Many of you have shared with me that you have been working with your clients to introduce lifestyle changes, but they have had a hard time implementing them. Changing our lifestyles can boost our mental health, but it can be very challenging, that’s why I like to suggest gradual changes and beginning with the easiest ones that enhance adherence. These are the top 3 easiest lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your mental health.
1. Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise is the best way to quickly boost good mood chemicals. New research suggests that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the very best type and it doesn’t take too long to do. HIIT is an exercise that is characterized by relatively short bursts of vigorous activity, (30-60 seconds) interspersed by rest or low-intensity recovery exercise (60 seconds). You can start slowly with 1-5 minutes in total and work your way up to 10 minutes, 3 times a week and then increase to 5 days a week.
HIIT enhances brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and is an ideal exercise to enhance cognitive function and memory along with metabolic function (Jiménez-Maldonado, Rentería, García-Suárez, Moncada-Jiménez & Freire-Royes, L., 2018).
Is your client complaining about not getting movement-motivated? Conduct a telehealth session while you and your client are pedaling a stationary bike or walk at a distance together so you can spark their interest in this new habit-forming brain health exercise. In my telehealth video, I explore how to do this kind of motivational/coaching self-care work successfully.
2. Switching Out Your Fats
Switching out unhealthy fats for healthy fats is an easy change. No one ever complained to me that they didn’t like butter! Yet butter, especially raw, grass-fed is a better alternative to many fats including the harmful canola, corn, or sunflower oil. Switch out fake butter and margarine because they are synthetic, and have preservatives and additives. Replace these fake fats with extra virgin olive oil, raw butter, or virgin sesame or coconut oil.
Do you have doubts about what are enough quality fats to nourish your brain and mood? I address testing and interventions in my short course Integrative Medicine and Nutrition for Mood and Cognitive Enhancement.
3. Dry Skin Brushing
Skin brushing is another of my go-to suggestions because it takes 2 minutes, is easy to do, and helps decrease dissociation while it enhances immune function. As we continue to deal with the uncertainty and stress from Covid-19, it’s common to feel disconnected and out of our body.
Skin brushing is a simple way to boost our mood and bring us back to our own bodies. Always brush towards your heart with a dry brush, begin at feet and slowly move up toward your knees, belly, and chest. Brush your abdomen and arms as well. Remember it should feel good and help you relax.
Try sharing these simple self-care methods with your clients and ask them how they are feeling.
I address the art and science of these methods in my courses on mental health in my course Nutrition and Integrative Medicine for Diabetes, Cognitive Decline, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The course includes videos on how to do skin brushing, recipes with healthy fats, at-home exercise videos, and so much more.
Jiménez-Maldonado, A., Rentería, I., García-Suárez, P. C., Moncada-Jiménez, J., & Freire-Royes, L. F. (2018). The Impact of High-Intensity Interval Training on Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Brain: A Mini-Review. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 839. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00839