By Sade Meeks MS, RD
From earning a degree to a new job, relocating from one city to the next, or moving from the single life to a new relationship; these life events on the surface may sound totally different, but they have one thing in common; transition. And let’s face it, transition can sometimes be difficult! The same can actually be said for the new year; and specifically January 21st could be an especially challenging day for some of you in 2019.
In 2005, Cardiff University alum, Dr. Cliff Amall, acknowledged the New Year blues and coined the third week in January as Blue Monday. It is thought of as one of the most depressing days of the year due to contributing factors of weather, debt, returning back to work, or already failing at New Year’s resolutions. Even things such as not being able to go outside because of bad weather can contribute to the blues. It can affect anyone, so even our “strong friend” may need to be checked on.
Millions of Americans could very well experience Blue Monday on January 21st and may wonder what they can do to cope? Some may respond to the blues by “eating their feelings”. However, this type of stress eating, that involves consumption of more refined sugars and refined carbohydrates, may cause even more stress on your body. It’s important to stay educated and know that foods like this can be known to cause inflammation in the body, which consequently impact our well being. In fact, mental health conditions are starting to be understood as not merely alteration in circulating hormones, but also as a result of internal inflammation (1). Furthermore, a refined diet lacking fiber and prebiotics can also disrupt the health of our gut. The gut is also just as important to mental health considering it communicates in this bidirectional manner with the brain. For example, a healthy gut promotes the production of the happy hormone, serotonin. (1)
Thankfully, there are foods we can eat that work to reduce inflammation and promote brain and gut health. Prebiotic fibers, high fiber foods, and resistant starch (which work as prebiotic fiber) can help promote a healthy gut, while Omega 3s and Vitamin D work to reduce inflammation. Essentially, eating can actually become a healthy way to cope with the blues when choosing appropriate portions of such foods that promote the health of our brain and gut. Here are my top five feel good foods.
Top 5 Foods
- Barley+ – Barley+ contains prebiotic fibers and resistant starch which promote a healthy digestive system and feed the good bacteria in our gut.
- Salmon – this healthy, fatty fish is a great source of Vitamin D and Omega 3s, which help reduce inflammation.
- Mushrooms – mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D on the produce aisle!
- Walnuts – a handful of walnuts are perfect for on the go and a great source of Omega 3s
- Turmeric – This anti-inflammatory spice is so versatile – it’s perfect for flavoring teas or lentil soup for those cold winter nights.
Food plays a supportive role in promoting good mental health along with self-care. Here are my top 5 self-care tips for reducing the impacts of Blue Monday.
Top 5 Self-Care Tips
- Communicate – Writing, journaling, or blogging, are just a few examples of ways to create healthy expression of your emotions.
- Listen to nature – If you are not able to go outside, try listening to a nature sounds playlist. It is a great way to disconnect from your problems and connect with the soothing sounds of nature.
- Get moving – From dancing to jogging, it helps promote the brain’s production of your feel good hormones.
- Socialize – It is easy to isolate yourself when you are feeling down, but accept the invitation to go out with a friend to disconnect from your problems.
- Write down Affirmations – Writing down the positive things about life is a great way to switch your perspective from the blues to what’s gold.