This course has spent a lot of time dealing with thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and personal reactions and choices. You have spent time using discipline and practice to learn to have more control over these areas.
Do you recall the discussion about unmet needs? Your emotional well-being is not separate from your physical well-being. For true self-improvement to happen, an integrative approach must be used. That means if you have unmet nutritional or physical needs, your mind and body are out of balance. Your body will seek ways to fulfill those needs and your mind may not have what it needs to maintain feelings of peace and contentment.
This means no matter how often you avoid anger triggers, manage time, meditate or use assertive communication, if you haven’t eaten recently and have low blood sugar, chances are you’ll get irritated and maybe display unhealthy expressions of anger.
We talked briefly about nutrition and exercise a few lessons ago. We’re gong to go over this information again, as we can’t underscore enough how important each area is. Below are a few basic guidelines to eating healthy to improve mood and mental health:
- Eat a variety of foods, in a variety of colors. A good rule of thumb is to have more than half of your plate to be vegetables or fruits. These provide the vitamins and nutrients to help strengthen your immune system and can decrease inflammation.
- Seek out healthy fats, like those found in avocado, nuts or fish. Fats help make up healthy cells, including neurotransmitters, what our brains use to communicate that we are calm, happy, content, etc.
- Start your day with protein and be sure to include protein in all your meals. Protein can be found in fish, meats, plants such as beans, nuts and quinoa, beans, and dairy. Protein provides energy.
- Consume wheat and grain in moderation, eating the least processed, whole grains you can when you do.
- Try to avoid sugar and foods that quickly convert to sugar in our bodies such as white flour. These foods may give us energy initially and may seem filling. Unfortunately, these foods not only can increase inflammation in the body which is often associated with illness and disease, but they also leave you with a quick spike and then a drop in your blood sugar. Low blood sugar can cause fatigue, cravings, and irritability.
- Drink water. Being dehydrated causes headaches and drowsiness, which can lead to irritability.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and other mood altering substances. These can lower your inhibitions, decrease your ability to think rationally and clearly, and can, with chronic use, disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, which can increase irritation and decrease your ability to feel calm, content or happy.
We suggested exercises before in a previous section about finding a healthy outlet for aggression. Exercise functions as a good preemptive measure for defusing anger. It also promotes mental health, energy, and feelings of happiness.
Exercising can mean different things to different people. Yoga, hiking, spin classes, ballet, walking, and martial arts are all exercise. These all involve different types of physical exertion but are all effective forms of exercise. Exercise for our purpose here is just moving the body, being sure to include movement that raises your heart rate, as well as those that are more relaxing.
In addition to tracking anger and conflict, spend at least three days recording what you ate and when. Write down how you felt after the meal, immediately after or hours later, including if you felt hungry again or felt irritable.
Begin implementing the guidelines above if you haven’t already. Eat more vegetables. Write your findings down.
In addition to the food log, begin taking ten minutes out of the day to exercise, if you don’t already have an exercise routine. You don’t need to join a gym, pay for a class, or even buy workout clothes. Go for a ten-minute jog before or after work. Walk up and down a set of stairs for five minutes and then walk briskly for five more minutes. Get creative! Write down in your log how you feel at the end of the exercise. Do you feel content? Do you sleep better?