THE LINK BETWEEN CERTAIN HABITS AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING

There are a number of common links between certain habits and psychological wellbeing; often obvious links that you face in your day to day routine. Following simple links like this could have multiple health benefits for monitoring weight and shape and also for achieving a healthy, happy wellbeing. 80% of the benefit is in 20% of the action.

Figure 1: What happens to our brains when we exercise and how it makes us happier. (Accessed 2015)

Figure 1: What happens to our brains when we exercise and how it makes us happier. (Accessed 2015)

A Research Gate (2000) study on Physical Exercise and Psychological Well-Being, states that there are prominent links between physical exercise and positive health behaviour. On average exercising 2-3 times a week makes you psychologically happier. Not only does exercise boost your mood, it reduces compensatory eating, making you less of a ‘snacker’.

 

A recent study based on appetite displayed that there were less snack calories consumed by those who had lower BMI’s and exercised. This shows that the exercised individuals showed more dietary restraint, snacked less and naturally avoided compensatory eating. Want to beat those urges, exercise is your answer! Next, we explore a few habit changes that can have links to a psychological wellbeing. (Stein, 2015)

 

Consuming a high protein diet;

A high protein diet manages your blood sugar, reduces sugar cravings and controls your hunger. Freeing your limited self-control resources will help direct you to better food choices. Once your protein levels are high, you’re less likely to be craving sugar – now replace the ‘sugar’ with healthy alternatives and start your new habit. Low-carb diets are shown to reduce sugar cravings when compared to baseline and low-fat diets. So deal with the protein-carb balance of your main meals and you will open the door to ridding yourself of sugary snacks in between. Figure 2 shows the change in food cravings during a high carbohydrate and low fat (protein) diet.

 

  Figure 2, Changes in preference for a high-carbohydrate and low-carbohydrate foods (2011)

 

Figure 2, Changes in preference for a high-carbohydrate and low-carbohydrate foods (2011)

Self-control;

Stressful situations deplete self-control. However, autonomous self-control based on your genuine beliefs is less depleting. When it comes to food, it is really difficult to be strict and in control of your food decisions when you are unsettled; hence the comfort eating! If you tackle any underlying issues, the good news is that you can practise self-control to help build your resources. Be patient; it can take a few attempts or not happen at all but practice and train your ‘self’.

Figure 3, Effects of effort exerted on assigned task and practice condition on change in inhibition failures from (2010) 

Figure 3, Effects of effort exerted on assigned task and practice condition on change in inhibition failures from (2010) 

Keeping hydrated; 

Hydration status is the cheapest habit that you can control. Get yourself into a long-term habit of reaching for a glass of water at least 8 times a day for improved mood and performance in all manners of physiological testing. A 2012 study looked into relatively mild levels of dehydration and the results show that 1.36% dehydrated females suffered from a severe decrease in concentration and degraded mood. Think of water as happy juice, and you’ll soon tick it off your to-do list! (Armstrong, 2012)

 

Circadian rhythms of hormones, food and sleep; 

Magnesium depletion is involved in various pathways that impinge your biological rhythms. Magnesium calms the sympathetic nervous system and therefore helps you to sleep. Try incorporating magnesium into your diet through; dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish and (quality) chocolate. If live a high-energy lifestyle and you’re used to intense training, it may be worthwhile taking an extra magnesium supplement as it has been proven to improve the quality of your sleep. Once you improve your sleep rhythms, everything else becomes a lot easier! (Durlach, 2002)

 

Relation of the gut to dopamine; 

The gut contains many solutions for whole body health and wellbeing. The gut is the first port of call for the food that eventually becomes you on a cellular level; look after your gut and your gut will look after you. Gut function is disrupted by high sugar foods and alcohol. In addition to this, common food intolerances cause digestion problems and inflammation (for some it doesn’t end there!).

