Spring into a More Positive You

April 05, 2011

Biking outdoors is good for health

Spring into a More Positive You

Spring is in the air. The flowers are blooming. Bees are buzzing. New life is everywhere. Spring is more than a time to air out the house - it's a time to do a personal house cleaning as well. Here a few tips to help boost your mood and maintain a good attitude this Spring.

Move a muscle, change a mood.

Did you know that exercise is good for your head? While it may seem as if moving about when you feel tired is the quickest way to feeling more tired, the opposite is true. Experts say that increasing physical activity, especially walking, increases energy.

"I like walking because it's easy to do, doesn't need training or equipment, and you can do it anywhere," says Rita Redberg, MD, science advisor to the American Heart Association's "Choose to Move" program.

In experiments conducted by Robert Thayer, PhD, at California State University, people who took a brisk 10-minute walk not only increased energy, but they kept the energy for up to two hours. And when they took the daily 10-minute walks went on for three weeks, their energy levels and mood were lifted.

Psychologists studying how exercise affects mental health are finding that how much or how hard you exercise isn't the key factor in helping depression and anxiety. In fact, they say that less is more; or at least just as good.

According to a study by the American Psychological Association, when depressed people used stationary bicycles, their mood improved even when they weren't biking all that hard.

In another study, people felt better after a 10-minute brisk walk or a 45-minute workout. Those working out for 45 minutes said they were less tense. They said their energy went down at first, but later went up. Those who just walked said that they felt less tense, and they also had more energy right away.

Food affects mood.

So how should you change your diet if you want to try to improve your mood? Here are some ideas:

Eat breakfast and don't skip meals.

Have you ever been in a bad mood, only to see that you haven't eaten in hours? Eating a balanced breakfast and not gettting too hungry during the day will keep your blood sugar and mood even, says Susan Biali, M.D.

Many studies show that eating breakfast leads to improved mood, better memory, and more energy all day long. What makes up a good breakfast? Lots of healthy fiber, some lean protein, good fats, and whole-grain breads and cereal.

Eat enough protein.

Eating protein with every meal, like fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, yogurt, milk, soy, and chickpeas helps the food last longer in your stomach, prevents blood sugar drops, and also keeps you "up" and alert for two to three hours after.

Stay away from simple sugars.

Foods made from things like white sugar, white flour, and white rice can give you a "sugar high" that leads to a big drop in blood sugar that will affect your mood, says Dr. Biali. For a more positive mood, choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods with lasting power.

Eat fish three times a week.

Fish like salmon and tuna are rich in good oils. Research has found that people who eat fish less than once a week have more mild-to-moderate depression than people who eat fish more often.

Limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink.

Though having a drink will make you feel good at the start, it can actually make your mood worse later. If you have trouble with your mood, it's best to stay away from it. It can also have a bad effect on the quality of your sleep, which can make your mood even worse the next day.

The caffeine that is found in coffee, some teas, and soft drinks can make your mood worse. And if it keeps you up at night, which is sure to hurt your mood.

You may already know that it's easy to confuse signs of hunger with thirst. We think we need food when we really need water. But did you know that thirst can also make you feel tired?

Drink more water.

"Sometimes, not drinking enough water can leave you feeling tired and slow," says nutritionist Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, an associate professor at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York.

The solution is simple: a tall, cool glass of water. This is really important to boost energy after exercise, when your body needs it, Ayoob says.

Positive thinking can cut down on stress and help you enjoy life more.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies show that how you look at life can affect many areas of your health and well-being. Positive thinking doesn't mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore bad situations. It just means that you look at things in a more positive way.

With all this in mind, when you learn to think positive thoughts, you will see how much better you are feeling.

Understanding positive thinking and self-talk.

Self-talk is the endless stream of thoughts that run through your head every day. These thoughts can be positive or negative.

If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly negative, you may feel unhappy most of the time. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you are already on your way to positive thinking.

The health benefits of positive thinking

Health benefits that positive thinking may give you include:

  • Longer life
  • Less depression
  • Lower levels of stress
  • Less illnesses like the common cold
  • Better mind and body well-being
  • Lower risk of death from heart disease
  • Better ways to deal with loss and times of stress

It's not clear why people who are positive thinkers have better health. One idea is that it lets you deal with stress, which means less stress on your body. It's also thought that positive thinkers have more healthy ways of life, get more exercise, have a healthy diet, and don't smoke or drink too much alcohol.

Is it more than just the winter "blues"?

Being indoors all winter can take its toll on everyone. It's not unusual to feel "winter blues" or some type of sadness during the fall and winter months. But for some people, this may mean a kind of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

The Cleveland Clinic says that SAD often happens each year at the same time, usually starting in fall or winter and ending in spring or early summer.

Symptoms

Symptoms of winter SAD include:
  • Feeling tired
  • Needing more sleep
  • Lower energy
  • Weight gain
  • Bigger appetite
  • Hard time paying attention
  • Wanting to be alone

How can I tell if I have SAD?

It is very important that you see your doctor if you have felt bad for a long time. A doctor should be the one to decide if you need treatment and how to best treat you.

Can I prevent the onset of SAD?

If you think you have symptoms of SAD, see your doctor. Your doctor will want to make sure that you do not have another kind of depression or illness.

If your doctor tells you that you have SAD, here are some things you can do to help to prevent it from coming back:

  • Try to spend some time outside every day, even when it's very cloudy. Any kind of daylight is good
  • Begin using a light box in the fall, even before you feel the start of winter SAD
  • Eating a healthy diet will help you have more energy even when your body wants foods that are less healthy
  • Try to exercise 30 minutes a day, three times a week
  • Talk to your doctor when you need to during the winter months
  • Keep in touch with your friends and do the things you like to do - which can be a big-support during the winter months

Now that you know how to put some healthy ideas into action, go out and enjoy the beautiful weather. You can notice the colors, and the light, and be grateful for all that life has to offer. This is the time to think good thoughts and take care of your body. Don't forget to have fun!

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