Today I’m writing about one of my favorite topics - mood. And my goodness hasn’t it been topical over the last few years with life thrown into disarray and uncertainty at every corner. When I initially started my journey with health, one of the most profound benefits I noticed from swapping to a more keto approach to diet was how much better I felt mentally, with more balanced moods and less ups and downs. Since then I’ve been really fascinated with how diet and lifestyle can have such a profound effect on our mental wellbeing.
I’m not overly fond of the word ‘hacks’ because I truly believe that the 5 things I’m about to mention should just be part of our everyday routines and practices, but we all love a quick fix or health hack these days, so ‘hacks’ it is!
1. Do not underestimate the gut-brain axis
We have a bi-direcitonal communication highway between our gut and our brain and so when one’s not happy the other won’t be either. That being said, it’s mainly our gut microbiome that ‘talks’ to our brain, rather than the other way around, so actually getting to the root cause of your gut imbalances can be completely transformative for your health. We’re surrounded these days with messaging about increasing plant fiber intake in the diet to feed our good gut bugs, but a word of caution on that front: if you have an underlying imbalance in gut flora, i.e. an overgrowth of potentially more harmful strains of bacteria, then increasing your fiber intake might make your gut symptoms (bloating, wind etc) worse. In my experience it’s a good idea to give more plant fiber a whirl, perhaps along with some pro or prebiotics, but if things get significantly worse then working with a Nutritional Therapist that can help you get to the root cause could be invaluable.
That being said, most of us simply will benefit from including more vegetables and more diversity into our diets. Try to eat the rainbow daily (i.e. at least one thing from every color of the rainbow), to make sure you’re including enough diverse types of fiber every day.
2. Try a lower starchy-carb diet (a more keto approach) for more balanced moods
One of the greatest benefits of going keto for me was the improvement in my blood sugar regulation because I wasn’t constantly consuming foods that required an insulin secretion to bring the glucose levels in my blood down. This really helps to improve energy regulation and hormone production through the day (and night), and I noticed myself feeling much more balanced and level headed. These days I know that if I consume too much sugar, especially without adequate fat and protein (check our recent post on blood sugar hacks to find out more), I know that I can quite easily feel really low emotionally when my blood sugar levels plummet after a big insulin dump.
Consuming more fat and protein, and less carbohydrates - as with any of the 8foods range - will really help you make this transition.
3. The importance of routine
Our bodies thrive on having a routine - the biggest example of that being our sleep and wake cycle, but I’ve noticed immense benefits to my moods by implementing routines in other areas of my life too. Morning routines can be hugely helpful in centering us and setting us up for a good day ahead. An ideal scenario would involve some movement, daylight and nourishment as your basic non-negotiables, and I think those 2 things are even more important in the darker, winter months, and then add in whatever else you have time for or feel like: journaling, yoga, 10 minutes of meditation or HIIT etc. The key thing is to make a routine and stick to it and show up consistently every single day!
Other ideas that I’ve found useful to me are strict routines around technology - curfews in the evening to help me wind down, and self-care practices like a non-negotiable hot bath at 8pm!
4. Get your light right
I mentioned briefly above the importance of morning daylight, and limiting screen time at night. Getting your light environment right is so crucial for our wellbeing and it’s something I’m becoming more and more fascinated by. I recently read a book called Chasing The Sun by Linda Geddes which had me turning all the overhead lights off by sunset and exposing my eyes and skin to as much natural light first thing in the morning when I woke up. I feel ten times better for it, probably because I’m now sleeping like a log!
5. Chase the endorphins
Of course we all know exercise is important for a healthy body, but it’s also a really quick and simple hack to get your mind in tip top shape too. I like to try and get 10 minutes of HIIT done in the morning as soon as I’m awake (ideally outside too), which can look as simple as some jumping jacks and running on the spot. This helps oxygenate your brain and get your blood flowing first thing. Endorphins released from exercise truly make us feel fantastic, and although it sometimes feels hard to get going when you’re down in the dumps, even as little as 10 minutes can set you up for a happier, healthier day.
So there you have it, my 5 hacks for better mood!