mood

Healthy Habits

Personally what I’ve experienced to be the biggest roadblock for lasting lifestyle changes seems to be habits. We form them without realising it and now they control what drink we choose at the cafe, what groceries we put into our basket without even thinking, what restaurants we default to for a dinner out and even what we order.

Lasting Healthy Habits

Habits are when our behaviours become automatic. Our brains are constantly looking for shortcuts, and these automatic behaviours are a big way of cutting corners on having to think too much. This is how bad habits also form, our mind reverts to the easier default response no matter how bad it is for us. Breaking bad habits can be more successful if it is changed or replaced with something else. 

One habit I was happy to make was flossing my teeth every night. It seems trivial but when I was younger I rarely flossed. While growing up, the health of my teeth was not the best. I made a personal decision to improve this. Driven by how expensive the dentist can be, how irreversible tooth damage is and how a bad set of teeth can actually impact on the overall health of the rest of my body. Now years later I rarely think about flossing each night, it gets done just the same as brushing.

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Replace bad habits with new behaviours

Creating good new healthy habits can take a little effort but once it's set it won't require much thought. I made a habit out of drinking a powdered greens drink every morning before having coffee, breakfast or anything else and I stuck with it for years. I formed a habit of drinking black coffee and liking it. I formed habits of default go-to meals being salads or big one pan meat and vegetable dinners.

I figured the best way to form a new habit was to acknowledge exactly what I wanted my new behaviour to be. Then to do it every day or the specific days until it becomes the default. Trying to change more than one behaviour is hard for me, too many balls in the air. Another thing that helps is associating a particular behaviour with something else. Like waking up and taking a supplement every morning. Or flossing every night after brushing. Both I associated and included into existing routines I have going on.

One roadblock can be routine changes. When I quit my job I stopped drinking my green drink every morning. The organization of my mornings were askew and I no longer stuck to my old routine. Another time I ran out of a specific supplement and didn’t get more for a couple of months when it arrived it sat lonely and unopened as I was out of the habit of taking it every morning.

Build Good Habits

The joy with habits is that years later, I realised a majority of my daily positive lifestyle choices were not choices anymore, just habits. For example; it isn't hard to get back to my normal eating after a holiday because it’s become so routine. The key here is time, bad habits were not formed in a day, so adding positive habits won’t happen overnight either. But it is encouraging to know that good habits become part of my life, all I need is time.

I have two others pots about healthy habits, you can find them here and here. I also highly recommend checking out Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before all about habits.



 

Grey moods

I made this quick list of things to boost mood by stimulating serotonin production mainly as a reminder to myself. I’ve been plagued by persistent grey cloud moods throughout most of my life starting in my teens. When I saw a psychiatrist we talked about recognising mood patterns and trying to do something about them before it gets worse.

Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters naturally occurring in our brains, low amounts are associated with feelings of doom, gloom, anger, worry, low confidence and low self-esteem, negative thoughts you can’t seem to turn off and many more. There are other neurotransmitters that could be low like catecholamines, GABA, and endorphins. Being low in one of these would cause different low mood symptoms. The Mood Cure is a must read if you need nutritional and supplemental help for depression, apathy or just bad moods for no reason.

Exercise

Has been shown to boost serotonin production and make us feel good, although the effects aren't as long lasting as I’d like. Get that heavy, deep breathing going; plenty of oxygen is necessary to form serotonin.

Light

Being exposed to bright light, usually from the sun can boost production of serotonin and also help regulate sleep. Regular household light bulbs just don’t cut it, get outside even if it’s overcast for at least 30 minutes.

Protein and healthy fats

Serotonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan so make sure to include plenty of protein so you have the building blocks required. The brain is made from fat so make sure to include plenty of butter from grass-fed animals, pastured eggs, nuts, coconut oil, etc.

Bad mood instigators

What to avoid to help those feel-good serotonin levels? Stimulants like energy drinks, caffeinated soda or coffee can leave us feeling depleted after the energy high has worn off. Aspartame is also best avoided, not only is it a man-made chemical sweetener, one of its main ingredients phenylalanine converts to stimulating substances in the body and compete with serotonin in the brain.

