Smiling from the Inside Out


Throughout the pandemic many of us have experienced feelings of low mood. We’ve been sad, tired, frustrated and sometimes angry, but these feelings usually pass. As we continue to take baby steps out of the lockdown restrictions, gain more of our freedom back, and enjoy the many things we’ve gone so long without, some of us may find we’ve got a new zest for life! For some, however, you may find you need an extra pick me up to bring out your inner smile, so our experts have put together some useful tips if you’re feeling a little low. Click the titles below to learn more.


EAT A RAINBOW

It is increasingly being recognised that what we eat plays a crucial role not just in our physical health but also for our mental health and mood. Food is not merely an energy source, providing calories to fuel the body. The many nutrients it contains also act as messengers, helping different organs and bodily systems (including the brain) to communicate and function optimally. Nutritional psychiatry is a growing discipline focusing on the use of food and nutrients as part of an integrated approach to support good mental health.

Fruit and vegetables are rich in nutrients, including antioxidants and it is reported they may modify brain serotonin (our happy hormone) status. Aiming for 2 fruit and at least 5 portions of vegetables a day is a good target. Eating a variety of different coloured fruit and veg may be particularly beneficial, as the different colour pigments reflect the different micronutrients each contains. For example, orange fruit and veg are a source of beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), whilst purple varieties contain flavonoids such as proanthocyanidins and red varieties contain the antioxidant lycopene.


FERMENTED FOODS

A growing body of evidence shows that our beneficial gut bacteria can help support our emotional well-being, via what is known as the “microbiota-gut-brain axis.” An easy way to do this is to brighten up your kitchen with colourful jars of traditionally fermented sauerkraut and kimchi. Red cabbage with juniper berries and caraway seeds adds a beautiful splash of colour to any plate, as well as delivering lots of beneficial microbes. Fermenting is super easy and can be done with almost any type of vegetable from cabbage to carrots and beetroot. You can find some fermenting recipes in our Bio-Kult Kitchen.


GET GREEN

Nature-based interventions for mental health are becoming more common, with evidence showing that those with good access to natural environments are more likely to have better mental well-being. Getting outside somewhere open and green (even just for a walk round the park) may therefore help lift your spirits.

Another way to go green is to review your lifestyle for ways to be more environmentally friendly. Feeling you are doing something positive for the world can help provide a sense of purpose, which is a great mood boost.


DRESS TO IMPRESS

Seeing as you’re going colourful on your plate, why not bring out your inner smile by reflecting this in what you wear? A study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science found that the clothes we wear also affect our mood. When we wear a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it. So give the joggers we've all been living in for the past year a break, and put on your brightest clothes and biggest smile!


VITAMIN D

 

Certain types of low mood have been linked to low vitamin D levels during the winter months. Fat soluble Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin from cholesterol after exposure to UV rays. Between October and April in the UK we cannot synthesise adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun and it is now well known that many people in the UK are deficient. If you’re feeling low, getting your vitamin D levels checked and supplementing if needed is recommended. Vitamin D is found in only a few foods such as eggs, oily fish and mushrooms, so as we enter the summer months, try and spend some time outdoors each day with your arms/legs and face exposed (avoiding the hot midday sun).


GET ACTIVE

Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce stress hormones and may also support healthy digestion and sleep. As exercise classes have now re-opened it might be time to try something new, Move GB is a great site to find local classes in your area, many offer a free trial so if you’re a little unsure you can try the class before committing to regular sessions. Why not take a friend along, we often find it easier to motivate someone else and in turn you can motivate each other!


KEEP A GRATITUDE DIARY

This may help to focus on the positive elements of the day and has been associated with a decrease in stress and an increase in well-being. Try talking about yourself as if you were talking about a friend, we’re often much kinder to others than we are to ourselves.


BOOK A MASSAGE

Stress reduction and being gentle on yourself plays a key part in managing our emotional-wellbeing. When we are stressed we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Stress hormones flood the body and have a number of physiological effects, evolutionarily developed to keep us safe. Problems arise when we find ourselves in a constant ‘fight or flight’ mode. Rhythmic massage techniques can help down regulate our central nervous system and create a parasympathetic response, easing tension in our muscles and helping us relax.