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Nutrition and Mood

Nutrition and Mood

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Healthy Body, Happy Heart

 

As a therapist and life coach, over the years I have gained a healthy respect for the limits of traditional talk therapy. The truth is that we’re complex, and many things factor in to how you feel day-to-day. Simply “working through the past” or gaining insight into your self (while fantastic) is not usually enough to actually change how you feel. Certainly, our thoughts impact our feelings, as do our life circumstances. When you make positive changes in either of those areas, you’re likely to feel better.

However, something that many therapists and life coaches (and physicians, and psychologists for that matter) miss is the dramatic interplay between physical and emotional wellness. The mind / body connection is not new-age hocus-pocus; it’s a fact. What is happening in your body impacts the way you think and feel. Likewise, the way you think and feel impacts your health. (I could bore you with a detailed explanation of the fight-or-flight stress response and it’s impact on cognition, immunity, sleep cycles and more, but I’m going to restrain myself today). Winning!

Nutrition and Mood

One big piece of the mind / body connection that has been largely overlooked in the past by the mental health community is the relationship between your nutrition and your mental and emotional wellbeing. Being deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients can have a significant impact on the way you feel, and according to recent research, by treating these deficiencies many “mental health” symptoms can be relieved. [More: Natural Remedies for Depression]

This is big news, particularly because it is very easy to become nutritionally malnourished in America these days. Much of the standard, processed American fare that is consumed by most of us regularly (pastas, sodas, fast foods, chemical sweeteners, pretty much anything bread-based or with potatoes in it) has little to no nutritional value.

Even conventional fruits and vegetables, if they’re grown on overworked depleted soil supplemented with sub-par chemical fertilizers can be nutritionally depleted and therefore have less nutritional value for you than you might think. It’s easy as pie (eating pie, that is) to become deficient in important vitamins and minerals, which can lead to a multitude of health problems as well as create feelings of anxiety and depression. Strategic incorporation of foods high in vitamins and minerals, and/or vitamin supplements may be extremely helpful in lifting your mood or calming a worried mind.

I’ll go over a few vitamins and minerals that have been found to be linked with mood, for your information. My big disclaimer here is that I am not a nutritionist or dietician and can’t offer any specific advice on supplements that you should or should not be taking given your unique health situation. If you think that you may be deficient and would like to get on a good nutritional plan I would recommend sitting down with a registered dietician or a naturopathic doctor.

Nutrients That Are Known To Impact Mood

Iron and Depression

  • If you’ve ever been anemic I don’t need to tell you that if you’re deficient in iron you feel awful. Tired, lethargic, inability to concentrate, loss of interest in activities you once found pleasurable…. Sounds familiar? Sounds like something from an anti-depressant commercial, doesn’t it? The effect of not having enough iron is similar to that of depression, particularly in the physical experience of depression (tired, withdrawn) but also in the experience of isolation, loss of pleasure, loss of energy, and overall depressed mood. Anemia (iron deficiency) is associated with higher levels of depression. It’s not unheard of for someone’s chronic “depression” to finally lift when their nutritional deficiencies are addressed appropriately.
    • Fun facts about iron: Iron is more absorbable from natural food sources than it is from supplements, so it’s best to get it from dietary sources if you can. It’s also more absorbable when taken with vitamin C. There is lots of iron in red meat, but if you avoid red meat or are a vegetarian and not conscientiously eating other sources of iron like spinach and broccoli, you can easily become deficient in this mineral. Iron supplements can be very helpful, however you can also take too much iron, so a safe bet would be to find a high quality multivitamin with iron in it.
    • For more info on depression, check out: Is it Depression?

Magnesium and Anxiety

  • I recently found out something fascinating about magnesium. It’s actually often given to people in hospital emergency rooms because deficiency in this mineral is so widespread, and deficits are associated with serious health problems like muscle cramps, heart spasms, high blood pressure, abnormal heart beats, and even seizures—as well as intense anxiety. Speaking generally, high amounts of magnesium are associated with relaxation, calm and “looseness” whereas low amounts of magnesium are associated with irritability, anxiety, and tenseness, both physically and mentally.
    • Fun facts about magnesium and mood: You can take magnesium as a supplement (but do your research, as some variants are more absorbable than others) but anther good way to get magnesium in your system in through Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) in your bath. If you want to go the dietary route, add dark leafy greens and beans to your diet.

