December can be nuts. And whilst nuts are fantastic for helping to nourish your brain, what else can you do in order to keep a certain level of sanity, whilst everyone else is losing theirs?
I would begin with ensuring you have the building blocks to make your happy hormones Dopamine and Serotonin.
Dopamine is central to the brain's reward system, contributing to feelings of pleasure and motivation. To make Dopamine, your body needs the amino acid tyrosine that is found in protein. Plant based protein, yes. But it doesn't have to be all you eat. Go for in almonds, avocados, bananas, beans, chicken, cheese, eggs, wholegrains and fish.
Talking of fish, it's that oily, fishy fish that have the most benefits because they are rich in 'good' omega 3's. We've known for some time that these essential fats not only protect your heart, but are now emerging as an effective therapy for mood disorders.
There are of course other foods you can include but that takes us further down the nutrition path, rather than the nourish path. There's a difference you see. To nourish your body and mind means to meet ALL it's needs - physical and emotional, even spiritual needs. In other words, it's not just down to food. Yet many of us will focus on the food. We are encouraged to over-analyse every last gram or Calorie. And forget the bigger picture in the process.
So here are some of the things that I feel are essential in finding a place of complete nourishment.
Spending time outside, particularly in green spaces has been shown to lower stress, feelings of anger, blood pressure and boost mental health, particularly if you experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Any interactions with nature (think birds singing, trees rustling) and social connections you make along the way will only enhance the effects: cortisol is lowered and serotonin gets a boost.
Yes I know it's cold and more likely to rain but come on, get your big coat on do it. But if you can't get outside, bring the outside in - just listening to the sounds of nature (which some meditation or mindfulness apps let you do) or looking at pictures of nature can bring similar effects.
As someone who has managed anxiety for a long time, I know exactly how all-consuming and exhausting it can be.
Anxiety quickly brings overwhelm (for me anyway). It kick starts my emotional left brain and sends me on a slippery slope where I can quickly feel out of control.
Anxiety disconnects us from our body. We are less likely to eat because we fall deaf and numb to our hunger cues. And fullness cues for that matter. So at some point in the day, it's quite likely our body will demand we eat; we develop cravings for scary carbs, which freak us out and eventually we give in.........and overeat. Quickly.
I am still working on managing my response to anxiety. Typically I get a greater need to occupy myself (because doing more work, cleaning, doing anything in fact, is a 'good' way to further distract myself. So I don't have to think about why I'm so stressed. I don't feel tired at this point, as long as I don't sit down.
Which if course is exactly what I need to be doing. Or stop at least. MY body is flooded with stress hormones - they make me more wired, I don't sleep, I don't feel hungry and if we want to put this in terms of productivity (getting shit done, thinking straight, remembering stuff), it ain't happening.
Keeping going does NOT nourish your body. It depletes it. As counter-intuitive as it may feel to stop when you are stressed, you need to. Pause. Take a break and ground yourself. Breathe. Meditate. Move. You then allow your logical right side of your brain to have a say and talk some sense.
We are social creatures, our connections and relationships with others matter, particularly for our well-being. Making time for our relationships can improve happiness, feelings of security and a greater sense of purpose.
The right kinds of relationships allow us to share and to feel listened to and supported. They give us a sense of belonging and self worth.
Toxic relationships however are likely to bring the exact opposite. So be aware of the relationships that serve you and those that don't. You might want to consider dealing with those that fail to nourish you.
You are unique; your DNA, your metabolism, your life and therefore nutritional and health needs. To find out what works best for YOU and you alone, you need to put on your Miss Marple hat and collect the clues.
This is where a journal or diary can be invaluable and it's something I do with all my clients. Think about what it is exactly that you want to improve.......and write about it.
It could be your mood, energy levels, bloating, pain, sleep, hot flushes or your running pace. What do you notice affects it? In what way? Keep a food (and symptom) diary and see how your diet changes how you feel. Because that's what's important right?
Sleep is my most important pillar of health. If I neglect my sleep (if my husband snores, the dog wants out or the kids wake up), I get grumpy...and need biscuits. Lack of sleep (not enough hours or disrupted sleep) increases the desire for sugary, fatty foods.
You are also more likely to eat mindlessly and overeat. Motivation drops like a lead balloon and any intention to eat well or exercise goes out the window with it. It's also more likely you will feel overwhelmed as your emotional brain takes over and your logical, stress management skills crumble.
HONOUR YOUR BODY
Do you feel like you are being pulled in all sorts of different directions? Demands being placed on you that you didn't ask for? On top of the standard day to day duties, for which there is already not enough time.
Boundaries are a wonderful thing but they can become all too blurred if you let them. Which I imagine you know....but why is it so hard to say no?
Because we live in a culture that still says keep going and do it all. Success comes to those who work the hardest.........I can tell you from experience this does NOT work. It's a lie. It's not selfish to look after yourself; to put your oxygen mask on first.
Yes nourishing your body includes eating good things - the things that make you feel good - physically and emotionally. Foods that satisfy you. But also foods that taste good. That you may just eat just because they taste delicious. In the non-diet world, we call this body-food congruence. To find balance and harmony in eating to support good health combined with eating for enjoyment and fun. For me, nourishment focuses on joyful eating. Imagine that! No stress, fear or doubt. No guilt or frustration...
But nourishing your body means doing the stuff that is not directly related to eating; not burning the candle at both ends; finding ways to switch off and do the things that really matter to you, without sacrificing your own health.
And as a client told me today, if you don't like where you are, move. You are not a tree....find somewhere that's more nourishing (the last bit was me).
p.s. If you want to find more nourishment in your life, checkout the www.antidietsystem.com, it could be right up your street