I've had quite a long and difficult history with depression. It all started when I was about 8 years old and got badly bullied at school, from then on other things happened and my depression worsened.
I grew increasingly down and my life started to be badly effected by this disease. I withdrew from the world, lost friends, had to drop out of college and was at a total loss. On top of this I suffer with anxiety and experience panic attacks, which thankfully I'm a lot more on top of now.
For so many years I didn't know how to get out of this dark place I was in, I didn't think there was a way out and I was certain nothing I could do would make me feel any better. One day, I don't know how, but I managed to somehow find the strength and determination to decide I was going to change.
I'd had enough, I needed to at least try and make things better - which is where my passion for leading a healthy lifestyle comes in.
I'd been told by a few people that regular exercise and a wholesome diet could really make a difference but I always thought it was nonsense, truth be told, I never thought moving my body or eating more vegetables would help me escape the torturous feelings I was experiencing. When I decided to give it a go I didn't have a huge amount of hope, but the more I learnt about nutrition and the more I got into exercise I started to realise the real me was coming out again.
I was happier, less stressed, I had more energy, I looked better, I wasn't so anxious about going out in public anymore and I wasn't getting so many spells of depression.
I want to go into this more at a later date because I truly feel like my lifestyle change saved my life, but today I'm focussing on food and how what I eat impacts me.
When you think about this it's not that shocking that a good diet can impact your state of mind. The food you put into your body is what powers it - that food keeps your heart beating, your cells regenerating and your brain active, so if you're putting in artificial or processed foods then of course your body is going to suffer because you're not giving it the proper nutrients it really needs. Whereas if you're feeding yourself fresh fruit and vegetables, whole proteins, good fats and healthy carbohydrates, whilst ditching the sugar and preservatives then your body and your mind will thrive.
When I was eating poorly I felt like my body was fighting hard to stay healthy and it couldn't put any energy into anything else, but with the diet I'm on now I feel like my body is thanking me for feeding it the goodness it deserves.
After eating refined sugar it's absorbed quickly into the bloodstream which causes a burst of energy that soon wears off as the body increases its insulin production, this leaves you feeling tired, low and sluggish. When your blood sugar levels are irregular like this the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released, which can cause feelings of worry and anxiety. On top of this sugar and refined carbohydrates actually use up the B vitamins in our body which we need to sustain a good mood.
Sugar also messes with your thyroid, which is responsible for determining how your body uses energy and makes proteins. It's also responsible for regulating your mood.
Up The Good Carbs
There's been this myth going around for a long time that 'all carbs are bad', this couldn't be further from the truth. Carbs are what give us energy, they help run the body and they're especially important for our mood. Carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats and quinoa are amazing choices, and they all help the body to release serotonin. Serotonin influences your mood, appetite, memory and even social interaction. An imbalance of serotonin is believed to lead to depression.
Switch To Green Tea
I have around 3 cups of green tea a day, I love it and I find it I don't have my tea I feel quite grouchy. Green tea is incredibly rich in antioxidants, and it also contains theanine. Theanine is an amino acid that provides natural stress relief. Ditch the coffee, which not only dehydrates you, but can increase anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Dark Leafy Greens
I actually crave Kale..anyone else get that? I never thought I would, but I do and I think my body is craving it because it knows just how damn good those dark leafy greens are.
Greens like kale, spinach and swiss chard help to prevent and fight against inflammation which helps to lower your risk of normal cells transforming into cancerous cells, but it also helps fight brain inflammation which has been shown to occur in people with severe depression. These greens also contain important vitamins like A, C, E and K.
People are often scared of fats because they believe it'll make them gain weight, which isn't true if you eat the right ones and these fats are so important for our bodies. Not only do healthy fats help your hair, skin and nails to look healthy and strong but they're also vital for keeping your brain running smoothly.
There's actually been studies done that found unhealthy fats (found in greasy pizza, McDonalds, take-aways and bacon) can majorly increase your risk of depression, whereas healthy fats like avocado, plain nuts, seeds and coconut can decrease your risk of depression.
Up The Good Protein
When I say 'good' protein I mean the protein found in whole, healthy foods...ie don't go out and eat a bacon sandwich because you think that's a good choice of protein. Increase your intake of beans, seeds, pulses, lentils, nuts, nut butter, hummus or buy some hemp or pea protein powder. Fish is a really good source of protein too, if you eat it, the omega-3 is also brilliant for the brain.
Protein maintains our skin, organs, muscle and immune function but research also suggest that it's important for it's effect on the brain, and influencing your mood.
If you're suffering with depression, anxiety or even if you just feel quite low I'd highly recommend taking a look at the food you're putting into your body and maybe you could make some changes that will help you feel happier and healthier.