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16 Ways to Boost Your Mood & Mental Wellness

The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed the way most of us live our lives. While we maneuver our way through month after month of new restrictions, it’s taken a toll on many people’s mental health. The way we used to live our day-to-day lives has changed drastically and although it is hard to keep up,  stay positive as there are many things you can do to boost your mood and mental wellness at home.

It’s important to understand that there’s a beautiful quartet of brain chemicals that boost your “happiness” in a day, these include: serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins (a personal fav).

So, what can you do today to boost your happiness brain chemicals?

Well, many situations cause these chemicals to be released and flow through your body, however there are ways for you to naturally increase this flow, so let’s get to it!

Serotonin:

Serotonin is known as the “happiness chemical” and is a neurotransmitter that affects many functions in the body and brain. One scientific theory is that serotonin helps regulate stress and anxiety and may also promote patience and the ability to cope. Serotonin is responsible for good mood, happiness, well-being, better sleep and regulation of digestion.

Seems pretty important right now, right?

There is a lot of research on how to boost serotonin levels naturally but we won’t get into the nitty gritty of that research in this article (it’s just too much). The important thing for you to know is that low levels of serotonin are often seen in people with anxiety and depression so it’s important to boost serotonin levels today and reap the rewards of this incredible chemical.

Serotonin levels are affected by stress, exercise and sunlight.

There are many simple ways to boost serotonin levels and increase its flow, these include (but are not limited to):

  • Moderate exercise for 30+ minutes
  • Get outside and feel the sun on your face
  • Eat food that includes tryptophan (hello, turkey dinner!)
  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude

Dopamine:

Dopamine is known as the “pleasure chemical” and it has a major role in our feelings of pleasure and reward. Dopamine acts as a motivator to take action towards achieving a goal and rewards you with a boost of pleasure when you achieve them. In short, dopamine helps us release the energy we need to get the rewards we want.

It’s a big ‘ol surge of pleasure in response to achievement.

To increase the flow of dopamine, you can try the following:

  • Set small, manageable and achievable goals and “baby step” your way to a larger goal. Each time you achieve one of your “baby step” goals, you’ll get a dose of dopamine
  • Celebrate little wins every day
  • Eat foods that have high levels of dopamine (e.g.banana, avocado, plantains)

Oxytocin:

Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone”, the “cuddle hormone” and is considered to be a “bonding” chemical. It’s that hormone in your body that fills you with warmth and ooey gooey feelings of adoration and love. The release of oxytocin creates trust and strengthens relationships.

Touch is one of the keys to releasing oxytocin in your body. So, while hugging and touch is restricted during the pandemic, you’ll need to find different ways to get this hormone flowing through your body.

To increase the release of oxytocin, you can can try the following:

All of the above suggestions should boost your oxytocin levels and make you feel a little more loving toward yourself and others – an important part of emotional resilience and managing life during Covid-19.

Endorphins:

Endorphins are known as the “painkiller” chemicals in the body. They are released in the body in response to pain or stress and also help alleviate anxiety. Not only do endorphins alleviate pain and anxiety, they also work to boost your immune system and improve your mood.

The great news about endorphins? They’re an easy chemical to release in the body by doing simple things that will help improve your overall health.

To increase the release of endorphins, you can try the following:

  • Exercise at a moderate to moderate/high intensity
  • Laugh – laughter truly is the best medicine
  • Watch a comedy/something funny on (there’s that laughing piece again)
  • Eat dark chocolate or something spicy
  • Use aromatherapy – particularly the smell of lavender and vanilla have been shown to release endorphins.

The above 16 ways to increase your quartet of happiness chemicals don’t need to be done all at once, but you can certainly incorporate quite a few into your day.

For example, start your day with writing down three things you’re grateful for, then go for a 30-minute jog outside. Follow that with  a lovely shower with some lavender soap and then crawl into some soft pajamas and snuggle on the couch with a loved one to watch a show that makes you laugh.

Ta da!

You’ll have many lovely chemicals flowing through your body on a day like that!

