Saturday, February 25, 2012

Happiness and Health: Boosting our Moods by Eating Happy Foods

Image: slashfood

 You all know I'm a big believer in "signs" - those subtle little hints in life that point us in the direction we need to go in, that give us the ok to move forward with something we've been contemplating, or that send us a message just at the time when we need it most. I've written a lot about my own "signs" quite a bit, in 2 Signs of Positivity, and in all six of my Signs, Signs, and More Signs series. So it should come as no surprise that I stumbled on another one yesterday.

This sign, however, came through in the most unexpected of places. In doing some research at work for a health-related article I was writing, I came across some nutrition infographics and decided to browse through a few to see if there was any relevant information for my article. As I browsed through the thumbnails of about fifteen images, I found one that was entitled "15 Facts You Didn't Know About Bananas", and since I do love bananas (especially with peanut butter) I decided to read through it. I really don't know that much about bananas, so why not, right?

After learning about their origin and that they're actually a seed (did you know that!?) I came across Fact #11 which read: Eating a banana can cheer you up. Bananas are the only fruit to contain the amino acid tryptophan plus vitamin B6, which together help the body produce seratonin - the natural chemical which alleviates mental depression. (It's also found in Prozac).
Leave it to me to find a fact about happiness while randomly reading an infographic about bananas, of all things. So odd. 

Well, that peaked my interest in mood-boosting foods, so after work I continued my research to learn more about how we can use our diet to increase our happiness. I found some more proof backing the fact I read earlier about the benefits of bananas - specifically a report from a study at Oxford University, where researchers found that women recovering from depression who were deficient in tryptophan had a higher chance of regressing back to depressive states.

I made a note of the other facts that I found along the way and thought I'd share the info with you. Here is a list of what I'm calling "Happy Foods", or foods that have mood-boosting benefits:
  • Turkey, pinapple, cottage cheese, soy-based foods, and lobster - Like bananas, these are all are good sources of tryptophan which help create mood-enhancing seratonin in the brain. 
  • Chocolate (but we already knew that, didn't we?) - Apparently it's the combination of the emotional response - the velvety texture, sweet aroma, good memories it produces - along with a little bit of caffeine and its sugar content, which boosts seratonin levels.
  • Spinach - This veggie is rich in folate, which also helps to boost seratonin. A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that people who consumed the least folate were 67 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who took in the most. That's incentive enough to stock up on this vitamin, which is also found in veggies like asparagus, broccoli, and beans.
  • Walnuts and Salmon - These are some of the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids and uridine, which in combination with each other, help improve communication between neurons in the brain. This is the same action that antidepressant drugs perform - just in a natural way!

Make sure to add these items to your grocery list and start incorporating them into your diet. I'm loving this connection between health and happiness, and today's featured quote shares my feelings exactly:
To keep the body in good health is a duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.  - Buddha
Very true - it is absolutely a duty. It's easy to say that we should eat healthier or that we'll start our new eating plan next week, but we've got to do it now. Today.

Now we've got all the evidence that we need to know that in order to be happy and keep our mind strong and clear, we must make our health a priority. And we can even eat chocolate! Sweet.

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

World Happy Day and Random Acts of Kindness Week

Hey Optimists,

I've got BIG news: Today is World Happy Day and this week starts Random Acts of Kindness Week! Can it get any better?!

Thanks to Twitter, I found out about #WorldHappyDay just in time for today's global event and I hope this comes in time for you to celebrate the day too. Here's what it's all about:
World Happy Day marks the screening of "The HAPPY Movie", a documentary film all about what makes people happy and why. Created by filmmaker and Academy Award nominee Roko Belic, this film takes us on a journey through 5 different countries to explore the secrets behind "the world's most valued emotion", and has already been recognized with a bunch of big-deal film awards. It's no wonder....everyone wants to be happy! 
Take a look at the trailer at the end of the post to get a sneak peek of the film and then go find a screening near you and buy your tickets!

Random Acts of Kindness Week runs this year from February 13-19. Last year's movement was quite a success, and as a part of their Extreme Kindness Challenge – Our Ticket To a Kinder World. which encouraged people to participate in RAKW by performing at least one kind act per day for seven days, resulted in thousands of people making a conscious effort to make the world a better place. The thing that's pretty cool about this movement is that stories about RAK are so easily shared through social networks and word of mouth. 

The Happy Movie trailer:

Happy - A Documentary Trailer from Wadi Rum Films on Vimeo.

The power of doing good and making the world a better place is pretty darn strong. 
See what's going on with these events by following:
 @RAKfoundation and tweet about your act of kindness using #DoKindness
 @TheHappyMovie and tweet about your experience using #WorldHappyDay
and, of course,
 @OptmlOptimist (sorry, I couldn't resist)

Start planning your RAK for next week and beyond. You'll be amazed at how many others pay it forward!

Have you seen The Happy Movie? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

Keep Smiling,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours: An Excerpt

I have an awesome treat for you today. The amazing words you'll read below are taken from Regina Brett's "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours", and each one is just so profound and full of wisdom. 

They happily found their way into my inbox last week, and I read through each one, nodding my head in agreement and saying, "Yep! So true!". So after doing it for each one - yes, 50 times! - I knew that I needed to share this with those who would appreciate it most, my OO crew! 

Enjoy today's *50* featured quotes! 

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
49. Yield.
50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Regina Brett (born 31 May 1956) is a columnist for The Plain Dealer, a daily newspaper serving Cleveland, Ohio. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary in 2008 and 2009. Her first book, "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours" was published in April, 2010 by Grand Central Publishing. It is now in 20 countries.

I think I'm going to have to order myself a copy of the book. I just did a search on Amazon and found it - here's a link if you'd like to grab a copy: God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours.

Do you have a favorite on this list? (I though I did, but then I realized that all 50 are my favorites. Honestly....I can't choose just 1!) Maybe one to add to it? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Keep Smiling,