Believe it or not, what we eat affects everything from our production of neurotransmitters and hormones to our energy levels and the quality of our synaptic connections. In layman terms, what we eat can determine how well we respond to the stresses and demands of the day. Though running your own business can be stressful (and that’s an understatement), you’re not the only person who sometimes feels miserable, moody, anxious, and agitated. In fact, it’s not wholly the responsibility on your shoulders, the weight of running your own business, or the stress you experience day in and day out making you feel that way.
It’s the standard american diet that is throwing off our bodies’ natural feel-good chemistry, resulting in stress, anxiety, and depression.
Men are generally less concerned with managing stress than women, but according to the National Institutes on Mental Health and the American Institute of Stress, stress can decrease proper cell function, thereby contributing to numerous emotional and physical disorders including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, and immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections. Your health is your wealth. Managing stress should be at the forefront of your health goals, regardless of gender.
So what causes stress in America?
According to the American Psychology Association (APA), money, work, and the economy do. You’re probably like, check, check, and check! No surprise. As a business owner, you’re constantly worried about money, work, and the economy. These stressors on top of your modern american diet have the potential to affect the energy in your company and rain hard on your parade.
Matter of fact, my spouse has a boss that is always up and down in his mood. Often he comes into the office with personal baggage, taking it out on his team. Other times, one thing goes wrong and it determines the entire day. His team members often feel like they’re walking on eggshells trying to keep him happy, which means they’re not focusing on what is most important; the patients. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize how his attitude and demeanor completely affect his team, and equally significant, his patients. To boot, his piss poor mood starts to rub off on his team as it shifts the energy in the office. His patients feel it too through their interactions with his team members; a fake smile just doesn’t carry the same weight as a genuine smile.
Ultimately, his mood determines the energy in the office. When the environment is negative, you can’t expect the numbers to be positive. The correlation between mood and performance is self-evident.
According to Drew Ramsey, MD, co-author with Tyler Graham of The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, “people should be focusing on brain foods and mood-promoting fats to best nurture happiness.” Nurture the energy in your office by nurturing your mind and body with good mood foods.
Here are the nummy keys to success that you should take a bite out of as soon as possible:
Pomegranate seeds. These teeny, tiny packages of goodness have even more goodness than you know. Pomegranate seeds contain vitamin K and antioxidants—nutrients that strengthen your bones and lower your risk for breast and colon cancers. In addition, pomegranates help to increase levels of serotonin—one of the brain’s primary mood-regulating neurotransmitters—helping to control mood swings and even prevent anxiety and depression. This winter, when pomegranates are in season, go to the store and get yourself a grocery bag full of these superfoods. Choose whole pomegranates over prepackaged containers of seeds, because the seeds will be fresher and more nutrient-rich.
This vegetable is one of the top plant-based sources of tryptophan, which is the key ingredient in making serotonin. Adding to asparagus’ happiness-promoting profile is high levels of folate, which like tryptophan, is necessary for creating neurotransmitters. According to WebMD, a recent study confirmed this association between higher food intakes of folate and a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. It’s also good to add to the list of benefits the fact that the enzymes in asparagus are highly effective in breaking down alcohol in our systems, preventing a hangover. Now, that’s enough to make anyone happy.
Your favorite solution ever. Chocolate! Ever wonder why chocolate makes you feel so good? It’s chocolate’s ability to improve blood flow to the brain, boosting your concentration and mood, helping you feel more vibrant and energized. It’s good to know that there’s some science behind the theory that chocolate makes us happy. Diane M. Becker MPH, ScD, director of the Center for Health Promotion at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, stated that, “small amounts of dark chocolate can be a physical upper.” Like the other good mood foods, “dark chocolate has an effect on the levels of brain endorphins,” those feel-good chemicals that our bodies produce. Let’s add to the pot the heart-healthy anti-clogging effect that dark chocolate has in our blood vessels. Just 1.4 ounces a day can reduce stress hormones, including cortisol, and bring a smile to your face. One more reason to love chocolate!
Eggs are obviously a superfood packed with all the right nutrients; they have everything you need to make a chicken for goodness sake. Eggs are loaded with mood-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins, and iodide. They’ll keep you full and energized. Egg yolks also contain Vitamin D, which low levels have been linked to mood disorders. Look for pastured eggs and be weary of grocery store eggs claiming “omega-3 enriched” or “free-range,” because both claims aren’t regulated by the FDA.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is a recipe for a bad day. All you need to do to set the stage for a better mood when you wake up is to eat a handful of dried tart cherries before you turn in for the night. Tart cherries are rich in melatonin, which acts as a natural sleep aid by improving quality of sleep. Antioxidants packed into these tiny packages of greatness also help protect your brain from free radicals, which enables your brain chemistry to be optimized for a good mood.
Now you have an arsenal of weapons to combat crankiness and create the energy and environment your team deserves. Like Buddy comically said in the movie, The Elf, “smiling’s my favorite.” With the good mood foods in your bag of tricks, as cheesy as this sounds, smiling can be your favorite too. Get out there and put a smile on for your team. A smile can change everything!