With the extension of Sydney’s lockdown, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to share as many tips as we can to elevate the net happiness of our community. A good place to start is with food: the all-important fuel that has the power to make or break our days, in or out of the home.
First thing’s first: breakfast. But when we say first, we don’t necessarily mean as soon as you wake up. Every metabolism and body is different, and although we’re not qualified nutritionists, our advice is to follow intuitive eating where possible (you can read our intro to intuitive eating here). However, mounting research suggests that incorporating some kind of intermittent fasting into your lifestyle can lead to higher levels of subjective well being – meaning waiting a few hours to eat breakfast may help you to feel happier within yourself. When you do decide to break the fast, paying attention to the food you’re eating can be another hack to boost your daily happiness.
One of the best breakfast options for improving well being (and a great comfort food for cold winter mornings) is porridge – with oats providing the necessary fibre to maintain a healthy microbiome (which plays a significant role in hormone health, including our happiness hormone serotonin) and a hefty dose of iron. Low iron levels can lead to anemia, which can result in low energy and mood disorders, so keeping your iron levels in check with a bowl of overnight oats or a warming bowl of porridge is a good place to start when you’re eating for an elevated mood.
Including eggs in your lunch is an excellent mood boosting option, and if you’re working from home, this means you’re saved the social shame of being “that person” stinking out the office with your egg sandwich. As well as being rich in B-12 (a vitamin essential for optimal brain function), eggs contain high levels of carotenoids, which have been linked to increased levels of optimism. Including fibre in your lunch will also help regulate your blood sugar, keeping your hormonal happiness in check and avoiding the infamous afternoon slump. The addition of any food of the fermented variety is another mood-boosting hack: a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi can improve the health of your body’s microbiome, allowing for hormones such as serotonin (that responsible for happiness) to be produced, regulated and released. If you’re interested in learning more about the impact that food can have on our hormones, you can read our article on how to eat for healthy hormones here.
The last meal of the day is your last chance to get in any nutrients that might help increase your happiness (unless you’re one for a late-night snack, in which case, opt for a small amount of dark chocolate, which is high in happiness-boosting compounds). Including Omega 3 rich fatty fish such as salmon – which has been linked with lower levels of depression – may be a good option for a happiness-boosting dinner. Opt for sustainably sourced fish to limit the impact this choice is having on the environment – you can research the footprint (environment-wise, not physically) of your fish via goodfish.org. In terms of what to avoid at dinner time, keeping highly refined carbs to a minimum is likely to help limit spikes in blood sugar, and avoid sluggish digestion which can (contradictorily) lead to poor sleep. Including leafy greens high in antioxidants is another hack – green leafy vegetables such as kale are not only high in fibre, but rich in vitamins such as folate which has been linked with lowering levels of depression.
The compulsion to spend all day snacking can become even more apparent when you’re locked at home, but if you do decide to snack between your mood-boosting meals, it makes sense to snack on something that will do you good. Bananas are an excellent mood-stabilising snack because of their balanced sugar and fibre levels and high levels of essential vitamin B6, while berries are a great source of antioxidants, which help reduce oxidant stress within the body. Pair your fruit with nuts or seeds for a balanced snack – nuts and seeds are not only great sources of satiating plant protein and healthy fats, they’re also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing our happiness hero hormone serotonin.
This is the fun part. Although some people respond negatively to the high levels of caffeine found in coffee, so long as you’re keeping your intake in check, coffee can have remarkable positive impacts on our mental wellbeing. Research has found that coffee is not only responsible for increasing the release of happiness-boosting neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine, but it also contains chlorogenic acid which is said to improve cognition and general mood. Green tea is another warm-beverage option to boost your mood throughout the day, with research reporting that drinking green tea is inversely correlated with rates of depression. If you’re looking for something caffeine free, opt for Rooibos (high in mood-regulating magnesium) or Turmeric tea (with many anti-inflammatory benefits). Once your lockdown work day has come to an end, opting for a non-alcoholic celebratory drink is probably the best option for your overall health and happiness according to studies linking alcohol to depression. Thanks to websites such as Sans Drinks, you can order high quality alcohol free drinks to your door (we’re looking at you Heaps Normal).
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