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Mental Wellness Essentials Guide for 2021

Mental Wellness Essentials Guide for 2021
We can all agree that 2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year. As we look towards 2021, let’s explore some strategies to improve your mental and physical wellbeing. These are not New Year’s resolutions, which are notoriously difficult to stick to. These are just simple and practical tips that you can incorporate in your daily life to take better care of yourself and have a fulfilled and happy new year. 

1. Move Your Way to a Healthy Mind 

Although most people exercise to stay fit and improve their physical health, exercise is also great for your mental health. You should move not only for your body but also for your mind. Try different forms of exercise to find what feels best for you. Mix and match. In doing so, exercise will stop being a chore and become a fun, feel-good activity to look forward to.

The connection between exercise and mental health is now well studied and clear. Engaging in some kind of exercise has profound effects on the brain, especially on the inhibition and activation of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that the brain uses to communicate with the body. For example, the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline plummet, thanks to exercise. On the other hand, the so-called “happy hormones” serotonin and norepinephrine are significantly increased during and after exercise. Serotonin is considered a natural mood stabilizer, contributing to general wellbeing and happiness, and norepinephrine, nicknamed “feel-good hormone,” improves alertness and energy. 

Serotonin is particularly sensitive to oxygen. The more oxygen you breathe, the more serotonin your body will produce. Meaning that fresh air makes you happier! So, if you are looking for a boost of energy and good mood, head outside. Wherever you live, go out and explore. If you live in a city, it might be your local park, a riverside walk, a new area to discover on foot. You don’t need to be running a marathon. Just grab your walking shoes and a buddy, and you are all set. Research tells us that exercising is better in good company. A 2017 study found that individuals who work out in a group have a 26 % lower stress rate and improved quality of life compared to people who work out solo. If your friends are not so keen on getting outside, you can join an adventure club such as The Lady Alliance, an association of inspiring women organizing outdoor events and retreats all over North America. Founder Kieren Britton believes that becoming and loving yourself is life's greatest adventure. Whether your seeking personal growth or healing, lacing up your first pair of hiking shoes, interested in environmental initiatives, or tackling your 100th summit, The Lady Alliance will be there to help you along the way.

2. Sleep - Your Brain Fuel
 
Sleep is as important to our health as breathing, eating, and drinking. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 8 hours of sleep for people over the age of 64 and 7 to 9 hours for those aged 18 to 64 (kids need even more sleep). More than 50% of us sleep much less than these recommendations. Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The connection between sleep and mental health is loud and clear.

Sleep

If you have trouble sleeping, you are not alone. Between 40 to 50 % of adults worldwide report some sort of sleep disturbance. Since sleep issues are often related to stress, meditation can help. As a relaxation technique, it can quiet the mind and the body. When done before bedtime, it can promote overall calmness, resulting in reduced sleep troubles. There are many apps out there that can guide your meditation. Otherwise, you can take it a step even forward and try a scientifically proven device to help you make the most of your meditation practice for a night of restorative sleep. Muse is a research-grade device that passively senses your brain activity and translates it into calming sounds. Muse’s soundscape meditations are designed to shift your mind away from racing thoughts and guide you into a restful night.

3. Eat Smart 

When it comes to nutrition and diet, there’s no such thing as a one size fits all approach. The answer to how to eat better and smarter lies in our DNA. The link between our genes and what we should be eating is only recently becoming clear, and a new field of study called nutrigenetic has boomed.

Having personalized insights into your diet can really make a difference in your wellbeing journey. Thanks to DNAfit, you can discover your unique nutrigenetic profile. You’ll get precious insights into your fat or carbs sensitivity, your lactose tolerance, and your optimal diet type.

eat well

At SHINE health, we strongly believe in a personalized approach tailored just for you and your needs. That’s why we put together hand-selected, well-researched natural ingredients into simple yet effective blends of supplements to help you become the best version of yourself. Our products are enhanced with a special ingredient called AlphaWave® L-Theanine. L-Theanine is an amino acid derived from tea leaves known to improve relaxation and cognitive performance. Promising results from several clinical studies have recently confirmed the beneficial effects of L-Theanine for anxiety and sleep disturbances.