B Vitamins, Depression, Anxiety and Energy Levels

  • These important vitamins play a role in the formation of neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that mediate interactions between neurons and other structures in your brain. When your neurotransmitters are depleted, or not in balance people frequently experience a disturbance in their mood as well as in their overall energy. Antidepressant medications work by increasing the amount of available neurotransmitters you have via various mechanisms. It’s been found that people deficient in B vitamins often have symptoms of depression as well. There are a number of important B Vitamins but the major players associated with depression are Thiamin, Folate, B-6, and B-12.
    • Fun facts about B Vitamins: Foods with the most B Vitamins tend to be animal products like fish, red meat, eggs, and dairy. Unless they are very conscientious about getting enough of these vitamins from other sources (whole grains, nuts and seeds) Vegans may be at risk of becoming deficient, especially in B12. However there are plant based B12 supplements.

Vitamin D, Depression and Illness

  • Having low levels of vitamin D has been associated with depression, fertility issues, inflammatory responses and a less efficient immune system.
    • Fun facts about Vitamin D: Milk products are commonly fortified with vitamin D, but in addition to drinking milk you have a fast, easy and free source: Sunlight. Spending just a few minutes in the sun with bare arms and/or legs will give you more than enough vitamin D to boost your mood. Vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight in cold, dark winter months may be one factor associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). People with darker skin living in northern latitudes and dairy-avoiders are even more vulnerable to this deficiency. Reason #374 to get some fresh air and exercise outside!

Fish Oil, Mood and Cognition

  • The helpful fats in fish oils contain molecules that help create the neurotransmitter seretonin, and also seem to make your cells more permeable to the neurotransmitters that regulate your mood. There’s enough recent evidence between the impact of fish oil on mental health symptoms that a forward-thinking psychiatrist may even prescribe them to you along with your anti-depressant medication.
    • Fun facts about fish oil: You can get your daily dose of Omega 3’s, the active ingredient in fish oil through natural sources such as fatty fish and flax-seed oil. However, if salmon burgers are not your thing, fish oil supplements are widely available now. Supplements vary in quality. Check labels to make sure that your selection has been tested for mercury and other contaminants.

Probiotics and Mood

  • We know that the neurotransmitter serotonin impacts mood. But did you know that the second largest serotonin-producing factory in your body, after your brain, is actually your gastrointestinal tract? Numerous studies have shown that the quality of your healthy gut bacteria can have a significant impact on your serotonin production and consequently, your mood. Fascinatingly, one research study took gut bacteria from happy mice and sad mice, and swapped them. The sad mice demonstrated more behaviors associated with happiness in mice (sniffing? running on their little wheels? the study did not elaborate, sadly), and the formerly happy mice became sadder. Poor mice. However, the takeaway for us is this: Probiotics impact mood.
    • Fun facts about probiotics: Natural sources of probiotics include fermented foods like kombucha, kimchee and sauerkraut. Supplements are also available. High quality probiotics can be pricy, however when you consider the impact they may have on your overall life satisfaction they’re worth it. Other ways to support your gut health is by eating high quality, high fiber, plant based foods. Apparently, roughage supports the growth of healthy bacteria.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Friends, I could go on. (Want to talk about exercise and mood? Don’t get me started!) But the point is that the way you feel on the inside, the way you think, and the way you react are all impacted by the way you care for yourself physically, as well as emotionally. That’s just one of the reasons why the counselors and coaches of Growing Self are such strong advocates of self-care. If you’ve been feeling not-so-hot lately, it may be a good idea to take a look at how you’ve been eating and caring for yourself physically.

You are a WHOLE being. You have thoughts, feelings, behaviors, relationships, and you are involved in different systems to boot. All of these impact you. It’s always helpful to talk about your feelings in order to understand yourself and develop compassion for yourself. However, you may move forward faster when you partner with a coach or counselor who will also support you in taking action to make positive changes in all parts of your life. You’re worth taking good care of!

All the best to you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How to Stop Worrying: Seven Tips to Manage Stress

How to Stop Worrying: Seven Tips to Manage Stress

Rachel Harder is a marriage counselor, life coach and therapist with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching who specializes in helping you find passion and joy in yourself and your relationships. She supports you in creating meaning and happiness, and not only facing your challenges — but triumphantly overcoming them.  Learn more about Rachel.

Are You a World-Class Worrier?

