If you are someone who struggles with their happiness or mental health, then there are likely several different factors at play as to why this is. You may be aware of the reason or reasons, or you may find it difficult to pinpoint exactly why happiness is evading you. The idea of looking to your diet when you are trying to tackle this concept is an increasingly popular one, and is something we are going to do together now!
There is a strong connection between the foods that we choose to consume and how balanced the mind is throughout each day. The science behind how nutrition can be used as a tool for tackling anxiety and depression is strong, with extensive research on the topic.
Today I want to take a look at the facts and to guide you towards making healthier dietary choices for a happier mind!
There are certain things that have been more prominently connected to this idea in a negative way, such as excess sugar in the diet, large amounts of dairy, and also an increased consumption of grains.
On the other hand, consuming an adequate amount of healthy fats and eating a lot of vegetables is believed to be a good way to support optimum mental health. It has also been suggested that an ample amount of protein should be included every day.
Eating according to these very simple guidelines can not only do wonders for your mind, and your happiness, but can also serve to give your energy levels a serious boost.
Nutrition and Mental Health
Research into the connection between nutrition and mental health is ongoing and we do not yet have a conclusive answer as to how and why certain things work, whereas others do not. Although the facts tell us that there is a connection, there is no definitive answer as to why this is.
What we do know is that the presence of adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in the body will help your internal systems to function as they should.
The synthesis of serotonin is super important when it comes to happiness. Serotonin is a chemical messenger in the body that is known to stabilise the mood and contribute to healthy sleeping patterns.
For optimum serotonin synthesis it is essential that your diet includes a good dose of tryptophan, as this is a key component of the process.
Some delicious foods that are high in tryptophan are:
- Raw oats
The Mediterranean Diet
When it comes to which diets have been shown to promote both health and happiness, there is a large amount of scientific support for the Mediterranean diet. This diet is typical in countries that border the Mediterranean sea, which is where the name comes from!
The Mediterranean diet advocates whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil. It also encourages the consumption of sugar and alcohol in moderation only. Meat and dairy are also only consumed in small amounts.
With such an abundance of fresh, whole foods in this diet, it becomes simple to hit nutritional quotas every day, enabling the body to better function. It is suggested by experts that the inclusion of healthy fats, such as omega-3, is one of the main reasons that this diet is such a good choice for enhancing happiness.
Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in fish, nuts and chia seeds. These fatty acids have long been connected to the health of the brain and also of the heart. More recent studies have begun to link omega-3 with the mood, in particular the potential for combatting anxiety and depression.
Research shows that the presence of omega-3 in the body makes it easier for serotonin to pass into the cells of the brain, where it can then more effectively do its job!
The best plant-based sources of omega-3 are:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Algal oil
More and more studies are taking place over the last few years to demonstrate the detrimental impact of sugar in the diet. Many people have been taking advantage of this information by reducing the amount of sugar that they consume, whereas others have gone one step further and removed it from the diet entirely.
One of the unfortunate things about sugar is that once you've had some you often want some more! Therefore it can become a difficult cycle of over-consumption.
When reducing sugar intake, or eradicating sugar entirely, some people may find it helpful to include naturally sweet things, such as fruits, whereas others may find that this sets off their sweet tooth and makes cravings harder to manage. If you do want to still include fruit in a sugar-free diet, then it can be helpful to opt for low-fructose options, such as raspberries and blueberries. It is all about striking a balance and finding what works for you!
The first few days and weeks of giving up sugar can be hard to deal with. The withdrawal from this sweet substance can be similar to any other type of withdrawal. You may experience headaches and become irritable. However, once you push through the difficult early stages, you can come out on the other side feeling refreshed and re-energised!
After the first month of living sugar-free it is normal to expect that your quality of sleep will become better, and that your mood will be much more balanced and consistent.
Digestive Health for Mental Health
Studies into how the health of the digestive system impacts the mood, and also overall health, has provided an exciting insight into how the body and mind works in sync.
This is something that you can learn more about by clicking here!
Food as Self-Care
When you start to pay greater attention to your diet, and make the extra effort to eat to nourish your body and mind, then you will likely begin to feel more in control. Taking charge of your diet may seem like a small decision, but it is actually an incredibly powerful act of self-care. You are showing yourself that your health is a priority, and this can enhance your feelings of self-love and self-worth.
When you take these active steps to improve your diet, then you will soon be motivated to take additional positive steps in relation to your wider health and well-being.
When you are working to make healthier dietary choices then it can be helpful to learn more about your current eating habits. Emotional eating is something that many people have a hard time with. This is essentially when we eat as an emotional response to something – both positive and negative!
Emotional eating can hinder your healthy eating efforts, but it is possible to tackle this issue! Click here to join my weekly Get Inspired newsletter AND you’ll automatically receive my Emotional Eating advice!