As a person that has struggled with my moods and depression off and on for the past 12 years, I felt it adequate to create some positive thinking and insight for today’s Monday Mantra. Most Americans between the ages of 12 and 59, nearly 11% reported in 2011, are taking antidepressant medications in the battle against depression and anxiety. While it seems women are more likely to take the antidepressant medications than men, men are not immune to the daily struggle. More than 60% percent of patients that begin an antidepressant regimen report they have been on their medication for 2 or more years.
So what directly affects our level of “mood” if you will? The answer, Serotonin levels! Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Nearly 90% of our body’s Serotonin level is found in our digestive tract and blood platelets. So can you say, our daily diet can be a cause!?! By closely looking at what we consume daily in our meals we can maybe see some potential reasons our levels could be off. Protein packed meals sometimes can counteract our quest to eat cleaner or healthier. When we eat a protein packed meal such as chicken, we can “flood the blood” with tryptophan and amino acids, which we do need for muscle recovery from rigorous workouts or a very active lifestyle, and that causes a fight for them to enter the brain. Meanwhile, consuming a carb-rich meal triggers the release of insulin by the body which studies have shown to allow the body to consume the amino acids needed for the body but not the brain. When this occurs it does allow for the tryptophan to enter the brain and Serotonin levels to increase. Getting adequate amounts of vitamin B-6, is also said, to increase the rate at which Serotonin is supplied to the brain. So what should I eat you ask? Here are a few suggestions –
- Protein-rich foods should still be incorporated into your diet to aid with your energy levels – Low-fat seafood, turkey breast, greek yogurt, fresh fruits, nuts such as a handful of almonds, legumes and broccoli
- Thiamin-rich foods for your memory – Wheat germ, bran, nuts, fortified cereal (careful to look at how much sugar the cereals contain though, some are packed with added sugars that can be destructive in your goal) dark leafy vegetables.
- Folic Acid-rich foods for fighting depression – Beans, pasta (whole grain), fresh vegetables, spinach, swordfish, clams, garlic and chili peppers.
- High Complex Carbohydrate-rich foods for fighting anxiety – Potatoes, whole grain pastas, beans, air-popped popcorn. Careful not to consume much caffeine, especially if it’s not a part of your daily diet. Sudden consumption of caffeine can cause nervousness and/or anxiety.
Exercise can also do a lot to improve mood and studies have shown that regular exercise, suggested at least 40-minutes per day, may also be just as effective for depression as antidepressant medications when a regular routine is adhered to. So even if you don’t have the fancy gym membership or if you are not a member of an exercise group that has weekly classes you can attend, just getting up and walking is a start. There are many reasonably priced exercise programs around that are for all fitness levels. My local Tallahassee favorite is with “fitness guru” Shannon Colavecchio and Badass Fitness. Shannon is currently offering 2-60 minute Bootcamp classes on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings for the minimal price of $10. You workout at your own level and she encourages you to listen to your body. She also offers personal training sessions and you can contact her directly for pricing. I am thankful that I found Shannon, as she got me back up and motivated to get out and move again! I also suggest MyFitnessPal as a way to track your daily food and exercise and it is FREE. I’m not saying you have to be a health nut, I’m just saying you have to take care of yourself and everything else will work itself out in time.
So here is my Monday Mantra – Somedays it may seem hopeless and then the tide returns and gives you hope . . . You are not crazy and you are not alone. We only succeed by helping and holding each other up. Some days you have to have someone help you on your journey and some days you can be the one to reach out and help someone else.