Have you ever found yourself laying in bed and worrying: “Did I set my alarm?  What all do I need to get done tomorrow? Agh, I forgot I have a meeting! I hope my boss won’t say anything about that project. How will I have time to stop by the grocery store and get to the gym!? Maybe I should cut the gym out?” 

Well you get the picture, the worries, to-do lists, and questions can go on and on. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you may be a pro-worrier. You may notice worrying is impacting your relationships and your overall happiness. So, put your to-do lists aside and take a deep breath! We’re going to talk about

dealing with worry and stress.

Let’s start with a little background about why stress can have such a big impact. Stress is a “normal,” biological, bodily response. It helps to trigger our “fight or flight” response, which protects us in potentially dangerous situations. This is great! It means your body is functioning effectively! What’s not great is when we experience this response over an extended period of time. This can negatively impact our nervous and immune systems.

When we practice strategies to reduce our stress and worry levels, it can also have a positive impact on how our bodies are functioning from a physiological perspective, improving overall wellness. Now let’s get to the good stuff. I’m reaching into my cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques tool bag to bring you Seven Skills for Stress. I use these with my therapy and life coaching clients all the time, and I know they work. Try using these to help mitigate some of that worry!

Seven Skills to Manage Stress

  1. Prioritize:Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done and worrying about how you will accomplish all of it? Taking a look at what needs to get done versus what we would like to get done can be helpful. For example, picking your kids up from school likely needs to get done, but do you NEED to vacuum the floors, or can it wait?
  2. Delegate:You might be thinking, “I’m uncomfortable with asking for help.” However, try to remember you are one part of a greater system, and in order for that system to run smoothly, all pieces need to be up and running. You can prioritize high-stress or high-need tasks and delegate! If they are necessary tasks of daily living for your household, you can ask for some support. This can be talking to a friend or asking your partner to make dinner. Remember, bids for attention connect!
  3. “This or That” Thinking: Often worry can be rooted in dichotomous thinking (sometimes called “black and white” thinking). This means we may say to ourselves, “This has to happen, or that will happen.” When we think in this way we eliminate the opportunity for flexibility. You essentially have sent the message to your body, if this does not get done now, there is danger! Take a moment and ask yourself is there another option?  What’s the middle ground? [Learn more about helpful vs. unhelpful thinking styles in our online Happiness Class.]
  4. What’s the Worst that Could Happen?: Let’s face it- it can be incredibly easy to catastrophize. How many of us play out “the worst case scenario,” just so we’re prepared…”just in case.” Take a moment and first practice noticing when you’re jumping to the worst-case scenario, then ask yourself, “Is this really a likely outcome?” Are there other more positive outcomes that are equally as likely?
  5. What’s the Evidence?: Ask yourself is there any past evidence to support that I cannot handle or manage the tasks at hand? Chances are, there will not be much evidence to support that in times of intense worry you won’t be able to formulate a plan of action. Remember: You got this!
  6. Explore Activities That Work For You: Oftentimes when you’re stressed, the activities that give you a sense of relaxation fall to the wayside. Try to remember that taking care of you allows you to be present for others in your life. Try integrating activities into your daily schedule that give you some relief; this could range from taking five minutes to just breathe to going for a run outside.
  7. What Can I Control?: Oftentimes we worry about things we do not have control over. Take the pressure off of yourself to control the uncontrollable! All you can control is yourself. When you notice your thoughts pushing you to analyze all of the external circumstances, bring yourself back to the simple (or not so simple) question of “What is within my control?”

Managing worry and stress is all about finding what works for you! Everyone experiences and deals with stress differently. Remember we can’t control that stress is a biological response but you do have control over how you’d like to manage it. If you’ve been struggling with stress and worry lately, and would like some personal support in managing it just get in touch with me: I’m always here to talk.

All the best,
Rachel Harder, M.A., LMFTC

How To Stop Worrying: Avoid The Mind Trap

How To Stop Worrying: Avoid The Mind Trap

Anxiety Management: How to Stop Worrying About The “What-If’s”

I have an infant, which means that over the past several months I have often found myself awake in the middle of the night feeding a hungry baby. Although I would do everything possible to keep my mind quiet and in sleep mode I started to notice a recurring pattern.