Take care of yourself right now as best you can and try to implement a few of the strategies listed in this article to help you feel happier, more focused and motivated.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager & PhD in Exercise Physiology

Visit the Student Mental Health Toolkit

The Stigma-Free Society believes that mental health education ought to be integrated into all classrooms across British Columbia and beyond. Over the past few months we’ve been working hard to create our Student Mental Health Toolkit for youth, educators, school counsellors, and parents/guardians, who want to teach and promote mental wellness for Grades 4-7 and 8-12.

We have also turned the Society’s in-person mental health/ anti-stigma presentations into a virtual program online. In this way our wonderful staff are able to connect and interact virtually with students and educators over ZOOM, or Microsoft Teams!

ABOUT THE STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH TOOLKIT

The Student Mental Health Toolkit has an incredible amount of valuable information and activities for students, educators, school counsellors, and parents/guardians.

For Youth:

One area we have always been particularly proud about is the inspiring videos from youth sharing their personal experiences of facing various forms of stigma. These videos inspire, provide hope, and can positively change lives.

When students are struggling with mental health problems, it is common for them to feel alone in their struggles. By hearing stories from others, they learn that they’re not alone and there’s hope. Listening to these types of stories may also inspire individuals to speak up and reach out for help.

For Teachers:

The Student Mental Health Toolkit includes Downloadable Resources and Mental Wellness Lesson Plans for Grades 4-7 and 8-12 that align with B.C. school curriculum. They are also cross-curricular and can be used in many course subjects. Lesson Plans are created on an ongoing basis by a Surrey School District Youth Counsellor, Registered Psychologist, and trained Educator.

Our detailed school lesson plans can be used by educators to teach students about mental health, stigma, and inclusion. Additional downloadable resources are available for parents, educators and school counsellors to share valuable information regarding mental wellness. The more we increase our awareness about mental health and wellness, the better our community will be.

For Everyone:

We’ve also included toolkit sections that everyone can use such as students, teachers, school counsellors, and parents/guardians. We offer information that everyone can find useful for every-day living.

STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH TOOLKIT SECTIONS

Diverse-ability and Inclusion

There is a section in the Student Mental Health Toolkit devoted to Diverse-ability and Inclusion. At the Stigma-Free Society, we use the term “diverse-abilities” rather than “disabilities”. We encourage people to celebrate what we CAN do, instead of what we CAN’T do.

The Diverse-ability and Inclusion section teaches students new ways of looking at themselves and others by celebrating each other’s strengths and prioritizing inclusion. This is an extremely valuable tool for students to learn as they are developing their identity and building their self-esteem. This section informs students on how to embrace one another’s uniqueness and potential. Additionally, this section provides a wide range of resources including an engaging comic book, conversation cards, personal experiences from those with diverse-abilities and steps to achieving inclusion at school.

 

Youth Wellness Activities

Staying physically and mentally active is extremely important in order to maintain our mental health and well-being. The Society’s section on Youth Wellness Activities supplies students with many activities that offer a mental health boost! These include activities are appropriate for classrooms, or while at home. Wellness activities can serve to promote healthy coping mechanisms as youth learn to manage their own mental health.

By transforming our method of delivering mental health education to a virtual format, we are ensuring students continue to receive education on mental health and wellness.

Mental health education is currently more important than ever. A pandemic is a very stressful experience for both individuals and communities. Having the resources to cope with mental health issues during this time is vital.

There is a need to improve children and adolescents’ access to mental health support services during the current pandemic. This should involve education surrounding the importance of health and providing strategies to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Furthermore, it is essential that students understand the importance of reaching out for help with any problems that they may have with their mental health.

We would like to invite you to navigate the new Student Mental Health Toolkit and check out all of the new information we have available.

Feedback is always welcome.

Please email us at [email protected] if you have any comments, questions or feedback for us!

We are constantly adding new information, lesson plans, downloadable resources and activities to our toolkit, so be sure to check back regularly!

Author, Cosette Leblanc, Stigma-Free Intern, Adler University

5 Ways to Boost your Mental Health in 35 Minutes or Less

Let’s face it – some days you just feel crummy.

