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It is – arguably – the one thing that sets us apart from animals: our brain. Relative to our size, we have a much bigger brain than for instance the African apes, which are often regarded as our closest cousins in the animal kingdom. Thanks to those big brains, we are good at thinking, calculating, imagining, speaking, and remembering. That can get you virtually anywhere, but it can also get you in a lot of trouble. Your capacity to think can also make you feel bad and depressed.
One of the major causes of stress and depression is overthinking. We’re all doing it, and especially women seem to make a habit of it. “What did he mean when he said *that*?” “Why are they looking like that? They must be mad!” And it’s not just about trying to find out what other people think. It’s also weighing every single option and finding it hard to make a choice, ignoring the big picture in favor of minor details, choking under pressure, etc.
Children don’t overthink that much, but as you grow older, your mind fills up with rational and concrete knowledge. This ‘concrete’ knowledge – which isn’t even always that concrete – makes you afraid of being wrong. You stop expressing your child-like thoughts but measure everything you think by what you know. And if it doesn’t seem to be right, you just don’t say it. We want to be right all the time, but how can you know what’s right when you’re flooded with information all the time?
While thinking a lot might seem like a good thing, it really isn’t. It robs you of your spontaneity and – according to a study from US Santa Barbara – it messes with your performance. And that will make your day even worse.
Feed Your Brain The Right Way
While eating the right stuff won’t necessarily stop you from overthinking, it will help you feel happy and stop feeling depressed. So feeding your mind the right way is essential here. But before we start with the food; it is not only food. Feeding your brain the right way also entails information. For your own peace of mind, it is very important to stop consuming every bit of information you get your hands on. Focus only on information that brings you something. Examples of this can be:
- Inspirational stories of people you admire (and in whose footsteps you would like to follow)
- Books and materials that will further your personal and professional development
- Happy news
You shouldn’t spend too much time reading random stuff that doesn’t really bring you joy or that has is just negative. And yes, that means you should also try to stay away from gossiping!
These Foods Should Be On Your Shopping List
Now on to the most important part: did you know that certain foods can help you feel happier and less depressed? These vitamins and minerals should be on your weekly shopping list!
Omega-3 fats: your body cannot make these, so you need to make sure that you eat products that contain Omega-3 fats, and especially the EPA-kind. This can be found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout, pilchards and (fresh) tuna.
B-vitamins. If you don’t get enough of these, you will feel more depressed. B-vitamins can be found in poultry, fish, bananas, leafy green vegetables (such as spinach), and potatoes.
Amino acids, and specifically tryptophan. The body uses this amino acid to produce serotonin (also known as the happy hormone). If you go without this for even a few hours, you will feel more depressed. Amino acids can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, plant-based protein sources. Tryptophan is especially present in (dark) chocolate, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, chickpeas, almonds, and peanuts.
Chromium: this keeps your blood sugar at a stable level and seems to be especially useful for people with atypical depression. Chromium can be found in organ meats, prunes, hazelnuts, asparagus, barley, bran cereal, and mushrooms.
And these shouldn’t…
Of course, there are also foods that will put you in a rotten mood – guaranteed. So think again if you want to eat:
- refined carbohydrates and sugars (they’ll raise your blood sugar, which can lead to depression)
- artificial sweeteners; they might look like healthier options but reduce the serotonin levels in the brain
- trans fats; these can increase your risk of depression by 48%!
- processed foods; which can actually be seen as a summary of the foods mentioned above
Even though I like to pretend I’m always in a great mood, I know for a fact that eating ‘bad stuff’ really has a huge impact on my mood. And once I’m in that cycle of feeling depressed, it takes a lot to snap out of it. Unless I just start drinking water and eating more healthy stuff. That often just gives me the little push I need to feel better and push myself to do other things that make me feel better, such as exercising and not being a couch potato.
For now, enough on how to keep your brain sane with the right kinds of foods. Next time, I’ll dive more into what you can do to make your brain work for you, instead of the other way around!
And in case you’re wondering HOW to incorporate these types of food into your diet, you should definately check out this cookbook: The Healthy Mind Cookbook: Big-Flavor Recipes to Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory, and Mental Clarity.