A personalized approach with diet and nutrients recommendations will help you build your perfect diet and take control of your long-term health. So not only you will eat smarter, but you will also feel less stressed, more focused, and ready to cope with whatever life will throw you at in 2021.  

4. Connect

Save the date. On Thursday 28th of January 2021, the 11th edition of the Bell Let’s Talk Day will take place. Bell Let’s Talk is a Canadian campaign developed with the effort of raising awareness and combatting the stigma around mental illness. It’s a great opportunity to connect and engage in an open discussion about mental health.

Bell Let's Talk Day

Looking after your mental health is as important as looking after your physical health. Exercise, sleep, and good nutrition, together with proper self-care, are all part of the equation for wellness. As we transition into the New Year, a new beginning, remember to be kind to yourself. Give yourself time and space to attend to your mental health. You deserve it. Use the essential tips on this guide to improve your wellbeing: body, mind, heart, and soul.

About SHINE

SHINE is on a mission to help Canadians easily take control of their mental wellness with personalized and research-backed supplements delivered in plastic-free, compostable packs. Take our Mental Wellness Quiz here.


References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30570106/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/
  3. https://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2661140
  4. https://theladyalliance.com/
  5. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32382403/
  7. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2110998
  8. https://choosemuse.com/explore-muse-s/
  9. https://www.dnafit.com/store/dietfit.asp
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31623400/
  11. https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/our-initiatives/

Three Ways to Eliminate Your Brain Fog

Three Ways to Eliminate Your Brain Fog

When talking about mental health and wellness, one of the most common complaints we hear of is generalized “brain fog”. While brain fog is not an official medical term, it is often used to describe low grade feelings of confusion, inability to focus, slow thinking response time and even lapses in memory.

These symptoms can quickly lead to frustration for those who are experiencing them, as navigating daily tasks takes more time and energy to complete. There is an overarching feeling of heaviness or a thickness in the mind where it feels like everything is moving more slowly than it should be.

The term “brain fog” is an apt description of what individuals with these symptoms are feeling. Think of our neuropathways like a highway, where information is supposed to travel at quick speeds.  When “the fog” rolls in, it slows everything down, backing up “traffic” causing congestion and delays.

There are many different root causes of brain fog. Everything from simple lack of sleep to serious pathologies can all contribute to brain fog as a persistent symptom. If brain fog lasts more than a few days and the cause is unknown, it is a good idea to check in with your health care practitioner so that they can run a few tests.

Some of the most common reasons for persistent brain fog include:

  •         Chronic sleep issues
  •         Nutrient deficiencies such as B12, Iron, and omega 3s
  •         Hormonal changes or imbalances
  •         Taking certain medications
  •         Ingesting drugs or alcohol
  •         The aging processes
  •         Intolerances to certain foods or eating excessively ( ie a food hangover)
  •         Diagnoses such as ADHD, Fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer disease
  •         Fluctuating blood sugar levels
  •         Any chronic illness or stress

Because there are so many possible causes for brain fog, figuring out what the main contributing factors are for each individual may take some time. The reality is, there is often more than one contributing factor as many of these issues are interconnected on some level. 

Despite the long list of different causes for brain fog, the good news is there are some general things that almost everyone can do to improve their cognitive function and alleviate mental fatigue. These recommendations are general in nature and will provide some relief to most people.

The thing that we need to remember is to focus on the things we can control and not obsessively worry about the things that we can’t control. Practically speaking, that means there are steps individuals can take to reduce the impact of their brain fog, no matter what the underlying cause may be.

1. Focus on is improving nutrient intake

Ensuring proper nutrition that includes foods containing higher amounts of B vitamins and iron as well as omega 3 fatty acids will help to promote adequate levels of these nutrients in the body. Serious deficiencies of these vital nutrients may require supplementation to increase levels back to optimum range.

At SHINE health we specifically promote the use of Omega 3 supplementation due to its overwhelmingly positive effects on both the body and the brain. Our high potency omega 3 oil contains EPA and DHA which are two fatty acids that help to lower inflammation.  They have been proven to be effective in treating symptoms of ADHD, depression, and autoimmune diseases that have a high inflammatory component.  Omega 3 oils work at reversing inflammatory processes that can be a contributing factor to brain fog.

