February Cafe Talk: Food and Mood
What you put into your body can affect how you feel. Studies show a connection between the foods we eat and how it affects our mental health. While our brain accounts for only 2% of our body, it takes a whopping 20% of our energy to run it!
With certain foods that contain nutrients and vitamins that can boost brain health and improve mood, it makes it worthwhile for some of us to fit more of these "mood foods" into our eating routine, empower yourself by choosing the foods that make you feel good!
Today I had the pleasure to engage in a discussion about food and mood with some curious people during our first cafe talk series, here is a summary of the discussion.
As we reflect on what healthy foods mean to us, it can be helpful to consider which foods make us feel good, which make our symptoms worst, and what are some of the foods studies show are best for our mental health, like fruits and vegetables.
You’ve always been told to eat all your veggies, many fruits and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates. For those of you who may not be familiar with carbohydrates, there are two kinds: complex and simple. Simple carbs are present the more processed a food is, like pastries, some pasta’s, and boxed food.
Finding accessible and affordable fruits and vegetables can be easy, look for sales, buy in season or even frozen! Moderate your intake of canned produce, but if this is not an option, look for the label, check the ingredients, look for BPA free and rinse your canned produce well!
Complex carbs are great for brain health, unlike simple carbs, complex carbs release energy into our bodies slowly, resulting in better mood over time.
Many fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants and vitamins which help us deal with stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or may be going through a tough time, upping your veg and fruit intake could help make these symptoms more manageable.
Whole Grains are high in fibre and really good for you! These include things like corn, brown rice, quinoa, oats, rye and barley. Whole grains are also great because they contain a type of amino acid that makes your body produce serotonin. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter which functions in the central nervous system and a hormone in the periphery– also known as the “happy chemical”, serotonin helps calm the mind, improve your mood, and keep your sleep cycle on track. All of which is helpful for maintaining good mental health.
Fermented foods like unsweetened yoghurts, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut are thought to affect the same parts of your brain as some anti-depressants do. Eating more of them can help with feelings related to anxiety and depression. The good bacteria in fermented foods directly influences our mood and emotions. Various studies and research links gut health to mental health, coining the term "second brain", and the probiotics and prebiotics in fermented foods actively affect the environment of our stomachs. Not a fan of fermented foods? basically the important note here is probiotics and prebiotics, a healthier gut means a healthier brain, be kind to your body and inform yourself on the healthiest options.
We all need some fat in our diets. A couple fats are classed as essential because our bodies cannot produce them. Omega-3 is an essential fat, also known as "alpha-linolenic acid" (ALA). Omega-6 is another essential fat, also known as "linoleic acid" (LA). Omega-3 and omega-6 fats affect our immune system, brain, nerves and eyes. Your body can make ALA into other omega-3 fats, which are more common terms such as "including eicosapentaenoic acid" (EPA) and "docosahexaenoic acid" (DHA).
Good sources of omega-6 (LA) include hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and soya. While good sources of omega-3 (ALA) include chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds and walnuts, vegetable oil as your main cooking oil can help with absorption.
Some of you might think " what about fish, isn't that a great source of fatty acids?", although fish can be a source of fatty acids, part of this discussion is about foods that can optimize your mental health, it's already a challenge dealing with the baggage that comes with poor mental health and mental illnesses, so it makes sense to try and find foods that come with the least amount of "baggage". Unlike fish, we are dealing with mercury, cholesterol, pesticides, and unfortunately, plastic, yuck!
In order to meet your daily recommendation of good sources of fatty acids, you would need to eat about a tablespoon of chia seeds or ground linseed, two tablespoons of hemp seeds or six walnuts halves daily.
Omega-3 acids are great for brain function, and help circulate serotonin and dopamine around your body. By fitting more seeds and walnuts into your diet, you’ll be helping improve feelings of depression while boosting your memory ability.
Finding ways to increase your daily consumption of these fatty acids can be easy, throw them in a smoothie, you can also include these seeds and nuts into salads, pasta dishes, breakfast bowls, and heaps more.
As a special treat, chocolate may have properties that improve mood and even reduce tension. But remember, the key is to choose real chocolate (dark is best "60% or more"), and in moderation.
Cutting back on other stuffIf eating the above foods helps to boost our mental health, there are certain types of foods that basically do the opposite. You may choose to avoid having too much of these if your mental health injuries are being inflamed or you're having a tough mental health day. These include:
Join us next time as we chat about chronic pain and mental health, on March 18th @ 11:30am!