Whether you had a terrible sleep, you’re stressed out or you just woke up in a negative mood – bad moods and negative mental health days happen.

The good news?

There are quite a few ways you can positively impact your mood and put yourself in a better, more positive state of mental health.

Even better? You can bump your mental health into a more positive space in a short amount of time.

TRY THIS!

Move your body. You don’t need to move your body for a prolonged period of time – even just a 5-minute energy boost can bump your mental health.Set a timer for 5-minutes. Press start. Complete 20 high knees, 20 squats and 20 jumping jacks on repeat until your 5-minute timer indicates your time is up. Then, grab some water, give yourself a high five and let the endorphins work
their magic.
= 5 mins

Drink some water. Hydration is extremely important on days when you’re feeling sluggish or blue. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, irritability, lightheadedness and inability to focus. Drinking 1L of water over the course of 30 minutes will help combat dehydration and the negative effects it has on your mental health.
= 5 mins to drink 1L

Pro-tip: Try to drink 3-4L of water per day to stay on top of your hydration!

Get outside into the sun. Taking yourself outside and into the sun has many mental health benefits including reducing stress and improving cognitive function. The sun also helps anchor your body’s internal clock, regulating healthy appetite, sleep and your
metabolism – all key factors in maintaining a positive state of mental health.
= 10 mins

Eat a nutritious meal. Put the sugar away and grab yourself a healthy snack because sugar negatively impacts brain health and healthy food positively impacts brain health! Try a salad full of vibrant vegetables with some protein (e.g. chicken, tofu or fish) and a sugar-free salad dressing. Then, let the vitamins and nutrients work their magic on your mental health.
= 10 mins

Call someone you love and trust. Sometimes all we need is a little connection with someone who makes us laugh and feel good. Reach out to a friend or family member and talk about the fun you’ve had in the past. Reminiscing about good times filled with fun and joy can significantly boost your mood.
= 5 mins

TOTAL TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU?

35 mins!

…and some of these things you can do together like sitting outside in the sun while talking to your loved one.

Bad moods or negative mental health days happen, but there is a lot you can do to try to boost yourself into a more positive mindset.

We have a Mental Health Checklist that you can print off and go through on days when your mental health is not as positive as you’d like it to be on our COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit.

Finally, for more ideas on how to manage your mental health, please CLICK HERE and check out our 10 Tips for Managing Your Mental Health.

Thank you for reading!

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

10 Ways to Boost Your Mental Health on a Rainy Day

A lot of people love a good rainy day. It’s a great excuse to hunker down under your blankets and stay inside for the day. However, for some, rainy days can be really difficult, particularly if they’re battling a mental illness like depression or anxiety.

The good news? There are ways for you to boost your mental health on these dark and dreary days! Below are 10 ways that you can boost your mood while the sky remains grey and the rain continues to fall.

