Snacking on fruit rather than savory snacks may help you avoid depression and anxiety, according to researchers from Aston University. And an article from the World Economic Forum suggests that caring for houseplants can improve your mental and physical health. In this edition you’ll also find tips for fighting burnout, freeing up more time and recovering from work stress.
1. An apple a day may keep the blues at bay.
People who frequently eat fruit are more likely to report greater positive mental well-being and are less likely to report symptoms of depression than those who do not, according to new research from the College of Health and Life Sciences, Aston University.
The researchers’ findings suggest that how often you eat fruit is more important to your psychological health than the total amount you consume during a typical week.
The team also found that people who eat savory snacks such as chips, which are low in nutrients, are more likely to report greater levels of anxiety and to experience “everyday mental lapses,” such as forgetting where items had been placed or the name of an acquaintance. However, they found no direct association between eating vegetables and psychological health.
“Both fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, fiber and essential micronutrients which promote optimal brain function, but these nutrients can be lost during cooking. As we are more likely to eat fruit raw, this could potentially explain its stronger influence on our psychological health,” said the study’s lead author, PhD student Nicola-Jayne Tuck.
“It is possible that changing what we snack on could be a really simple and easy way to improve our mental well-being,” she noted.
Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the study surveyed 428 adults from across the UK and looked at the relationship between their consumption of fruit, vegetables, sweet and savory food snacks, and their psychological health. Demographic and lifestyle factors such as age, general health and exercise were also considered.
Source: “Could eating fruit more often keep depression at bay?” Aston University, July 15, 2022
2. Battle the burnout.
Anyone can experience burnout, but those who work from home can find it especially hard to find good work-life balance. A March 2022 article from Porch.com offers some tips for dealing with and preventing burnout.
Take care of your physical self:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet—avoid sugar, refined carbs and smoking; keep caffeine, preservatives and alcohol to a minimum.
- Get daily exercise—go for a walk in the mornings or evenings, practice yoga, take dance classes, create a home gym (and use it). Really, just anything that gets your body moving around.
- Adopt healthy sleeping habits; try an eye mask, earplugs or noise machine if needed.
Take care of your emotional/mental self:
- Spend some time in nature—go bird watching, hike a local trail, go for a bike ride, camp with friends or family, go fishing, have a picnic, do some backyard gardening.
- Find a hobby—do some baking, learn to paint or knit, complete a puzzle or two.
- Unplug from technology.
The article also provides a list of symptoms associated with burnout, including fatigue, headaches and muscle pain, changes in sleep and eating habits, lack of motivation, feeling detached from family and friends, etc.
Source: “How to Recognize and Cope with Burnout at Home,” Porch.com, March 10, 2022
3. Free up some time.
Having too little free time is detrimental to our happiness and life satisfaction. That’s a given. But it turns out that having too much free time has the same effect, Alexis Haselberger, a time management and productivity coach, says in a recent article on Thrive Global.
She says all you really need is at least two hours (and not more than five) of leisure time each day.
How can you get more free time?
Start by looking at how much time you spend scrolling through social media on your phone. Take back some of that time for yourself. Make a quick list of activities you enjoy doing—exercise, knitting, keeping a journal—and consider replacing that mindless screen-time with something you actually enjoy.
If you’re already spending time doing those things on a regular basis, consider reframing that as “free time.”
And remember, your free time doesn’t need to come in one solid block. Taking several 15- or 30-minute slots of free time throughout the day can work wonders.
Haselberger also offers advice on outsourcing and delegating tasks to free up time, as well as learning to set boundaries.
Source: “You Need Less Free Time To Be Happy Than You Think,” Thrive Global, July 26, 2022
4. Nurtured some nature.
Lack of access to nature has been linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as other health conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and poor immune function. But you don’t need to leave your house to find the benefits of nature, says a recent article from the World Economic Forum.
Just being in the presence of indoor plants can improve mental and physical health, according to a recent review of 42 studies. The review found that being around plants improves performance on cognitive tasks involving focus, sorting or memory recall and is also linked to lower levels of physiological stress.
Based on research about gardening in general, caring for houseplants can also lead to feelings of pride, social connection, mental resilience in times of stress and may even help you to heal from past trauma. Tending house plants can also be a great hobby that encourages self-expression and gives you a tangible feeling of fulfillment.
Source: “Houseplants can improve your mental health and wellbeing. Here’s how,” World Economic Forum, Aug. 5, 2022; based on study: “Effects of Indoor Plants on Human Functions: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analyses,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, June 17, 2022
5. Recover and reset.
When we start feeling overwhelmed at work, we often slide into a negative cycle of working longer hours and taking fewer breaks. We also tend to eat unhealthily and exercise less, which further deplete our energy and motivation.
That’s the time to recover and reset, says a recent article from Harvard Business Review.
Detach psychologically from work. Even thinking about work detracts from your ability to recover from it. Give your mind a break by dedicated a fixed time each day when you can devote your full attention to a non-work-related activity—reading, running, video games, etc. Even just a few minutes will allow you to reap the benefits of recovery. If the presence of your phone prompts you to check work emails during off hours or breaks, turn it off or shut off notifications temporarily.
Take micro-breaks during the workday. For example, set an alarm to ring once every two hours or so as a needed reminder to step away from the computer for 10 minutes, stretch, walk around and get a drink of water. Short moments of meditation or relaxing, taking time to eat a nutritious snack, enjoyable social interactions, or activities that require some degree of cognitive attention (such as reading) are strategies that can improve motivation and concentration, shape your mood, and sustain your energy during the day.
Prioritize high-effort recovery activities. While it may seem that relaxing, watching TV or other more “passive” activities are best for recovery, research shows that more active activities can be even more effective. If you don’t enjoy going to the gym or playing team sports, find a type of exercise that you do enjoy, such as a fast walk, a hike or a swim. Experiences that require high levels of dedication, focus and time can also be helpful in recovery—learning to speak a new language or how to play an instrument, for example.
Source: “How to Recover from Work Stress, According to Science,” Harvard Business Review, July 5, 2022