 

Your gut is lined with sheaths of neurons that make up the ‘enteric nervous system’, easily explained as ‘the gut’s brain’. Massive neurotransmitter activity goes on here, monitoring and controlling digestion and signalling to the brain. Believe it or not, many of our emotions may be subtly influenced by the gut, through the balance of happy chemical messenger’s dopamine and serotonin - the happiness of your gut may be influencing the happiness in your head. Like self-control, dopamine receptors may also be related to comfort-eating in stressful situations. The blossoming field of Neurogastroenterology will likely offer some new insight into the workings of the second brain and its impact on the body and mind. For now, let’s try to take care of our guts and reap the positive mood benefits! (Schellekens, 2013)

 

Liver Cleanses; 

Liver cleanses are a popular habit for many, whether they are annual or quarterly, usually to spring clean the digestive system and give the liver a break from processing sugars, alcohol, bad fats, additives and hormones. These cleanses have positive psychological effects just from abstinence and focus on health with many reporting higher energy levels after a cleanse.

 

Like many things, there are also risk factors for many advertised detoxes – usually the under supply of nutrients from 5 days of pure vegetable juice. If you’re going to commit to a cleanse, plan it properly and take advice from a nutritionist. Most companies promote smoothies which don’t actually hold the nutrients you need to process toxins or stay nourished, so be careful what you buy into.

 

Occasionally, it is advised to improve your gut health before you start a cleanse as as your body won’t be able to eliminate any toxins that you release if your gut is in bad shape (or you are depleted of minerals). It’s worth finding the extra money to complete the below steps before you start a cleanse. Stop procrastinating and think of your healthy, happy mind and gut. You won't regret taking action! 

 

  • Check your HCL levels
  • Take a probiotic
  • Add a fibre supplement
  • Boost your vitamin D3 and magnesium levels

 

 

 

REFERENCES

 

  1. Figure 1: What happens to our brains when we exercise and how it makes us happier (2014) [Online] At: http://www.fastcompany.com/3025957/work-smart/what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier (Accessed 15 September 2015)
  2. Figure 2, Changes in preference for a high-carbohydrate and low-carbohydrate foods (2011) [Online] At: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139783/figure/F3/ (Accessed 15 September 2015)
  3. Martin, CK., et al. (2011) ‘Change in food cravings, food preferences, and appetite during a low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet’, Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 19(10):1963-1970 
  4. Hassmen, P., et al. (2000) ‘Physical Exercise and Psychological Well-Being: A Population Study in Finland’, Preventive Medicine, 30(1):17-25. 
  5. Stein, AT., et al. (2015) ‘Eating in Response to Exercise Cues: Role of Self-Control Fatigue, Exercise Habits, and Eating Restraint’, Appetite, (unknown).
  6. Muraven M., et al. (2006) ‘Conserving self-control strength’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(3):524-537. 
  7. Muraven M. (2008) ‘Autonomous Self-Control is Less Depleting’, Journal in Research of Personality, 42(3): 763-770 
  8. Figure 3, Effects of effort exerted on assigned task and practice condition on change in inhibition failures from (2010) [Online] At: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20401323. (Accessed 15 September 2015)
  9. Maughan, RJ., et al. (2015) ‘Implications of active lifestyles and environmental factors for water needs and consequences of failure to meet those needs’, Nutrition Reviews, (2):130-140.
  10. Armstrong, LE., et al. (2012) ‘Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women’, The Journal of Nutrition, 142(2):382-388.
  11. Poliquin Group (2013) Ten Excellent Nutrition Tips for Better Sleep. Available from: http://www.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/PrinterFriendly.aspx?ID=1041&lang=EN (Accessed 15 September 2015)
  12. Durlach, J., et al. (2002) ‘Biorhythms and possible central regulation of magnesium status, phototherapy, darkness therapy and chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion’, Magnesium Research: Official Organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium, 15(1-2):49-66 
  13. Durlach, J., et al. (2002) ‘Chronopathological forms of magnesium depletion with hypofunction or with hyperfunction of the biological clock’. Magnesium Research: Official Organ of the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium, 15(3-4):263-268 
  14. Schellekens, H., et al. (2013) ‘Taking two to tango: a role for ghrelin receptor heterodimerization in stress and reward’, Frontiers in Neuroscience, 30(7):148
James Hardy