We’ve all heard the adage ‘you are what you eat’, but what else might that mean? Everyone knows that eating healthy foods and exercising helps to keep our bodies in good working order and can stave off lifestyle-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But is there more to it than that?
The fact is, as well as impacting our physical function, what we eat can influence our emotions and moods. Good nutrition can play an important role in preventing and helping one to manage feelings such as depression and anxiety. Think about the last time you ate an incredibly rich, sugar-laden donut, possibly accompanied by a cup of coffee. Chances are that by the time you finished your indulgence, your heart rate was elevated and you felt physically different, perhaps even a bit jittery. These are symptoms of anxiety that then have the capacity to influence how we respond to other environmental stimuli.
Food can also have positive effects on our mood, as the consumption of different nutrients can increase the production of chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, which can help promote feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and pleasure. There is a reason that chicken soup is a traditional cure-all when one is not feeling well – the stock in the soup helps the body produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which promotes calmness.
So next time you are feeling stressed, run-down or sad, instead of turning to that square (or block) of chocolate, or that tub of ice cream, complement your physical response with some healthier snacks – perhaps avocado and cottage cheese, a banana, or some almonds and pumpkin seeds – a little drizzle of honey or some carob can help with that hit of sweetness you might be craving, without taking things over the edge and making you feel worse.
Bingley-Pullin, Zoe 2015, ‘Eating for mental health: mood and nutrition, what’s the link?’, http://www.zoebingleypullin.com/eating-for-mental-health-mood-and-nutrition-whats-the-link/.
Meryment, Elizabeth 2010, ‘Better your mood with food’, http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/nutrition+tips/better+your+mood+with+food,7609.
As we conclude another capacity-building workshop, I find myself reflecting on what it means to have a shared experience? Why do we feel so much more comfortable and safe among others who have lived through a similar experience?
Whilst time on our own is healthy and enjoyable, it can at times be indescribably difficult. Nevertheless there is a place and time for personal reflection and being comfortable with your own company during the grief process. Just as important though, and significantly easier in many instances, is to spend time with others who have a shared experience. Organisational psychologists refer to this as social capital.
Social capital is fundamentally the benefit that a person gets from engagement in a particular social environment. Generally the membership of that group has a common interest, a purpose and a bond or solidarity around elective belief, ideology or dogma.
Robert Putman talks of two ways of looking at social capital. The first of these is what is known as bonding. Putman says, “the shared social norms and cooperative spirit from bonding provide social safety nets to individual and groups to protect themselves from external invasion.” This is particularly relevant when we look at a lived experience of suicide. Most people who experience suicide in their lives also experience the “invasion” of beliefs, judgements, behaviours caused by a lack of understanding and knowledge about the experience.
Social capital essentially poses the question, “What do I get out of being involved in this group that I can’t find anywhere else?” When people with a lived experience of suicide come together there is a special connection. A connection that occurs with the deep understanding and empathy, compassion and honesty, and sense of belonging that comes with a group that they don’t have to justify themselves to or be anything different. No airs and graces have to be put on. No masks have to be worn.
Through the Suicide Prevention Lived Experience Speakers Bureau, we have the privilege of sitting with, and walking alongside people with a lived experience of suicide as we explore and learn how to share our story. I say privilege because to be invited into another person’s world, their most personal space, into their memories, some fond and some painful, is indeed a privilege. When people experience significant trauma in their lives something else happens. A new perspective of what is really, truly important is uncovered. Their is an authenticity that burns brightly and strong bonds are forged quickly.