As the leaves entertain us with their annual color show we are reminded that fall is in full swing. With temperatures dropping and days becoming shorter, some people discover that anxiety and depression may tick up. In fact, October is National Depression Awareness Month, and depression and anxiety are comorbidities that affect a large swath of Americans.
October is a good time to do a little self-assessment, to check in with your own state of mental health. People in recovery need to keep close tabs on their emotional health, as both anxiety and depression are common triggers for relapse. Being proactive about our mental health means cultivating healthy lifestyle habits and continuing to engage in outpatient therapy and 12-step recovery meetings.
Diet has a significant impact on psychological health in addition to the obvious physical health benefits. Certain foods and nutritional supplements can boost mood, reduce anxiety, and improve quality of sleep.
Featured Recipe: Avocado Smoothie with Orange Juice and Avocado
½ ripe banana, frozen,
1 orange, peeled and cleaned,
½ ripe avocado,
1 cup baby spinach,
1½ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth
Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 0 Total: 5 minutes
Why is this Smoothie Healthier than Other Smoothies?
Let’s face it, not all smoothies are created equal in terms of their nutritional value. Some smoothies are laden with ingredients that offset any dietary advantages you might have attempted to gain from this food choice. This green smoothie is packed with nutrition, and happens to be appropriate to our theme this month, to minimize anxiety and depression through healthy food choices.
There are certain vitamins and minerals that have been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression. This smoothie includes some of the big contributors:
- Avocado. Using an avocado provides a creamy base for the smoothie without resorting to a dairy product (and now makes this smoothie vegan). In addition, avocadoes are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart, immune and brain health, as well as providing anti-inflammatory properties. The vitamin C and folate found in avocado help to decrease the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression by increasing the rate of neurotransmitter production, such as serotonin, in the brain.
- Spinach. Both avocados and spinach are amazing sources of vitamin K, which in addition to helping blood clot promotes bone health. Vitamin K helps to increase calcium absorption when the two are consumed together. Other nutrients in spinach include minerals, phytonutrients, vitamins C, A, and B6, and the elements thiamine and riboflavin. Many of these nutrients are directly credited in helping individuals in alcohol recovery restore overall health.
- Orange. Oranges are rich in vitamin C, high in fiber, folate, and calcium.
- Banana. Bananas not only add extra flavor to the smoothie, but are packed with fiber, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
- Almond milk. The almond milk provides an animal based protein, provides vitamin E and is a good source of calcium. Vitamin D is essential in the recovery process as it has been suggested that adequate levels of vitamin D help to regulate and protect dopamine levels within the brain, which is another neurotransmitter associated with the feeling of happiness. In fact, many individuals with diagnosed depression are found to have vitamin D deficiency.
Additional Holistic Health Actions that Help Manage Anxiety and Depression
Mindfulness: It is possible to cultivate a more relaxed and peaceful state of being through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, or the purposeful practice of paying attention to the present moment, can be utilized as an essential action that assists you throughout the day—no matter where you are or what you are doing.
Aromatherapy: There is growing evidence of the efficacy of using essential oils, which are derived from certain parts of plants and flowers and then inhaled for various health benefits. For mental health purposes, lavender, orange, rose, ylang ylang, bergamot, and chamomile are particularly effective for improving mood or inducing a calm state of mind.
Physical activity: Setting fitness goals and establishing a regular exercise routine can provide immense mental health benefits in addition to the obvious medical benefits. Exercise is a natural mood elevator, as it causes the body to produce the feel-good chemical, endorphins. Exercise also increases production of dopamine and serotonin, both essential to mood regulation.
Yoga: Yoga combines physical movement with a focus on breathing and mindfulness for multiple mental health and wellness benefits. There are several types of yoga to choose from, but they all center on movement and poses that are said to bring about an enhanced mind-body connection, a sense of relaxation, and a calm, peaceful mindset.