Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Boosting Mental Health

Have you resolved to have a new perspective on life? Here are a few basic but powerful keys to maintaining good spirits throughout the year:

The foundations of good moods

  • Take a few moments to count to 10 — Stress can make it seem like you don't have a moment to spare. But taking even a few seconds or minutes away from an activity can help you reorganize your thoughts, calm your emotions and gain further perspective on a situation.
  • Exercise — Regular aerobic exercise promotes serotonin, a brain chemical involved in providing a sense of well-being and hopefulness. Exercise can also help decrease anxiety.
  • Sleep — Seven to eight hours per night both allows the body to optimize its secretion of cortisol, a hormone involved in stress response, and time to undertake repairs that constitute daily health maintenance.
  • Eating right — Adequate protein and fiber in the diet help promote feelings of satiation and avoid the blood sugar crashes that can lead to irritability and anxiety or moodiness.

Gentle mood modulators

  • Dark chocolate — Contains theobromine, a compound similar but distinctly different from caffeine, that provides a gentle increase in energy and attention without making you jittery.
  • Herbal teas — A good rule of thumb when searching for herbal-tea formulas with calming properties is to choose teas that contain floral herbs, such as chamomile, lavender, jasmine, lemon balm, elder flower and passionflower. The flower power these herbs contain is calming and gently uplifting to the mood (as well as soothing to the digestive tract).

Ask your healthcare provider

Some nutrient deficiencies and excesses are associated with altered mood states. Because of the possibility of overdose or interfering with other metabolic pathways,  supplementing with some nutrients warrants regular monitoring by a health care provider. For individualized attention to your diet, exercise and sleep needs, and how they may impact your mood, consider consulting a naturopathic physician or other health care provider.

— Miranda Marti, ND, MSA, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. Visit www.bastyrcenter.org for more information or to schedule an appointment.

 

 

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