[Transcript of podcast episode 11]
If you believe that your mental and emotional health is less than optimal then this episode is for you. You’re going to become aware of twenty five, yes twenty five things that can negatively impact your mental and emotional wellness. And awareness is the first step to change, because you dont know what you dont know.
Id like to start by saying that I don’t really favour the term mental health, I actually prefer emotional health because mental is more about our thoughts and I think when we’re talking about mental health issues what were really talking about is how we feel, right? But i’ll use both terms.
The symptoms of sub-optimal mental & emotional health can include things such as low or unstable mood, feeling sad, despairing, emotionally drained, anxious, panicked, overwhelmed, empty, being over- reactive or experiencing inertia. These symptoms tend to fall under the terms “depression” or “anxiety”. The thing is they’re just symptoms which are then given a label.
In the words of one of my greatest teachers, Functional Medicine Doctor - Mark Hyman. He says;
“Depression” and “Anxiety” are often called diseases but these “diseases” do not exist. At least not in the way we think they do. Let me explain. Let’s say you have chronic feelings of sadness and despair. Conventional doctors might say you have a disease called “depression.” But depression is not the cause of your sadness and despair. It’s just a name that we use to group people together for the purpose of giving them all the same drug therapy. So you feel sad and despairing? You have “depression” and therefore need an “antidepressant!”
He also rightly says we don’t feel anxious because we have a xanex deficiency, or depressed because of a prozac deficiency. And that totally makes sense when you think about it.
In the same way as eczema isn’t a steroid cream deficiency and insomnia isn’t a sleeping pill deficiency. Everything has root causes and we really must look at these instead of putting sticky plasters over symptoms all the time.
I know this myself because years ago I was feeling pretty dreadful and went to my doctor and he got me to complete a checklist and because I ticked yes to a certain number of questions he said "oh you have depression”, and started to write me a prescription for antidepressants. But I decided not to take them and discovered the functional medicine route instead and through dietary and life changes I resolved my symptoms. Because I was addressing them at a root cause level. Now this doesn’t mean I don’t have times where I feel a bit low or anxious, but its infrequent, I’m able to work out why its happening and I know what to do about it. My wish for you is to be educated to a level where you can do the same.
A few things to be aware of just before I share the list of things;
Firstly understand that our brain, our heart and our gut are the 3 control centres of our human operating system. They’re all completely interconnected and they communicate with each other. There can be many different causes for emotional health challenges depending on the person, and these also have a level of interconnectedness and interdependence. This is why I’m always advocating a personalised and holistic approach. And its why I like to use the term “mind-body”.
Secondly understand that feeling certain feelings is just our mind-body’s normal response to certain things. It doesn’t mean you’re abnormal.
Thirdly symptoms typically accumulate over time. So typically going from feeling great to a depressed anxious wreck doesn’t happen over a weekend (although feelings of depression and anxiety can worsen or improve quite quickly). Now I’m excluding major life events here such as break ups, deaths etc, because these are going to feel shit and you have to go through a process of grieving and really processing those emotions.
Fourthly, when it comes to medications, in a small number of severe debilitating cases these can be helpful, even if its just in the short term to stabilise a person and get them to a state where they are functioning enough to address the possible root causes. What I’m talking about more here is the general depressive and anxious feelings which in my experience most people are having to some degree these days.
I really believe that wherever possible, looking at all potential root causes before medication is key. And I genuinely genuinely believe if we all did this virtually no-one would be on medication for things like anxiety and depression. And the same applies for physical illnesses as well.
In the words of Jim Carrey, who I’m sure many of you are aware is a mental health advocate. He says;
“I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don't exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren't giving yourself a fighting chance”
And we are going to cover these things he mentions and way way more through this episode.
Now its not necessarily an exhaustive list but it is covering the main ones based on my knowledge and experience.I won’t be going into much detail on each one (because that would make for an really really long episode) however I will covering some of these topics individually at more length in future)
However as I share each item ask yourself - could this be effecting me? Does this resonate with me? Is this something I haven’t thought about before. Im also going to add the full transcript of this episode on my website so that you can access that and read that id you wish.
So first item is Leaky Gut or Gut Bacteria Imbalances - so basically an unhealthy gut. At least 80 per cent serotonin produced by the gut, not the brain as many people think, and the production of various other neurotransmitters and chemicals depends on healthy gut. There are two things here - Leaky gut, which is also known as gut permeability, and theres Gut bacteria imbalances, which are also known as gut dysbiosis. This is where you have an imbalance of bacteria, you may have an overgrowth of bad bacteria like candida, or bacteria in the wrong place like SIBO or maybe you even have parasites which is very common. There is something called the Gut Brain Axis. which really means the gut and brain are talking with each other and effecting each other all the time. Now there’s several different factors involved in having a healthy and resilient gut and I'll cover these in more detail in another episode.Now related to health of the gut is this next point, point 2.
Not eating foods which are ideal for YOUR body. The thing is we’re all different and we all have different microbiomes microbiome which is the ecosystem of bacteria and other bugs in our Gastrointestinal tract. It also depends on our ancestry and food intolerances which we may have. These have an enormous influence on our gut health and therefore our mood. I tried going vegetarian once and I felt physically and mentally shit. It was awful. It turns out the ideal diet for me is a mediterranean style paleo. So my superfoods are things like grass fed organic meat and bone broth, eggs, olive oil and certain vegetables - but not all. Things like beans, lentils, chick peas, soy and most grains are an absolute no no for me. They make me sick and I know thats the case for many other people. One of the reasons for this is they are very high in something vlled lectins which can be very irritating to the gut. Now I know all this based on a DNA test and a gut test which I did, and both are tests I use with clients. I talk about this subject more in I think its episode 5 of the podcast - which is called five steps to create your ideal diet. So if you want to find out more about that and the testing do check it out.
