Stress, changes, problems at work or in the family, uncertainty about the future: persistent sadness or nervousness can sneak up on anyone, and do at some point in most people’s lives. While these mental troubles can apparently be caused by a variety of happenings, the events that seem to lead up to them are often just the last push needed to throw you off kilter. This is almost always the case when the result is actual, clinical depression or anxiety disorder, but your bodily health truly does have an effect, and indeed a significant one, on your mood.
It’s natural to feel badly after a setback or disappointment, but especially if such feelings persist for more than a week or two, it might be time to get your house in order in more ways than one. You may or may not consider your body a temple, but it is certainly going to play home to the rest of you for the foreseeable future. While you shouldn’t expect instant results, some basic steps will certainly have effects that are both positive and long-lasting. Anyone who feels that their energy, hope and motivation is draining away can benefit from doing these things.
Watch What You Eat
While there isn’t much wrong with reaching for a bowl of ice cream or a glass of wine at the end of a rough day, this will do you no favours if your state of mind has already been low for a while. In general, a diet which is healthy in other ways – whole grains instead of refined starches, some vegetables, some lean protein, and cutting out risky treats such as sugar-laden snacks and alcohol – is good for your brain and hormonal balance, which will certainly reduce your stress levels and improve how you feel.
There are a few foods with some specific mental benefits, at least anecdotally: oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), berries, nuts and seeds are all things to consider without needing to raise your weekly grocery budget by more than a few pounds.
A number of people will scoff at this, or claim that they “meditate on the toilet”. Still, the science is clear: meditation has similar effects to antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. Though it’s not easy to become good at it, anyone can start. Both inherently religious and completely nondenominational forms of meditation exist.
One of the effects of anxiety and depression is that you lose the ability to see the forest for the trees. There’s some value in the saying about mountains and molehills, but it is also far easier to apply this wisdom when you’re in the right frame of mind.
Talking to someone who is trained and experience in helping others gain perspective on their problems has been proven to be extremely helpful, although the average bloke at your local probably lacks the necessary education to assist you. The NHS may offer such services, and there are now also online resources to connect you with a therapist.
When you’ve been feeling blue for a significant length of time, it really does become worth it to start doing things “right now” which will improve your mood in the hours and days to come. While setting out for the gym might be the last thing you want to do at this moment, there is some good news: you don’t have to start doing bench presses or running marathons. As it turns out, ten minutes of light aerobic exercise is just about as effective as an hour-long workout as far as improving your state of mind goes. A simple walk every day can have effects that last for hours afterwards, while taking a break from your daily routine can be calming in and of itself. If you can work in some exercise every day, the effects quickly become cumulative and even more persistent.
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We all have things that we know we should do in daily life…next week or so. If you’ve been in a bad mood for several days, though, it’s a mug’s game to treat this state of affairs as something inevitable which you can do nothing about, or simply surrender to it and wait for it to get better by itself. While there are pharmaceutical treatment options available, these are not always effective and can have severe side effects. Before taking a pill, why not spend as little as twenty minutes a day paying attention to the above aspects of your life – you have nothing to lose, guaranteed.