      • Get some rest. Rainy days are the perfect day for you to rest and perhaps catch up on some sleep that your body and mind may desperately need. Resting and napping are not for the “lazy”, they’re for the people who need to take a break and are willing to take care of their mind and body through sleep and restorative practices.
      • Curb your desire to bring on the junk food. Eating well is an important way to help maintain and boost your mental health for the day. Sugary snacks don’t fuel your brain. Your brain needs vitamins, minerals, protein and carbohydrates. Put the chips and chocolate away and grab an apple and some almonds to snack on.
      • Drink your water. Similar to #2, it’s also important to put away the sugary drinks and fill up your water bottle to hydrate yourself properly throughout the day. Shoot for at least 3L of water per day, but of course, just try your best.
      • Get outside. Yes, it’s rainy. Yes, the sun isn’t out. But yes, you can still get outside for a nice 30-minute walk. Grab your umbrella and get your body moving. Rain jackets are made for this type of activity, so get up and get walking.
      • Limit your screen time. While it might be tempting to snuggle under your blankets and catch up on all things Facebook or binge-watch a new show, it’s best if you limit your screen time. Best to recommend no more than 2 hours per day.In fact, researchers in an article by Twenge & Campbell, 2018 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6214874/) found the well-being was negatively impacted after 1 hour of screen time. Anything over 1 hour resulted in progressive feelings of negative well-being. We’re being a little more lenient with our recommendation of no more than 2 hours per day because if you’re going to watch a movie, you’re going to need more than an hour!
      • Phone a friend. Rainy days are a great chance to reach out to friends or family you haven’t had time to speak with in awhile. Grab your phone and reach out to connect! The connection, laughter and joy of reconnecting will help boost your mental health for the day. There are a lot of at-home workouts you can do. On top of getting outside and going for a walk, complete a short, metabolic workout. This type of workout is known for releasing endorphins and serotonin – both chemicals knows to be mood enhancers. Not sure what to do? CLICK HERE for a great at-home, no equipment workout.
      • Write in a gratitude journal. Sometimes it’s difficult to pull yourself out of feeling blue, but gratitude often helps. Sit down with a pen and paper and write 20 things you are grateful for. Once you’ve listed your gratitude, read the list at least twice (three times is even better) and reflect on each item on your list.
      • Get yourself a Sun Lamp! Vitamin D is important in helping boost your mood. If you’re feeling particularly blue, tired, stressed one day and the sun is hiding behind grey clouds, get yourself in front of a Vitamin D lamp. Try to also make sure you’re getting Vitamin D into your body through food – good sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon, vitamin-D fortified foods like orange juice or dairy, cheese and egg yolk.
      • Be productive. While the desire may be to sleep the day away (and that’s okay sometimes), why not use the day to cross off something you’ve been meaning to do? Organize your closet, read a book you’ve been meaning to read, plan your garden for the spring/summer. Whatever you’ve had on your to-do list – get it done! It feels great to cross off those things you’ve been putting off! So go one – tackle one thing on your to-do list and reap the mood-boosting reward.

There are so many ways to take care of your mental health on rainy days! Try to embrace the grey and rain and take care of yourself on days you know you tend to go a little darker or days when you feel more anxious. Your mental health is in your hands – try your best to help ensure you’re as healthy as you can be.

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Community Development Manager, SFS

The Breakdowns of Everyday Life

I am finding more and more that the world is trying to get the best of me. When I focus on the things that are the most important to me, life feels seamless and easy. Lately, the buses, cars, strangers and even the people closest to me have been driving me ‘crazy.’ Everyone has been in my way, looking at me crossly, and I have been feeling disinterested in things that may have at one time interested me. It is hard. I do not chalk it up to depression, but it is simply my reactions to the breakdowns of everyday life. Frustrations with my partner, my messy house, too much to do, too many people to call, and not enough time to answer every e-mail. I often wonder if I expect too much of myself. I am tired. I need to bring the pace down a bit and look within again. I need to ask myself, “What is the rush? Why are you so damn hard on yourself? Why are you taking so much on?"

I am a people pleaser and this means doing things for others when it may not be in my own best mental health interests. I feel an obligation to show up for other people, so why don’t I do this for myself with similar conviction? I feel like I am shoveling 'stuff' in the back of my mind, not honoring those things that I truly want to do such as spend time with my spiritual self and write my book. Every day the calendar block gets removed for these things and it is time to stop! I need to stop the clutter in my brain FIRST and it is only then that I will be able to tackle the task or organizing and cleaning my house. It is cliché but I need some balance in my life.  I feel the state of things around me such as my dirty house is echoing what is going on in my mind. Sleep is the only thing that makes me feel at peace, and although a good nap once in a while is healthy, sleeping for the reason of avoidance is not. I feel I barely have time to dedicate to good routine sleep these days. I find myself getting up too early and going to bed too late. It is time to force my body to stay in a rhythm so I can feel optimal for what each day brings. It is truly up to me and the choices I make. 

This is not a blog for advice as I often get tired of giving advice on every mental health topic and it is more about where I am at right now. Writing this has given me some perspective and knowing that I can find a way to juggle the everyday breakdowns of life soothes me. I have many tools that I have been using, but could use more. On to another day and I know tomorrow will be much more manageable.

