Nourishing Green: Diet & Exercise
Eating and drinking well is essential for good mental health. Along with regular exercise a healthy diet is also great for physical wellbeing.
A diet rich in whole foods and plants has been proven to benefit mental health, and fuelling your body with goodness can help you to feel more balanced and in control.
- Try to eat regular meals, because lowered blood sugar can effect mental health as much as physical wellbeing, and can lead to binging.
- If you’re not a big fan of green vegetables and fruits, consider getting into green smoothies. One glass once a day can give you so much of the goodness you need.
- Be careful with caffeine: it can lead to anxiety and sleep deprivation which is fuel for mental imbalance. I love a good coffee, but only in the morning.
- Try to avoid processed foods and too much sugar. They can cause inflammation including anxiety, can mess with your sleep and are also not great for your physical health. Agave syrup is a good natural sugar substitute.
- Make sure you drink lots of water and keep yourself well hydrated. Dehydration can lead to issues with mood and memory function, and water is so important for physical wellbeing too.
- Look at your alcohol intake. Alcohol is both a depressant and a stimulant, so should really be avoided if you have a diagnosis of mental illness, and limited if you are trying to stay balanced and well. A variety of non alcoholic and low alcohol drinks are available these days, so this is a lot easier than it used to be.
- Avoid nicotine. As well as having so many negative effects on our bodies, it is a powerful stimulant that can cause and fuel extreme anxiety.
For more information on how diet can positively impact health and for some great plant based recipe ideas I recommend looking into Kris Carr and Ella Mills, both of whom are living well with incurable physical illness thanks to dietary change. Carr calls her kitchen her pharmacy, an analogy I love.
Our non food diet:
I think of everything we consume as food, and I believe that all of it is either medicine or poison to our minds. We are exposed to and take in information at an incredible rate. What we read, watch, hear and see can all affect our mental health.
- Try to ration your intake of social media and ask yourself whether the feeds you follow and the engagement you are having online make you feel good or bad about yourself. Don’t be afraid to make changes if you need to. Follow accounts that uplift, calm and inspire you, and delete anything that causes feelings of anxiety or depression. Try to have a regular social media cleanse.
- Try to have set times of the day spent away from your mobile phone if at all possible.
- Be selective about what you read and which TV shows you watch, and how often. Too much violence or news might feed depression or anxiety.
- Music can be really healing, especially listening to lyrics written by musicians who have obviously been through similar experiences and challenges. Playlists designed to calm, uplift, sooth and reassure can be great medicine. View some of my playlists here.
- Reading books and listening to podcasts by and about people who have been through difficult times and are now living well might help. Oprah Winfrey's 'Super Soul Sunday' podcasts always seem to give me a lift.
Perhaps keep a detailed list of everything that you consume for a couple of weeks, and note how each thing: every food, drink & activity, makes you feel.
Once you begin to see patterns forming, you may decide to make some changes. Even if you don’t, it might be helpful and reassuring to understand what causes any temporary imbalance.
Regular exercise is a really important part of any mental and physical first aid kit. The endorphins or ‘happy hormones’ that are released when we move our bodies help us to feel more hopeful, and can ease anxiety and tire us out ready for sleep.
Exercise can also be deeply meditative, giving us time to reflect, work though problems and ease our busy minds. Try to exercise on at least five days of every week, and in the fresh air if possible, because the benefits of nature on mental health are proven.
A brisk walk, a swim, dancing, yoga, a fitness class, a team sport. Anything that gets your body moving and the endorphins flowing is great.
I often find myself smiling or sighing with relief just moments after I start moving, and I wish the same for you.
Self loving, nurturing, in control, grounded, fit, balanced
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and whole foods; drinking lots of water; limiting intake of alcohol, caffeine, sugar and processed foods; getting regular exercise and fresh air; filtering and limiting social media; consuming positivity through books & limited film and TV; listening to music that makes you feel uplifted and understood.
Other Balancing Colours
Rest & Reflection
People & Purpose
Creativity & Self Expression