Anger Gets a Bad Reputation
It's not as popular as it was a couple of years ago, but the term "anger management" was used SOO much, it got me thinking that for a pretty important emotion, anger gets quite the bad press. It's the delinquent emotion of the bunch, it's the emotion that "makes" people do the "worst things". The reality is, in my opinion; the term "Anger management" should really be " behaviour management", some of you know exactly what I mean, it isn't the anger itself that is the problem, aggression and the behaviour to which we place meaning on the emotion of anger is.
So what's the difference? I'm glad you ask :)... Our emotions exist to communicate with the rest of our body, it's role is to basically organize and motivate behaviour. This means it is inclusive to all emotions, anger is no exception. The louder an emotion gets the more intense it will probably show externally, once we've placed meaning to it, which is then what we call feelings, so then how do we not react to our emotions?
Most traditional models of "anger management" facilitated the discussion around helping people change what they believe about the world, relationships and themselves as a way to decrease the likelihood anger would overcome people. This unfortunately, leads people to try and block or suppress anger and this just tends to increase the intensity of emotions, and inevitably cause other problems. Almost all of these versions also advise "time out" or getting away from the situation that is frustrating you. That isn't always possible or it ends up being to late. Usually, when we are at the level of anger that is noticeable to ourselves, it makes it really hard to take a "time out" once we're at that level of upset.
Sometimes people will advise to just "let it out" the anger, that definitely has some downsides, because when you really think about it, "let it out" or "get it out" actually just means practicing aggressive behaviour when feeling angry.
So what can we do instead? First I think it is important to understand the difference between emotions and feelings. Emotions are based upon an event and how your body directs the message of that event, while a feeling is based upon the meaning you associate to that event, mostly it is a learnt behaviour. So let's say I went into a car accident, my emotion would be scared, however, if let's say I have a history and upbringing where anger was more encouraged, I will probably quickly feel angry and if not in check of that switch, behave in an aggressive way.
Second, I think reflective practice is so important when building a better understanding of your emotions and it's translations to feelings. Basically, what am I doing and why? by asking yourself this question, you are allowing your mind to reflect upon your feelings, urges, and reactions and also allowing time to process whether this reaction, feeling, urge, has to do with the present event, or perhaps the meaning of the event. From that point on, you basically have a choice, to accept it, let it go, or change it. By compassionately redirecting your attention inwards, you allow yourself the opportunity to simply be kinder to yourself and give the benefit of doubt that this experience is simply your way of communicating that something is up, without words.
This means that you are acknowledging what the actual feeling is ( consistant with your emotion), accepting the frustration (it makes sense for you to feel this way) and then, all of a sudden you actually got reins on this aggression ( well not right away, it takes practice, but you know what I mean!). The amazing paradox we experience here is only possible when we allow ourselves to experience and engage in how we actually feel and let ourselves observe without judgement, but with kindness inward, do we have the ability to truly manage ourselves. So engage with your anger, don't try to manage the anger...Until next time humans...
#breelove #breathe.trust.letgo #werejusthuman #bekindtoeverykind
The Emotional Immune System
Emotions have a big influence in our lives, sometimes it seems as though that it runs the "life show"... I know, you might be thinking "Kayla, what does this have anything to do with our immune system?"
Well... for one, emotions interact with the release and/or blockage of certain hormones and neurotransmitters (NT), that play a role in the way our body protects itself or gets stronger. The catch here is that by the time emotions have THAT much influence in whether your body fights off stuff or creates an environment of doom, your already knee deep : z...
Peoples ability to cope with stress and trauma across life is based upon our quality of our earliest relationships, that of the attachment of patient zero, which, for the most part is our mother. Research has shown us repeatedly that healthy relationships can single-handedly make certain that resiliency is exuberant to human beings facing stressful and potentially traumatic circumstances. Let's be real here, stress is good, stress is actually important for growth of self and of resiliency, but TOXIC stress is no good, toxic stress can create unhealthy coping strategies, injuries, and life long dysfunctions ( Check out the ACE study for the dets.).
So secure attachments/healthy relationships where adults in our lives are consistent, warm, attuned, and responsive to our needs, manifests this extraordinary gift of resilience to our developing nervous systems as kids. Even kids who grow up in the extremes of poverty, abuse, and neglect, the ones who amazingly get back up and beat the odds, those kids are the ones with at least one person in their life who cares for them and is consistent in their nurturing. Human beings, like other mammals and birds alike, are designed to thrive when they are nurtured through responsive and attuned relationships.