2. Elimination of certain foods, alcohol and recreational drugs that can impact alertness and focus

For instance, the reduction of highly refined carbohydrates can help to stabilize blood sugars, reducing the frequency of hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episodes, restoring alertness and focus. In addition, the reduction of alcohol and recreational drugs can have many positive effects on alertness and focus. However, sometimes the efforts to remove these substances from the diet can create symptoms of withdrawal that include low mood, lack of energy, anxiety, or irritability.

When reducing these types of substances it can be helpful to replace them with a certain category of supplements called nootropics. Nootropics are nutrients that help to regulate mood, energy, and focus. SHINE health specializes in nootropics and has a range of different products to support your particular needs. Memory, Focus, Energy.

Nootropics can work well for individuals reducing certain foods, alcohol or other drugs because the reason many people start overusing these substances in the first place is typically a form of self-medication. When people are using food, drugs or alcohol to assist with symptoms of depression, anxiety, low energy, stress and mental fatigue, they can be replaced by nutrients that are more advantageous to health.

3. Reduce stress 

Stress is one of the biggest factors in mental fatigue. When we are stressed we tend to ruminate, which means obsessively think about a situation. Stress also depletes vital nutrients more quickly which can lead to foggy thinking and inability to focus. 

Adopting strategies of mindfulness and gratitude can be helpful to interrupt the pattern of obsessively thinking about stressful situations. In addition, adding certain herbs to your supplement regime, such as ashwagandha, theanine, rhodiola and ginseng can help to improve the stress response and reduce the incidence of mental fatigue. Begin your day with SHINE Unstress® to get ahead of your stress.  

In conclusion, reducing brain fog requires a multifaceted strategy that includes nutrition, lifestyle and supplemental support. Knowing the root cause of your brain fog can be helpful to make sure you are taking the right approach for your particular situation, and using some of these general guidelines will work in your favour to reduce mental fatigue, increasing your alertness, focus and even productivity.

References

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/brain-fog
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20434961/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5526680/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24470182/
  5. https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nyas.12807

About Author


Kathy Ryan
 
Kathy Ryan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with over 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry. Her primary focus has been on women's health including weight management, hormone and autoimmune issues. Over the years she has had opportunity to work with and learn from some of the leading natural health experts in these areas. 

Why COVID Affects Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It

Why COVID Affects Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It

With all the upheaval going on in the world it is not surprising that experts are sounding the alarm on mental health concerns. The current world health crisis has impacted three specific areas, that, under normal circumstances work to support and enhance feelings of wellbeing and overall life satisfaction. These include, simple routines, social and family connections and positive economic and job prospects.

Canadians right across the country have felt the impact of COVID on one or more of these areas and the pausing of foundational structures within our society can naturally lead to an increased sense of isolation and disorientation. 

While some people may only be experiencing impact in one area, many are experiencing disruptions to their whole way of life. From parents struggling to work from home while their toddlers are pouring cereal on their laptops to small businesses not knowing how they are going to pay their staff or rent, these are certainly disorienting times.

It is so important now more than ever that we are checking in on each other while also ensuring that our own self-care routines are on point.

Mental health issues may not be overtly noticeable until they have gotten to the point of crisis so it is important to recognize the early warning signs in ourselves and our loved ones. 

Here is a simple short checklist to some early warning signs to be watching for. warning signs of mental health

It is also vital that we prioritize our own self-care strategies because we cannot help others who are depending on us if we, ourselves, are struggling to stay afloat. 

Here are FIVE proven strategies for maintaining mental health and wellbeing during times of upheaval. If we can focus on the things we CAN control, rather than the things we can’t, we give ourselves a much better chance at lowering negative outcomes of stress.

1. Get out in nature

As we head into the colder season we will naturally be spending more time indoors. However, this is not the time to hibernate and avoid the fresh air and sunlight. Getting outside in nature has been proven to promote health and feelings of wellbeing.  

