them through the football game. We at UCA are happy to help people build happy and healthy lives filled with gratitude and success. Meditation and mindfulness are both positive influences toward that goal.
Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Mental Strength, How Can Mindfulness Help Us Solve Problems, and Letting Go of Being Good! If your would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!
Mental strength can aid our focus and motivation, while also helping to achieve our goals. There are so many thoughts and activities in our full days that we often get burned out. Other than a nice relaxing spa day, doing yoga, or going on a hike, we can do small practices that help us build our mental strength. We at Unified Caring Association (UCA) were recently asked to look at how to explain mental strength and how to improve it in a caring way. We gladly took up the challenge!
Mental strength is…
The short definition is: having the ability to maintain our self-confidence and drive during stressful activities. This ties into our resilience and being able to bounce back when we encounter stress. Some characteristics of mental strength are composure, persistence, positivity and self-motivation.
When do we need it?
Maintaining mental strength is something we would love to have at all times. However, we are human and to be human is to juggle life. Sometimes as we elevate one part of our life, a different part lowers. The key is to refocus on each part as they are in movement. This is when we enact our mental fortitude. “…you need fierce determination and tenacity to reach your greatest potential … [it] will help you develop resilience to overcome those hazards and continue on your journey. Mentally strong people overcome setbacks with confidence, because adversity only makes them better.” (Psychology Today)
How do we develop it?
Building up our mental strength is much like monitoring and improving our physical health. Practicing each day, and doing activities that help exercise our mind is a big part of developing our mental resilience. Start with celebrating the small victories. We are more apt to continue building and maintaining a habit if we have positive reinforcement. For example, patting yourself on the back after holding your focus during a project. Like in meditation, learning a new sport, or getting better at math, practice makes perfect. Below we have a handful of suggestions found on the Forbes website for activities that can help build and maintain mental strength.
All of us are on a journey of self-care and developing our physical health, emotional intelligence and mental strength. That is how we become more resilient. With these skills we can bring more caring into the world for ourselves, families and community.
Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If your would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter!