How to Enhance Your Mood and Tackle Stress

In my previous post, I emphasized how important good quality sleep was to brain health. I highlighted that without good quality sleep it was much more difficult to be in a good mood and to handle stress. When it comes to mood and stress, once you start enforcing good sleep habits, other variables can be very beneficial too, such as improved gut health, exercise, meditation, and positive thinking.

Gut Health

The brain and the gut are continually communicating with one another. Research reveals a clear link between what is happening in the gut and an array of behavioral and mood conditions, along with depression, anxiety, and neurodegenerative diseases. Gut flora imbalances and/or digestive disorders transmit signals to the brain through the central nervous system, giving rise to mood changes.

So in your quest to feeling your best, an important step is to remove foods that do not sustain gut health, such as sugar, refined flour, and industrial seed oils. Focus instead on low-toxin, anti-inflammatory foods. Feeding the good bacteria in your gut by selecting the right foods that work well for you is key.

Exercise

Exercise (not chronic cardio) naturally helps trigger the release of different beneficial neurotransmitters including GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter that soothes nerve activity and lessens anxiety. As psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey explains, “Exercise increases all the neurotransmitters that we target in psychiatry for depression, anxiety and attention, as well as helping deal with cravings and addictions. It also makes us much more social, makes us much more eager to connect to other people.” What else is there to say?

Meditation 

Meditation is the ideal practice to feel more serene in your mind, body, and emotions. When you meditate, even for just five minutes a day, it lowers anxiety at the neural level by firing up certain areas of the brain that soothe your nervous system. If you take the time to meditate on a daily basis, you improve your capacity to focus without being distracted for prolonged periods of time. Pick the type of meditation that you can stick to over time. As a starting point, check out some of the many meditation apps available to you as mentioned in my post: 20 Minutes of Me Time Every Day: What to Pick.

On a Final Note

Applying yourself to entertain more positive thoughts via venues like cognitive behavioral therapy and practicing gratitude (see what resonates most with you) can also help you deal with stress and anxiety. Each time you think differently about something, you can progressively rewire your brain by reinforcing new neural pathways. 

Gut health, exercise, meditation, and chasing away negative thinking: four new undertakings that promote brain health. And don’t forget the ones listed in the previous post: good quality sleep, healthy fats, and intermittent fasting. One step at a time.

Until next time!

References

“Brain Health: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Brain Young and Strong.” Dave Asprey, 12 Nov. 2019, daveasprey.com/brain-health/#ref-list. Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

Henderson, Kim. “METHODS for RELAXATION: 5 of the BEST WAYS to KEEP CALM!” BrainMD, 1 Feb. 2022, brainmd.com/blog/methods-for-relaxation/. Accessed 12 Feb. 2022.

Hickey, Greg. “The Effects of Exercise on the Brain with Dr. John Ratey.” KineSophy, 1 Oct. 2020, kinesophy.com/the-effects-of-exercise-on-the-brain-with-dr-john-ratey/. Accessed 13 Feb. 2022.

You can also find me on Instagram.

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20 Minutes of Me Time Every Day

In my last post, I briefly mentioned the importance of carving out some downtime every day as a helpful stress management tool. As explained, it can be any spontaneous outdoor physical activity such as running around with your kids or dog outside. It can be short work breaks or nice long hikes. But it can also be a formal meditation practice or similar relaxing practices to help you quiet any racing thoughts. Giving yourself 20 minutes (or more) of “me time” every day is not selfish. It is there to allow you to better navigate every day’s ups and downs.

A Meditation Practice

If you want to establish a meditation practice, there are some helpful apps for beginners such as Headspace, Calm, and Brightmind. More options are available online, of course – check out Commune! See what resonates with you best. 

Meditation offers a wide range of short- and long-term benefits:

  • It can slow aging of the brain.
  • It can lower blood pressure.
  • It can give you energy.
  • It can improve concentration.
  • It can help you sleep better.
  • It can lift your mood.

Other Relaxing Practices

If a formal meditation practice is not something you would enjoy dedicating some time to right now, there is a plethora of other options that can help relieve stress, relax the body, and do away with shallow breathing. In The New Rules of Aging Well, Dr. Frank Lipman lists the following activities:

  • Knit in a quiet place.
  • Play an instrument.
  • Listen to music you love, eyes closed.
  • Sketch a tree or a person across the way at the park.
  • Walk slowly (in nature or even in the city), being mindful of what’s around you.
  • Dig in the garden.
  • Color in a coloring book.
  • Wander in the woods and collect a certain type of leaf.
  • Watch fish in an aquarium.
  • Hunt for sea glass on the beach.
  • Observe birds or bees in a garden.

In Summary

As you can see, giving yourself 20 minutes of me time every day can easily be done. And the activity can change from day to day depending on your schedule. Just write that time for yourself in a calendar, if needed. Which meditative activity will you pick today?

Until next time!

Reference

Lipman, Frank. The New Rules of Aging Well: A Simple Program for Immune Resilience, Strength, and Vitality. New York, Artisan, A Division Of Workman Publishing Co., Inc, 2020, pp. 143–45.

You can also find me on Instagram.