Limit sugar and junk food, bad moods may cause us to turn to food to comfort ourselves but this just drives cravings for more nutrient-poor food and pushes more nutrient dense food off of our plate.

Alcohol

Alcohol is quite the controversial subject sometimes. We hate to admit that maybe it’s not good for us. Or that maybe it forms a crutch to relax or be social.

I know it was a crutch for me for the years of my late teens and early 20’s. I drank to excess, I drunk to be social, to feel accepted, to bond with friends, to have a good time. I definitely drunk to feel happy since my emotions could be a roller coaster, not realising that maybe it was negatively affecting my moods.

Alcohol is a depressant, after a big night the low’s hit hard. It was so ingrained in my life it became part of my identity. Working part-time in a nightclub enabled me to keep drinking to excess, even on nights I wanted to stay home. Things began to change when I started running to get fit. Obviously, my old pursuits didn’t gel with my new one. Training to run marathons was a big turning point. Not only was I too tired from doing a  weekend long run to consider going out, I didn't want to feel like crap the day after drinking. Slowly my idea of a good time changed, I guess my tastes and hobbies matured with me and I no longer felt like I fit in out late at the bars.

Alcohol and me now

Enjoying a cider

Enjoying a cider

 

In the present, for me, discipline is choosing between what I want now and what I want most. I keep this in mind when faced with the option of having a drink. If what I want most is to be fit, healthy and I’m working towards a fitness goal, I prefer to say no. Or if I know I’ve indulged in other ways, lots of desserts and not enough vegetables, I know that having a beer isn't going to get me back on track. We’ve all heard that there are antioxidants in red wine, sure. But if we compare it to say, broccoli or blueberries it probably doesn't stack up too well.

Alcohol increases appetite

When we drink these empty calories not only are they devoid of any nutrition, it’s also too easy to overdo.  Especially when you take into account the effect alcohol can have on our food choices. One or two glasses of wine deep, it’s not hard to convince me to get the fries and the pizza and the dessert. Then because your body is busy processing the alcohol out of our systems, which is it’s number one priority other bodily functions are put on the back burner. Research shows alcohol consumption can impair the metabolism of carbs, protein and fat. Our metabolism slows down, we stop burning fat and repairing muscle so that we won’t reap the rewards of that workout earlier in the day. It also puts normal detoxification processes that are going on in your body on the back burner. Then the next day the dehydration from drinking will impact our performance in the gym or on the hike or just in our regular day.

Alcohol reduces perfomance and recovery

Ok, I too have seen athletes or trainers posting pictures of them guzzling beer. Or that person we all know who can drink alcohol several times a week but still stay in great shape. Yes, life isn't fair. I have had to stop comparing myself and listen to my own body. I know that I don’t feel great the next day after having some drinks. My sleep is usually affected, it feels not as deep while my body is still trying to metabolize the alcohol. The next day I’m usually in a sluggish and lazy mood even if I didn’t drink enough to be truly hungover. One too many nights in a row and I start feeling soft around the middle. I don’t want to be sweating it out at the gym just to undo my hard work in a few drinks.

In the end, moderation is key for all things. If we truly want to indulge in a drink, do it in a deliberate way. Making the conscious decision that this is what you really want and then enjoy the experience and time to bond with friends or family. Make sure to eat something and drink water to counteract the effects of alcohol, have fun and then move on with your life.
 

Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037055/

 

No nutrients, not filling, but ok sometimes right?

No nutrients, not filling, but ok sometimes right?

Your body is trying to tell you something

One of the biggest mistakes someone can make in their health is waiting until it’s too late to do something positive. Waiting until a doctor diagnoses us with a condition or a disease is leaving things too late. The many years leading up to an event like this is where prevention can happen. These years could have been filled with symptoms that were brushed off as not important. Like trouble falling or staying asleep, difficult digestion, irregular elimination, low energy, mood swings, bloating, gas, constantly runny nose, anxiety, fatigue, or an energy roller coaster of highs and lows that you can’t get off.

One of the hardest things to learn in our modern lives is how to slow down and listen to the body. It's trying to tell us what we need if only we would listen.