10 Tips To Keep Your Mind Healthy As We Move Into Winter
10 TIPS TO KEEP YOUR MIND HEALTHY AS WE MOVE INTO WINTER
By Jenny Tschiesche BSc(Hons) Dip(ION) FdSc BANT
- Enjoy Sleep-Inducing Foods Near Bedtime – the production of melatonin (your sleep hormone) is supported by several key nutrients including magnesium, calcium, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, zinc, vitamin C and tryptophan. Try including nuts, oats, bananas, eggs, lentils, milk, yogurt, quinoa, flaxseeds, dark green vegetables, and wholegrains in your diet, especially near to bedtime.
- Reduce Alcohol – alcohol can inhibit sleep by blocking REM sleep, and can worsen night time breathing problems. It can also cause blood glucose fluctuations which can result in greater production by the body of unwanted stress hormones.
- Reduce Sugar – sugar not only stands in the way of your absorbing vitamin C, it can also cause excess excretion of other vitamins and minerals including calcium, magnesium and chromium which would otherwise contribute to a balance mood.
- Reduce Caffeine – everyone has their own level of sensitivity to caffeine however the mechanism by which caffeine works in the body is the same for all. Caffeine increases alertness by blocking a brain chemical (adenosine) that makes you feel tired, while at the same time triggering the release of adrenaline that’s known to increase energy. If you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, then even a small amount can cause feelings of anxiety i.e. too much adrenaline.
- Get Outside (during daylight hours) – this serves to remind your human body clock – your circadian rhythm – that it is daytime and therefore time to be alert. Once the evening draws in your body will start to slow down and energy levels reduce. That’s the way it should be during the winter months. This indicates when you should exercise too. Exercising in daylight is more beneficial to mental health and wellbeing than exercising in the dark.
- Movement – incorporating some movement into your day, not intense exercise necessarily but simply moving, walking, stretching can improve the functioning of the gut. The health of the gut and its relationship to optimal brain function are well studied and reported on. To help balance mood and improve sleep, focus in movement to increase the flow of blood to the gastrointestinal tract.
- Eat Some Fermented Foods e.g. kimchi, kefir – in addition to movement, incorporating some fermented foods into your diet can help improve digestion and the health of the gut-brain axis too. Not only do fermented foods provided a much-needed injection of healthy bacteria into the microbiome, but they also provide digestive enzymes to help you break down the food you are eating into the nutrients required for health.
- Enjoy Oily Fish or supplement algal oil – long chain omega 3 fats are known to improve many facets of health, including brain function and in particular depression. What’s key here is the importance of consuming EPA and DHA (forms of omega 3) which are found in oily fish but also in algae in a beneficial ratio of omega 3 to omega 6.
- Reduce Stress – stress causes a sharp rise in blood glucose which results in a subsequent fall in blood sugar. Not only does this tend to leave you riding on a rollercoaster of energy highs and lows it also means your production of stress hormones, in particular cortisol , is even higher. Stress brings even more stress within the body.
- Don’t Crash Diet – crash dieting is incredibly taxing on the body. That doesn’t mean you cannot address weight at this time, but you need to think carefully about how to go about it. Ideally, you’d opt for meals that combine vegetables, protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy oils and ditch the alluring hot chocolates, comforting bakes and warming puddings.