I would have just settled into the still and quiet of the night when I would hear a little voice in my head say “what should we feel anxious about right now?” This voice was clear as could be, prompting me to run through all the things in life I could worry about that would most likely keep me up for the rest of the night. Having spent years as a therapist and life coach helping others learn to manage their anxiety as well as teaching myself to manage my own, I was able to see this for what it was…a trap.

The mind is an amazing tool that can also be a bit of a narcissist, demanding attention when it is beginning to feel forgotten. In order to regain your focus, the mind will create the illusion of distress and unrest where there is none.

Learning how to combat the “worry trap” of the mind creates an experience of true freedom.

People have a tendency to believe that their thoughts have power over them, when in reality, we have power over our thoughts. Research into evidence-based forms of therapy, such as cognitive therapy, shows that by repeatedly practicing a different thought patterns we can create new neurological pathways in the brain. This means that with practice, you can begin to control the reflexive response of anxiety and feel more at peace.

Three Steps to Get Out of The Mind-Trap

  1. Ask Questions: You can take the first step out of the mind trap by asking yourself a couple of simple questions. Is there anything I can solve right now? And if so, what are the solvable problems? I know that at 2:00 in the morning the chances of me solving any of my worries are slim to none, making it pointless for me to give that little voice any attention at all.
  2. Talk Back: I found that the simple act of saying to myself “there is nothing I can do about any of these anxieties at this moment” quiets that nagging voice.
  3. Solve Your Solvable Problems, or Let It Go: However, when that voice presents in a moment where you can tackle the anxiety, identifying the solvable problems does two things. First, it exposes whether or not the anxious thoughts are based in reality and second it helps you regain your sense of control. If there are no solvable problems than you can consider it wasted worry and move on. On the other hand, if there are solvable problems, taking the steps to remedy whatever it is that is provoking the anxious feelings will provide a sense of empowerment and ease the feeling of impending doom that anxiety tends creates.
So, next time you hear that sneaky siren calling you into the depths of anxiety, remember, it is only a trap. You have the power to ignore the call altogether or take the necessary steps to avoid the deceptive lure into the mind trap.
How to Stop Worrying, and Start Living Fearlessly

How to Stop Worrying, and Start Living Fearlessly

Overthinking: The Curse of the Most Creative and Intelligent

Really smart, creative, and thoughtful people have many strengths. They can plan things in advance, avoid potential pitfalls, and envision their future reality. Vividly. However one thing I have learned from my years of experience as a therapist and life coach is that all these positive attributes, when left unsupervised, can also create boatloads of anxiety.

Overthinking and Indecision = Disempowerment

When you anticipate possible problems you feel constricted. When you plan every step you often encounter roadblocks. When you want to make the “right” decision before taking action, you invest more time and energy in to thinking than into doing. At these times it’s easy to become riddled with uncertainty, and decide before you even try that things aren’t even worth doing.

Slam! Analysis paralysis has clamped down on your life, and stopped you from living courageously.

The result? A safe life… But a smaller life.

Authentic Happiness Requires Risk

One of the core skills of authentically happy people that I discuss at length in my online Happiness Class is the ability to take measured risks. Why is the ability to try new things related to happiness? Because when you take action to bring your life into alignment with your core values, it gets better. Another component of fearless living is being able to handle uncertainty or adversity with confidence and competence. That means your happiness is still intact, even when things go differently than you’d hoped. That’s true resilience.

Being resilient and trusting yourself means that it’s safe to take chances. When you’re able to fearlessly try new things, your world expands. When you give yourself permission to take action, you get to learn and grow no matter what. Not knowing exactly what is going to happen next adds sparkle and excitement to your life. When your life gets bigger and more interesting, so do you.

Fearless Living Nourishes Your Relationship

Furthermore, novelty and learning new things are core ingredients to having a fresh, fun long term relationship. When your life atrophies, so does your partnership. If you want to have an interesting relationship, you need to have an interesting life. Plus, there is nothing sexier than a passionate person who is enthusiastic and confident. When you set aside anxieties and allow yourself to live fearlessly, you nourish both yourself and your relationship.

5 Steps to Stop Worrying and Start Living Fearlessly

On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m giving you the scoop on how to release worry from your life, feel more confident in your decisions, strengthen your sense of competence and resilience, and cultivate fearlessness in your own life. Listen now, and learn all about the care and feeding of your inner tiger.

How To Stop Worrying, and Start Living Fearlessly

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Le Tigre, “Fake French”

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