If some people have had problems in those particular early relationships, then they will most likely be avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. Some may also experience, as the ACE study suggests; chronic illnesses and diseases.
GOOD news is, even if you recognize a lot of these things in yourself and that you can attest to not having such a great start in life, your brain can still adapt to becoming resilient, our brains can learn, adapt, and change based on experiences. The same way that your brain has learned, adapted, and changed based on your unhealthy experiences, it can do so for healthy ones. This is what we call epigenetic, in which nurture ( what we learn and experience) can change nature ( how our system reacts, expression of our genes,etc...). The other good news is that positive, nurturing and compassionate adult relationships can help create resiliency and a healthy system overall, PLUS, it doesn't take a lot of people to achieve this, just one or two close committed and ongoing interpersonal relationships can make a huge difference to your emotional and physical health... Therapy can also help get a kick start on things!
So look after yourself, reflect on the types of relationships you have and don't be so quick to think that your health is only related to physical situations, much of our health issues can be connected to our experiences and how that data is transported within our body, both through hormones, and NT's. Look after your friends, especially the good ones, the ones that listen and take time to hear how you are REALLY doing and support you when you need it most.
Always remember... We're just human... #wereonlyhuman #acestudy #emotionaleimmunesystem #thewoketherapist
Sometimes science is really cool. We’ve always known that as humans we are able to feel others pain and connect with how others are feeling, pretty interesting to see that this was figured out with the help of science!
This discovery of course relates to what some of us call empathy.
In the nineties, some very insightful Italian neuroscientists were able to discover that while mammals observe something consciously, the motor cortex is activated. This means your brain retains information of what you are observing as if you are also doing it... Wow.
Other people learnt about it and studied this more, they ended up finding that this also associated with our learning, communication and in our ability to be empathetic.
On a good note, some researchers had been able to show that when we practice being compassionate we are better able to connect emotionally with one species to another, and thus able to be more empathic : ).
Back to the Basics.
"This can't be real" is a popular motto in life, sometimes. We get to thinking this way when things simply aren't working for us. In our bubble, we may start reflecting on how life is flying by and, like, were just going in endless circles! I remember back in my undergrad, I read about theorist/psychologist Abraham Maslow. He mentioned that at one point in a mature persons life, they come to a point where the questions go more like, "Is this it?" In my opinion, probably one of the most important parts of human life, and all of its' awesomeness that comes with it, is what Abraham coined as "self-actualization."
What is self-actualization? Like happiness, it is a level of satisfaction that arises from within ourselves- yup, that's right and it has been there since your very existence ; ). Self-Actualization is like how, you know how you feel when you somehow make a difference in someones life, for just being in their life... or maybe you can see how your life has some kind of purpose and meaning... or maybe simply that in some way or another, our life is worth living.
I've heard people suggest that happiness is all about money and power. That you can only really live happy once things are good financially and you have control of everything. I don't agree nor do I believe this! For me, happiness is about a deeper meaning, intellectually but also mindfully. We all as human beings, have unique talents and abilities. In my opinion, most of us forget to recognize our own birthright and find ourselves cornered by beliefs that limit our potential as a person and most importantly, as a human being. Over the years, I've really started reflecting on happiness and feel that it is about using those talents and abilities to its unlimited potential, all while supporting our inner self who is encouraged by making a difference within our life.
Well, that's enough wisdom for today, check out this short crash course series on perception and our beliefs!
Have you ever wondered what really is the difference between a Psychotherapist, Psychologist, and Psychiatrist? What really happens when you go to therapy?
There are many professions out there that overlap. This ranges from Counsellors and Psychotherapists to Psychiatrists and Psychologists.
The aim of Psychotherapy is to help clients overcome a wide scope of concerns.
Some Psychotherapists/Counsellors teach skills to help you manage difficult emotions more effectively. For more severe conditions, such as psychosis, a Psychotherapist will normally work with other professionals (such as Psychiatrists). This allows for an effective, robust treatment plan.
Psychologists are normally described as being 'applied' or 'research-oriented'. Psychologist also have the licensing to diagnose individuals based on their assessments.
A psychiatrist is someone who has had medical training . The term psychiatry refers to the study of mental disorders. This includes their diagnosis, management and prevention.
Ensuring you can find someone who has suitable training and a background to match is essential. Finding a person who you feel comfortable talking to is equally important.
For more information on when you know or what to expect in therapy, check out our "getting help infographic".
For more in-depth views on psychotherapy, watch crash course psychology.
I hope this post has been helpful.
We Really Are Just Human