Moms, when you are sad, grouchy, anxious, over emotional and unpredictable the whole family feels it! Tension ripples throughout the family home, making everyone feel uncomfortable. When you are ‘down’, your creativity is sapped, your fuse is short, and you can find it harder to cope with the mini-crises that happen regularly in family life: tantrums, bickering, accidents, illness, problems at school… you name it! Mothers can’t afford to be down for long as the family depends on your emotional wellbeing.
Note: feeling low is not the same as depression. If you feel increasingly joyless, please consult a doctor, rather than trying to ‘snap out of it’ on your own. Food can do lots, but depression is a serious illness and needs medical attention.
Foods to enhance your mood
If the dark days of winter signal a dip in your mood, you need to eat yourself out of that funk! First, address your diet. Are you doing all you can to enhance your mood with brain-balancing nutrition? Good nutrition feeds the mind as well as the body. That being said, a diet with too many nutritionally void foods (hydrogenated fats, additives, sugar, caffeine and alcohol) can negatively impact your mood and contribute towards mental issues, such as:
- Irritable feelings
- Panic attacks
- Food cravings
- Poor concentration
- Impaired memory
To give your mind nutritional support, first make broad brush-stroke changes to your eating habits. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, with plenty of water, fresh fruit and vegetables. Always have a good breakfast, eat regularly, and choose foods that release energy slowly. Drilling down into the detail, you can select specific foods for their mood-enhancing benefits.
8 ways to eat yourself happy:
- Feed your brain with good fats: Essential fatty acids are vital for healthy brain function, especially the omega-3 type. Instead of a low fat or fat-free diet, eat lots of fats, making sure they are the ‘goodies’: oily fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, avocados, cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, hemp oil, rapeseed oil… eat them with abandon!
- Enjoy a boost from B Vitamins: Vitamins B12 and B6 are building blocks for neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin (which positively affect mood). Vitamin B6 is in beans, meat, fish, poultry and leafy greens. Rich sources of Vitamin B12 are shellfish, fish, beef, and lamb.
- Beat the downer with folic acid: Deficiency in folic acid causes serotonin levels in the brain to decrease and has been linked to depression in clinical studies. Try spinach or orange juice to up your intake.
- Be serene with magnesium: This mineral is believed to stabilize a person’s mood, by upping serotonin levels and regulating blood sugar in the body. A handful of walnuts or almonds will give you a healthy dose, as will increasing the whole grains in your diet.
- Stay calm with Vitamin C: This helps the adrenal and immune systems cope with stress. In periods of high stress, we use Vitamin C at a higher rate, depleting stores, and increasing the stress response. Keep your cool by eating more red peppers, citrus fruits, kiwis and broccoli.
- Be bright with selenium: Some studies show that selenium deficiency may trigger anxiety, depression and fatigue. Good sources include Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, fish, shellfish, meat and poultry.
- Zap worry with zinc: This mineral plays a role in making the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin. It’s an important nutrient for beating anxiety and depression and for improving sleep and cognitive function. Get zinc in oysters, beef, lamb and spinach.
- Get a natural high from tryptophan: This amino acid promotes sleep and relieves the symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic and OCD. Find tryptophan in chicken, soybeans, turkey and tuna.
Foods that do nothing for mental wellbeing
Whether you’re a happy drunk, or the sort that cries into your gin after one too many, alcohol is a mind-altering substance. That alone is a good reason to avoid it if your mood is struggling to find equilibrium. Added to which, evidence shows that people who consume high amounts of alcohol are vulnerable to higher levels of mental instability and it can be a contributory factor in some mental illnesses, such as depression.
Brain health affects gut health, which affects brain health, and so on… So, if you want to stay mentally fit, you need a healthy tummy. Sugar, caffeine, trans fats, alcohol and refined and processed foods are inflammatory. Plus, if you suspect food intolerances or allergies, you need to find out what your tummy loves and loathes and dance to the beat of its drum!
A good probiotic supplement can also help you to get a happy tummy – and, by association, a happy mind!
Exercise to boost happiness
Exercise goes hand in hand with nutrition to help you feel positive. It releases ‘happy hormones’ called endorphins, which lift your mood. If you’re not ‘there’ yet with motivation, simply take a brisk walk. As you feel more open to the idea, introduce some form of physical movement that you enjoy. Whether that’s running, yoga, or belly dancing!
Relax to beat stress
Relax, meditate, sleep. Making a conscious decision to reduce stress must be a part of your program for mental fitness. I get that you’re a mom and life gets hectic but try to fit in some ‘me time’.