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Healthy Body & Healthy Mind

May 5, 2021
Woman in sports attire eating a strawberry

The body and the mind are intrinsically linked and making sure both are in top working order can be a difficult balance to manage. There is a link between getting the right balance and keeping your mind and body functioning to the best of its ability. The food you eat is what fuels you for the day, keeping your body moving and keeping your brain functioning at its optimum level. There are other factors to consider when keeping your mind as healthy as your body. Making sure we’re getting enough rest, getting out in the fresh air and even doing creative activities can help keep your mind working harmoniously with your body. 

Getting a healthy, balanced diet is imperative to keeping your body healthy. This can mean something different to everyone but in general terms, a balanced diet is getting enough of the five food groups every day. The five food groups are fruit & veggies, carbs, dairy & dairy alternatives, proteins and fats. If we imagine these in a triangle, the bottom layer would be fruit and veg, carbs next and so on until you reach the tiny amount of fats at the top. These should be unsaturated kinds such as avocados or oils used for cooking as they are the kind that your body can use to function rather than saturated fats which give no nutritional value to your body. 

Brain foods

There are certain foods you can eat that help aid brain function commonly referred to as brain foods. The fatty acid Omega-3 is renowned for fighting fatigue – one study even showed that it helped lessen the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. There is also evidence of it keeping your mind sharp by fighting off Alzheimers. Omega-3 is found in most fish but there are lots of veggie and vegan alternatives too. Omega-3 is found in:

  • Chia seeds
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Algal oil
  • Hemp seed
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Perilla oil 

Other foods that can help your brain to function better are:

  • Olive oil – this oil has been shown in a study to protect memory and learning ability as well as reducing the risk of Alzheimers. It also has anti-inflammatory benefits which helps ward off other diseases.
  • Avocados – contain monounsaturated healthy fats which help provide you with sustained energy throughout the day as well as lutein which has been shown to help your ability to think making avocados the definition of food for thought!
  • Dark and leafy greens – these are all round do gooders and they don’t stop at brain function! They contain high levels of iron and vitamin C, both which are great at beating fatigue. They also contain nitrates which help increase blood flow, making them a food that helps concentration. 

Foods can also act as a mood booster – and chocolate is on the list! Let’s take a look through all the best mood boosting foods:

  1. Dark chocolate – it’s official, chocolate can actually improve your mood! The sugar in it is quick and easy fuel for your brain to take on as well as the high number of health-promoting flavonoids which can boost brain health and increase blood flow to the brain. So the next time you fancy a piece of chocolate, you can do so in the name of self care!
  2. Fermented foods – such as kimchi, kombucha and kefir all take care of your gut as well as your mood! The probiotics created in your gut have been shown to increase the production of serotonin – the happy chemical. 
  3. Bananas – these mood boosting fruits are high in vitamin B6, which aid the feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
  4. Oats – these versatile whole grains can be enjoyed as porridge, overnight oats or even in your morning smoothie. Thanks to the high levels of fibre and iron, sugar is released into the bloodstream slowly and reduces fatigue making for a much more pleasant morning. Why not try out Cocoa Oat Protein Flapjack for a morning boost!
  5. Nuts and seeds –  almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts, as well as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds all provide the body with tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing mood-boosting serotonin. You can find a few of these happy making nuts and seeds in our Blueberry & Pumpkin Seed Protein Nut Bar!

Exercise and mental health

We know that a part of living healthily is to make sure we get enough exercise but exercise and mental health are also inherently linked. Just doing a bit of light exercise such as a brisk walk can release endorphins and boost your mood. So not only is exercise great for keeping up our physical health, but it links to keeping our mental health in balance as well. Exercise can help release any feelings of tension or anger that we are holding in our bodies – even when we don’t feel like they’re having much of an effect. And of course, exercise is going to improve your mood and wellbeing more if it’s something you enjoy doing so try and find a form that works for you. 

Exercise is also great for boosting concentration as physical activity gives the brain a boost of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin – all of which help the brain to focus better. The same endorphins that improve your mood, also help sharpen your senses that helps to complete a task. So why not try having a five minute walk the next time you feel like procrastinating? 

Mindfulness activities

Mindfulness is a word that gets thrown about a lot – but what does it actually mean? Mindfulness is all about focusing your attention on the present moment and forgetting all those thoughts we have whizzing round our heads at any given moment. By focussing on the present, all our anxieties and fears about the past and present melt away and we reach a sense of stillness and tranquility.

In terms of mindfulness activities, there isn’t an all size fits all. You’ve got to find something for yourself that you can feel fully present doing. We don’t have the solution for everyone but here we have a few options for you to try out for yourself.

Cooking is our first one as it brings together the ideas of physical health and mental health. Making yourself a delicious and hearty meal can make you feel good about taking good care of your body. The sensory elements of the kitchen can help ground you and detach from the mental into the physical. For a lot of people, food holds an emotional connection and can bring back memories of family and friends. Allowing yourself to immerse in these emotions can be therapeutic and can boost your mood. 

Creative activities can be therapeutic as when we get into the flow of what we’re doing, we forget whatever stresses and strains are holding us back in day to day life. If you love to draw (even if you don’t consider yourself to be artistic) this can be a great way to connect with your creative side as a form of art therapy. The idea behind art therapy is that you can draw or paint things that represent issues you might have not been able to put into words or have even recognised yet. Another mindfulness activity that can help you track your moods and feelings is journaling. Writing down when you’re feeling low or stressed can help you track your moods and figure out what your triggers are. And once you’ve found your triggers, you can develop ways to avoid them. 

One of the most popular mindfulness activities is meditation but there isn’t just one way to meditate. There are a whole list of different types of meditation but they all have the same end goal and that is to achieve a sense of awareness and peace in your own mind and body. You might have to try a few different options before you find the meditation style for you but it’s well worth persevering. These types are:

  • Mindfulness meditation – observing thoughts as they pass through the mind and noticing patterns
  • Spiritual meditation – focussing on deepening the connection with a god or deity 
  • Focused meditation – concentrating on one of the five senses 
  • Movement meditation – either through yoga or walking in nature 
  • Mantra meditation – using a repetitive phrase to clear the mind 
  • Transcendental meditation – using a series of words to clear the mind
  • Progressive relaxation – tightening and relaxing muscles in the body to achieve a full state of relaxation
  • Loving-kindness meditation – opening the mind to give and receive love from others
  • Visualisation meditation – visualising calming or positive images 

Balancing your physical health and mental health can be tough but now you’ve got all the knowledge, putting it into practice will feel a lot easier. Making sure you’re eating the right foods to keep your brain working at its highest level and also making sure you take time to relax and be in the present.

If you’re looking for more blogs on mindfulness why not check out our blog post about Work-Life Balance, or if you’re after more nutrition tips, take a look at our Making Nutrition Simple blog!

Don’t forget the importance of brain food on your health! So pick up a TREK bar today for the perfect high protein snack for a burst of energy.