~Andrea xo

 

Finding my Nutritional Core

The past two weeks have opened my eyes to some really important facts about life. It started with a friend recommending me to a Naturopath for a food allergy/sensitivity test. I was curious what foods I could be eating that could possibly make me gain weight and feel completely unhealthy. To my surprise the doctor gave me a two-week meal plan. As I left the office and paid a hefty bill, I was dismayed, thinking I just paid a ton of money for a piece of paper. Little did I know how drastically that meal plan would change my life. It is a structured system that tells me what to eat, when to eat it, and how to cook it. It lists all the groceries I have to purchase but I was a tad frustrated by the amount of work I had to put in to make my shop a success. The plan consists of no dairy, no wheat and no artificial sugars, but the grocery list is very plentiful! I began to get excited and I forced myself to cook for the first time in years as the recipes are very easy. I got into a groove within the next few days and began making meals such as quinoa and bean salad to butternut squash soup. I threw the scale in the closet as I was done with weighing myself every day. I also began to change my personal perspective of myself as I was receiving a lot of spiritual counsel over the past month too.

I began to realize that I was not my weight, and I am beautiful the way I am. I did not concentrate on things like losing weight, and forcing myself to exercise like a fiend. I take long hikes here and there with a friend and enjoy the outdoors like never before. I feel so much clearer and less foggy in my own mind. Although I was done with weighing myself, I was instructed to jump on the scale twelve days after my first meeting with the Naturopath. I actually lost 8 pounds in 12 days and was pretty happy about my body shedding unwanted fat that I just don’t need.  I have realized that nutrition is at the core of our being and everything stems from that core. I am also only allergic to Brewer’s Yeast, red grapes and corn. Good thing I don’t drink alcohol!

I recall only a month ago, I was standing in front of the elevator with my weight watchers meals in my grocery bags and I began to cry. I actually said out loud “I don’t know what to do!” I soon found a path that actually told me straight up what to do, but it was up to me to put the work and dedication into my new discoveries. I am doing just that and have never felt more pleased with my efforts as I am dedicated and willing to change my old habits and create new ways of being. Remember, it starts with you to make the decisions in your life for the better and although they are not easy and will require you to work harder, it begins with steps that assess your nutritional core and the rest will come to you. I no longer look at myself in the mirror and scoff, but remind myself to be gentle to my being and know that I am doing all I possibly can to take care of me. Take care of yourself too. xo

Change

As I drove home the other day on the highway I came to a stop behind a car and tears started to well down my face.  I had no idea what could have been the issue, was it a sad song?  Or a touching commercial on the radio about blood donation?  It wouldn’t be there first time!  Then it struck me that I had been told the day before that my landlords came to the decision to sell their home.  They anticipated that we would come with the house but we cannot risk being asked to leave upon new possession.  This means a move which equals BIG change.  I had a friend who once told me that she liked her life predictable and stable – the same.  I thought “How boring!”  Now I realize what she is talking about.  It jolted some unknown emotion inside of me a day after being informed, but the funny thing is, I never anticipated feeling bad or even sad.  I initially felt kinda neutral and I find it interesting how emotion can stir itself up without even knowing. 

Change.  It can be positive in many senses but for someone with bipolar disorder it can be particularly difficult. I work best in a stable environment, and I do like that I have a committed and consistent relationship with my partner.  I appreciate both places of employment as I am salaried and don’t have to worry about getting paid.   I work best with a schedule in many senses –day and night.  Lastly, I like my home to be welcoming, stable and predictable.  I now realize my home of 4 years is being uprooted and yes it is making me emotional.  As we look for new suites, I feel neutral, even after putting in an application for an amazing condo.  I questioned this but my friend said “Your meds are working or you are reacting in a neutral way that is working for you.”  Regardless, I must look at all of this as an opportunity, a time to celebrate new beginnings and a chance for excitement.  I will try my best to face change with my head up! 

Commit to Enjoyment!

