If All Else Fails, Make Food and Exercise Your Friends


For a recent project, I have been doing lots of research on mental health and how important exercise and the right diet can be to happiness and a positive mood. Although I am a ridiculously unreliable exerciser (despite my love for yoga, hiking, and looking good!), I must admit that every time I break a sweat I do feel good about myself. I also seem to see invisible physical benefits very, very quickly (yeah, I definitely have a smaller tummy now that I ran for 15 minutes…definitely).

Get Your Exercise

Physical Activity Improves Mood

Similarly, I have a love-hate relationship with health food. At times, I am all about whole foods, shunning processed or anything with added salt or sugar or fat or any ingredients I can’t pronounce. Other times (like around the holidays), I am a sugar, fat, and carb aficionado. The more chocolate, butter, and booze the better! On the whole, though, I like to think that I am a relatively healthy eater, and I take pride in forcing my husband to be the same.

The natural buzz I get from eating well  and yes, exercising occasionally, is not just self-righteous health-nut pride, but Mother Nature’s way of saying “Yes, this is good for you – do more of this and all will be well!”

Food and Exercise Can Improve Mood

Foods with complex carbohydrates, magnesium and selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, amino acids, and a variety of vitamins and antioxidants can help stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain. Boosting your production of serotonin, endorphins, fatty gray matter, and neurotransmitters in your brain translates to elevated energy levels, improved mood, better sleep, less frustration and anxiety, better stress management techniques, fewer symptoms of depression, improved memory, and even higher levels of motivation and alertness.

Some star foods for these benefits include bananas, spinach, salmon, walnuts, dark chocolate (hooray!), milk, brown rice, and turkey.

Get Fishy With It

Eat well to boost your mood

The somewhat harder pill to swallow is that exercise is not only essential for great physical health but also for excellent emotional and mental well-being. Working up a sweat, breathing hard, and stretching your muscles prompts your brain to release feel-good chemicals and produce hormones that have many of the same effects as the above-mentioned foods. Exercise can help you relax, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and reduce symptoms of depression. As an added benefit, exercising in bright daylight can help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder combat  symptoms of seasonal depression.

So the next time you have nowhere to go on a weekend night or nobody to hang out with, swap the TV and the take-out line for a jog and a salmon and veggie-licious experience that will leave you feeling content and relaxed. Who knew that exercise and food could be such healthy companions for your mood? Sign me up!

A Friendly End to a Friendly Semester


Finals are over and I once again have claim over at least some of my time! Spurred on by my numerous attempts to socialize, meet people, and make friends, I have recently participated in or arranged multiple gatherings with potential forever friends. Then again, I have also passed up a few outings to celebrate the quarter’s end. I did so regretfully, but I passed them up nonetheless.

Despite my brief bout with post-exam antisocial angst, I have already scheduled a tentative round of drinks on the town and an outing to dinner and the Nutcracker with a few new friends from school and church.

Today, however, I hatched a crazy idea.

My December task for the Friends Forever Friendship Endeavor will be to host a party. Not just any party – a party with all of the best potential friends doing all the best things: eating, drinking, and being merry.

Considering I do have the continued need to work for a living, a commitment to a school/work internship, the frantic holiday traveling to look forward to, and all of my Christmas shopping to do, it will be quite a feat to organize and host a party within the next couple of weeks, but I dare say my newfound devotion to fostering friendship opportunities will serve me well – motivation and a healthy dose of stress can be a wonderful thing.

I craftily even used my decision today to not attend recent outings as an opportunity to shoot a few ladies a text about tossing back a few glasses of wine at my place sometime in the next week or two.

So now the December To-Do List kicks in:

1. Pick a day for the fearsome fête
2. Buy some wine
3. Choose some snacks
4. Send a few casual invites
5. Clean, clean, clean
6. Party hearty
7. Report on the successful progress on the Friendship Meter!

 

Host a party for friends!

Mine won't be quite this fancy!

All in all, I think I’ve had a great start these past few months toward finding potential Forever Friends. Granted, it has been easy to meet people at school – it is the perfect opportunity to find other people who are also looking to make new friends, and I hope that I am taking well enough advantage of the chances my new degree program has given me.

So beginning the next phase of my journey toward lasting friendships, I will host a party and head to the ballet. After that I foresee some of the general December to February Friendship Plans: 

December – February: Getting into the Swing of Things & Finding Some “Regulars”

I think I have made fair progress on this already for this month, but putting myself to the challenge of being the person responsible for inviting specific people and hosting a party is a bit of a big step.  It means I have to select some potential “regulars!”  Well, here goes!