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!

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Coffee is Good for You


And your friends! And you when you’re with friends!

I am happy to report that I have gone out for coffee with two awesome ladies recently. I knew one from college and the other from high school, and we are all in the same city now, so I figured it was time to reconnect!

Not only did we have a great time catching up, but I am happy to report that in addition to social time being good for women, so is coffee.

Coffee has health benefits

Not only do the antioxidants, natural chemicals, and caffeine provide certain heart-healthy benefits, but there are studies that also indicate that moderate coffee drinkers also have lower rates of depression and even diabetes. Women may also be able to reduce their risk of heart disease by sipping up to four cups per day, and some research demonstrates a small decrease in the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer in regular coffee drinkers.

For those of you who are nervous about the caffeine, decaf and other caffeinated drinks will confer the desired health benefits for certain conditions, but not for all. To minimize the negative effects of caffeine, try drinking most of your coffee by early afternoon to give your body plenty of time to process it before you go to sleep.

For the rest of us, this is good news to drink up, and an excellent excuse to grab a coffee with the girls.

In terms of progress on the Friendship Meter, things are going well – two invites and two events down. I’m getting over some of the awkward things by just sucking it up and talking or inviting anyway. It’s working! I’m happy to report my confidence is building and I am enjoying myself A TON in the process. Hooray!