Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?
That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.
The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.
Good Mood Foods
There are some specific foods to keep an eye on to boost your mood:
- Fruits and Vegetables — An apple a day keeps the doctor away–and maybe the psychiatrist, too. As noted, fruits and veg have been linked to higher levels of happiness.3
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – This is the good stuff, found in foods like fish and nut oils. Low Omega-3 fatty acids have been correlated to depression and impulsivity. Getting plenty of this in your diet keeps your levels high, that’s a good thing.2
- Chocolate – As a special treat, chocolate may have properties that improve mood and even reduce tension. But remember, the key is to choose real chocolate (dark is best), and in moderation.2
Health Hack from the American Heart Association
You Can Have Stress – Don’t Let Stress Have You
Stress is inevitable. But its cumulative effects over time are what damage your health. Chronic stress has been linked to a host of issues, including anxiety and depression, weight gain, inflammation, digestive issues, fertility problems, even poor memory. The way to avoid repercussions is by dealing with stress in the moment, as it happens.Source: Lara Fielding in The 4 Pillars of Health (Stephanie Booth, author)
The idea is to become psychologically flexible—or in other words, to learn to balance your exposure to stress with self-soothing efforts. I often equate this to standing on a surfboard, on top of a bowling ball. You can lean into your uncomfortable emotions, and then discipline yourself to pull out of that discom- fort. Being able to toggle back and forth like that will make you more resilient.
Research shows that it’s not stress itself but our attitudes and beliefs about stress that can make it “toxic.” When you feel powerless, that’s when stress becomes harmful. So it’s really not the amount of stress you have in your life that matters. It’s the way you ride it out.
“In some studies, researchers have concentrated on the link between optimism and specific medical conditions. DeSylva and Kern tell us that a heart full of joy and gladness can banish trouble and strife — and now scientists tell us that optimism may help the heart itself. In one study, doctors evaluated 309 middle-aged patients who were scheduled to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery. In addition to a complete pre-operative physical exam, each patient underwent a psychological evaluation designed to measure optimism, depression, neuroticism, and self-esteem. The researchers tracked all the patients for six months after surgery. When they analyzed the data, they found that optimists were only half as likely as pessimists to require re-hospitalization. In a similar study of 298 angioplasty patients, optimism was also protective; over a six-month period, pessimists were three times more likely than optimists to have heart attacks or require repeat angioplasties or bypass operations.”Source
Feel better. Walking and other moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to help stabilize your mood and help with depressive symptoms. Studies have also found that regular exercise helps people better control their stress and regulate their emotions.Source
We’ve seen that loving relationships can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression — a fact that may give the immune system a boost. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who exhibit positive emotions are less likely to get sick after exposure to cold or flu viruses. The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine,compared people who were happy and calm with those who appeared anxious, hostile, or depressed.Source