The Japanese have a practice called Shinrinyoku or “forest bathing” which involves intentional time in nature. Research has shown that “forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”

The benefits of being outside on mental health

If you can’t get routinely get out of the city, at least get out for a daily walk in the fresh air, or play in the leaves or build a snowman with your kids. It will lighten your mood and get you a bit of exercise and fun family time. (Pro tip: kids sleep GREAT after being outside!) 

2. Find a routine that works for you

Having a routine, no matter how simple, can help to bring structure and purpose into our day. When our routine has been completely disrupted or we are no longer leaving the house it can be tempting to stay in our pjs, eat junk food and stop exercising. All of these things can have a negative impact on our mental health.

benefits of a routine on mental health

Being productive leads to feelings of wellbeing and having a routine ensures that we have a reason to get out of bed.

Drinking a big glass or water, cooking regular, healthy meals, and making time for exercise are some of the best things to add to our routine to support mental health.

3. Make sleep a priority

When we start sliding on our routine this begins to impact our sleep schedule. If we don’t need to be out of bed at a certain time in the morning we may start to stay up later, watching TV or browsing online. This increased exposure to artificial blue light can impact our production of melatonin and throw our sleep/wake cycles out of sync.

Benefits of sleep on mental health

Other things that can lead to poorer quality sleep include drinking alcohol, having a cluttered bedroom, using a bedroom as a work/office space, having a partner or pets in the room, or trying to sleep in a room that is too warm.

Poor quality or lack of sleep can lead to emotional and physiological stress and exacerbate mental health issues so it is vital to make good sleep habits a priority

4. Stay connected

Not being able to socialize or see some loved ones as often as we would like can lead to feelings of isolation. Isolation and lack of community connection is a big contributing factor to both increased addictive behavior and mental health crises. 

We must become creative in our efforts to stay connected. Video calls and outdoor socially distanced get togethers can help to fill the void of regular get-togethers at least partially. With the shuttering of religious and community gatherings it is important that those who are most vulnerable to isolation are not forgotten. 

Staying connected helps with mental health

Get-togethers may currently involve more work and proper planning but we need this connection to stay healthy. 

5. Practice gratitude

One of the biggest factors that impact stress and anxiety is perspective. It has become such a cliché to remind people to “be positive”.  Telling a depressed or anxious person that they just need to change their perspective can be more hurtful than helpful as it comes across dismissive and uncaring. This is why a daily time of intentional gratitude may be more practical.

A randomized clinical trial conducted with 1,337 participants found that gratitude intervention managed to increase positive affect, subjective happiness and life satisfaction, and reduce negative affect and depression symptoms.

An intentional time of gratitude can be added into a routine of self-care at any point in the day but most people prefer first thing in the morning or right before bed. Simply voice out loud or journal out 5-10 things that you are grateful for. 

These don’t need to be life altering things. Something as simple as “I enjoyed my coffee, “ or “traffic was good today” can shift our perspective from looking for all the small, annoying things that go wrong in a day to all the small, amazing things that go right.

The other cool thing about gratitude is that we cannot hold a grateful thought and an anxious thought in our mind at the same time so gratitude can offer a temporary respite from overwhelming or anxious thoughts.

BONUS TIP: What about supplements?

Along with these five self-care tips, it is also important to consider taking vitamins or other nutrients to support mental wellbeing. Nootropics and Adaptogens are types of nutrients that many Canadians have found to be an essential part of their mental health strategy. For more information, check out our SHINE blog on The 5 Best Science Backed Natural Supplements to Improve Your Mental Health 

Conclusion

If we can focus on making one or more of these self-care actions a priority we will be helping support both our physical and mental wellbeing during this time of life disruption. 

When we are in a better place mentally, emotionally and physically this allows us a greater ability to support others in our lives who may be struggling. When we take care of ‘one’ the ‘whole’ naturally becomes healthier. We are in this together!

About Author

 Kathy Ryan, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Kathy Ryan is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with over 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry. Her primary focus has been on women's health including weight management, hormone and autoimmune issues. Over the years she has had opportunity to work with and learn from some of the leading natural health experts in these areas. 

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