From the category archives:


Don’t Worry, Be Happy

by Ed

Health, like wealth, is not much use without happiness. And happiness gives us a stronger immune system and less stress.

What do you enjoy eating? If it is only junk food, then you might be in trouble. If you enjoy eating a fairly reasonable diet, yet you stress out trying to eat a totally healthy diet you are being counter productive. One study a few years back compared two groups of people, one could eat what they want, the other was given a specific healthy diet. The healthy diet people actually did more poorly in that particular study. After some research, they decided it was because the people on the diet were more stressed and felt more out of control of their own lives.

Here’s another downer: If you want to lose weight and you are stressing out about your diet all the time, you may be increasing your production of cortisol, which will cause you to gain weight.

How to be happy

  • Don’t take your thoughts so seriously. If you have a thought like “I screwed up”, “I’m not good enough”, or “How come I never get it right”, just let the thought go. It’s just a thought. Everyone does good things and dumb things, that’s just the way we are. You are still a lovable human being that deserves to be happy.
  • Make other people’s happiness a priority. When we focus outside of ourselves we tend to be happier. Generally, unhappy people spend most of their time thinking about themselves.
  • Don’t become a slave to others desires. There are needy people out there who stick themselves to people who are always willing to help. Those people will soon burn you out. So, help others, but recognize your own limits and stick to them.
  • Don’t try to change others. People do that to their spouses, and it is a losing battle. Let each other be who they are. If you really can’t stand them, leave them. However, our lives become richer by enjoying the company of people not like ourselves. That’s probably what attracted you to that person you can’t stand in the first place.
  • Pamper yourself regularly. What do you love to do? Every day spend some time doing things you love to do, and every week take time out to really pamper yourself.
  • Recognize that your moods are always changing. Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. Don’t dwell on the down times, let them pass. Those can be good opportunities for pampering yourself. Sometimes when I am in a down mood I like to listen to sad music or watch a sad movie. That allows me to enjoy the mood, without dwelling on myself or making my mood about me. Sometimes I’ll do the opposite, listen to happy music or watch a comedy. If I’m lucky it brings me up again.
  • Have purpose in your life. Figure out what you want to achieve or discover or learn or create. Go out and start working towards those goals. And keep coming up with new ones. Some people set a fairly lofty goal, then if they actually reach it, they get depressed because they lived their whole life for that one goal. There are limitless possible goals on this earth.

Food for Sleep

by Ed

As Scott mentioned in his comment to my first post in the Sunday sleep series, eating too close to bedtime encourages insomnia. I’d like to go into a little more detail about food and sleep, today.

Going to bed on a full stomach will certainly disrupt your sleep, as well as your digestion. Eating sweets just before bed may help you get to sleep after the sugar rush slows down, but then the drop in blood sugar will disrupt your sleep later in the night.

So how can food help you sleep better? First I need to talk a little about brain chemistry. Melatonin, as I mentioned in my Sleeping in the dark post, is one of the most important brain chemicals for sleep. It is made from serotonin, an important antidepressant chemical, that helps us feel calm. Serotonin is made from tryptophan, an important amino acid we get from protein.Most protein foods have plenty of tryptophan, including beans, nuts and seeds. Other sources are oats and spinach.

One reason eating sweets helps you sleep is that the increase in insulin causes the body to extract the tryptophan, making it available for serotonin production. However, as I said, eating sweets will have negative effects in the long run.

Here are the steps to using food to help you sleep:

  • Eat plenty of protein and other tryptophan rich foods every day.

  • Avoid simple and processed carbohydrates, such as sweets, pasta and white bread.

  • Have dinner four to five hours before bed.

  • Have a carbohydrate snack about two hours before bed. This snack needs to be small and high in fiber and/or a small amount of fat, so it is released slowly in the blood stream. A small potato with the skin on, a half serving of oatmeal, or a slice of whole grain bread with butter are good options.

Eating this way will encourage serotonin production in the evening, leading to a peaceful sleep.

Alernatives to Antidepressants

by Ed

I got an email to day about this subject. I am a little wary to post about it in general, because severe depressioin needs medical treatment. So, as long as you are under a physician’s care, you can, with his consent try my suggestions. If you have mild or moderate depression it is much less critical.

In general depression can be relieved with the same suggestions as I gave in my last post about PMS. For most people the underlying problems are the same. However I would focus more on exercise. 30 to 40 minutes a day of moderate aerobic exercise, can greatly reduce the symptoms of depression, as well as anxiety and other emotional problems.

Mindfulness training may be more effective than deep relaxation for depression. I would check out Jon Kabat-Zinn’s CDs for that.

Saint John’s Wort has proven to be an effective herb in relieving mild to moderate depression, but current research suggests that it may be less effective for severe depression. More research is needed there.

I recommend a book called Potatoes not Prozac. It looks at the role diet plays in balancing our mood chemicals.

Finally, I would like to return to the importance of attitude. Humor is so important in keeping a healthy state of mind. Laugh a lot and it’s harder to be depressed. Also, regularly focusing on gratitude is a great antidote. Every morning before you get out of bed, and every night before you go to sleep, focus on all the things you are grateful for in your life. Don’t just do it routinely, really feel the gratitude. Enjoy what you have.