Even though my life is amazing there are still lingering health related thoughts that tend to swell my mind in an overwhelming manner.  I have been experiencing twitching in my fingers, but the neurologist tells me that there is no strength depletion in my right hand and attributes this strangeness to my medication.  I have an enlarged thyroid, however, I have had a clean ultrasound and levels in my blood tests are normal.  I wonder how large my thyroid will grow and when will it finally be a problem.  Lithium has been associated with hypothyroidism but strangely enough it looks as if my thyroid is heading the opposite way into hyper mode.  It is scary enough that my hair is continuously falling out and my skin is always battling a myriad of acne scars.  To add to this, bipolar symptoms have been creeping up on me too lately, having a high feeling that invokes an experience of being extremely stoned.  It is difficult to describe as my vision doubles, I experience feelings of paranoia that tend to cloud reality.  I first started experiencing these symptoms when I was put on psychiatric medication with spells covering months at a time, but now it seems I am often sick and there is nothing I can do but take another pill in hopes that the paranoia and sickness will cease.  How I envy those people that live healthy lives, that have their bodies intact and don’t have to worry about medication or being struck with illness over and over again.   Everyone thinks my life is awesome and worry-free but even bipolar babe is at a loss sometimes, feeling frustrated and let down by my body’s ailments.  How to spin to the positive?  I suppose it could be worse, but it still does not minimize what I am feeling.  I admit our bodies are meant to deteriorate, but I am 35 years old, so why so early?  Questions plague my mind aiming to erase the ‘poor me’ syndrome, and remembering that having an optimistic outlook can spell either enjoyment of the time I do have, or loathing in what I am experiencing.  I worry but I just have to keep reminding myself that I commit to enjoyment!            

 

 

The Mental Health Commission of Canada Brings Hope!

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) brings hope to many today as they release their very significant strategy for Canada and the mental health system.  Did you know that out of the first world countries, we are one of the last to have such a roadmap for mental health?  This is a pinnacle, a definite success for Canada!  Mother, father, neighbour, friend – mental health affects over one in five Canadians and costs our economy over $50 billion every year. We need a national strategy to help combat mental health problems and illness.

Changing Directions, Changing Lives is the first Canadian mental health strategy. It represents a blueprint for change and provides six strategic directions to improve mental health care in Canada. 

The report sets out six key strategic directions:

•Promote mental health across the life span in homes, schools and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.

•Foster recovery and well-being for people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses, and uphold their rights.

•Provide access to the right combination of services, treatments and supports, when and where people need them.

•Reduce disparities in risk factors and access to mental health services, and strengthen the response to the needs of diverse communities and northerners.

•Work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to address their mental health needs, acknowledging their distinct circumstances, rights and cultures.

•Mobilize leadership, improve knowledge and foster collaboration at all levels.

Do you feel we are in a movement?  I certainly do!  I am hopeful that the $4 billion allocated over a period of 10 years is a reality.  Although money alone cannot make a difference but it will help the amazing people in the mental health community that can.  Cheers to MHCC!  You are amazing former Senator Kirby for leading such an amazing initiative!  Many hugs from the babe community!!! 

Teens2Twenties is an Amazing Space for Laughter, Friendship and Managability

It seems things have been winding down a bit for the Teens2Twenties Bipolar Babe group.  It is amazing how I have seen these young people grow and move along to new ventures.  One of our teens recently got accepted into the Vancouver Film School while another one is gearing up for an application to Emily Carr.  I have seen youth having to leave the group due to having to concentrate on schooling and others are permanent residents, but only a few remain.  I am recruting new youth for the group for anyone that has ANY mental health condition and is in their twenties or teens. 

Why come to the group?  It is a place of friendship where young people identify and bond with eachother.  We talk about ways to manage eachother's lives and to live healthy while having a mental health condition.  We brief eachother on our past week and talk about the things that have delighted or challenged us.  It is not a place of negativity but instead a focus on the positive things that can make life whole and meaningful.

If you are interested in cheaking out a session at the Blanschard Community Centre, Wednesdays, 7-8:30, please contact Andrea at [email protected].  Thanks for reading, we always appreciate your support.

Love, Babe