The third thing is an Impaired intake of nutrients or an impairment in the break down and absorption of them. So again relating to points one and two because tis all gut related . Actually if you want more information on the breaking down and absorption of nutrients check out the last episode, which is number 10 about optimising digestion). So our intake or absorption of nutrients is super important. Even if we’re getting nutrients in we may not be absorbing them. There are certain nutrients which are really important for our brain health and emotional health, particularly b vitamins like B12, magnesium, actually the stress response depletes magnesium so if you’re chronically stressed youre going to have even lower levels of magnesium, Vitamin D3, and omega 3 fatty acids which are essential especially the DHA variety, and the most bio-available source is from things like oily fish. Bioavailable actually means the proportion of a substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect. So as an example plant sources nutrients are less bioavailable than animal sources which is another reason why its really important to optimise your digestion, and also consuming fat with our veggies is important as it helps us to absorb certain nutrients.
Fourth its is Unstable blood sugar levels. So when blood sugar crashes it actually sets of an alarm system in the body which kind of feels like anxiety & panic. And this is one reason why a high carb diet is not great, even if your consuming natural carbs and sugars. We also have different individual tolerances to carbohydrates, so some of us are very tolerant to carbs and others not so much. Im not which means I need a lower carb or slower carbohydrate diet because when I have carbohydrates my blood sugar is effected quite easily. This can actually be found out through the DNA testing which I cover in episode 5.
The fifth thing is Caffeine. Now this really does depend on person and on the quantity - I’m good with one coffee in the morning, and I love coffee, its honestly my favourite thing, its a real ritual for me first thing in the morning. But if I have any more than that I really start to feel not great. It can also effect sleep quality even if we don’t realise it. DNA test will tell you how fast genetically you metabolise caffeine, which can be helpful but also you know how you feel when you have coffee. Id also say regardless of tolerance level ideally keep it to a minimum and to the morning as it can effect your sleep.
The sixth thing is Alcohol - this disrupts gut and our brain. Im not necessarily talking a glass of quality wine with dinner, some people are ok with this. The tolerance again depends on the person, however excessive consumption is not positive for anyone, particularly if youre struggling with feeling anxiety or depressed feelings. It also disrupts sleep quality which then has other knock on effects.
Number seven is Pharmaceutical Medications. So even over the counter ones you think may be innocent eg ibuprofen, aspirin or acid blockers like antacids - these actually really effect gut and chemicals in body, and can lead to leaky gut so wherever possible we need to be avoiding those.
Number eight is Not Breathing properly - diaphragmatic breathing which is deep belly breathing is one of the things, I think its one of the easiest things we can do to move our nervous system from a sympathetic state (which is also known as fight or flight which is where many of us live) into the parasympathetic state (which is sometimes called the rest and digest) and this also improves whats called vagal tone (this is the condition of our vegas nerve which plays a huge role in emotions. And yes ill be covering that at some point in the future.
Number nine is Lack of Hydration - lacking energy, brain function , our digestion ability, all of these things are effected, and actually most people are chronically dehydrated. And its a very very easy way to feel better. So drink filtered water regularly. Sounds simple but most people aren’t doing it.
Number ten is Lack of Movement. So we sit a lot. Theres a lot of physical inertia. So we nee to be moving the body in some way regularly. Its not about sitting at a desk for 8 hours and then going and doing a half hour workout. We really need to be moving our bodies throughout the day and regularly.
Number eleven is Environmental toxins Its something we don’t really think bout but outside of our body there are so many possible toxins. Things like pesticides, EMF’s, air pollution, tap water, plastics, aluminium, synthetic fragrances, non natural toiletries, mold, heavy metals. We actually can avoid these to a degree but theres also the reality of the real world which means we are still going to be getting some of these toxins but then we can boost our bodies ability to detoxify. So its not just what toxins are coming in its also how well we’re able to process those and how well our bodies are detoxifying.
Number twelve is Toxic light. So this is where we’re not getting right kinds of light at right times of day. We really must be getting natural daylight, even if its overcast, natural daylight in the morning. Getting natural daylight without sunglasses, we want the natural light in our eyes, and this starts off a hormone cascade, a cascade of all these different hormone productions and our body functions, which really is determined and governed bu light. So we really want to be getting the daylight in the day and then in the evening avoiding the blue light particularly of things like screens, particularly before bed because this is going to effect how well we sleep.
Number thirteen is Overstimulation or overload and this can be information or stuff. We are surrounded by millions of pieces of input, of stimuli every single day so we need to be mindful of how much stimulation our brains are getting and are we feeling overloaded. This can also apply to stuff. Have you ever noticed how when your environment is cluttered and theres stuff everywhere you actually, it really really changes how you feel. That can be a big one.
Number fourteen is the Quality of sleep so its not just the amount- but the quality and you dont always know the quality you’re getting. Some of my clients get something called the Oura ring and that actually tells us whats actually going on while they’re sleeping, so how much deep sleep they’re getting, whats actually happening during that seven, eight whatever hours that they’re sleeping. And often they may be getting eight hours sleep but the actual quality is not good. So that may well be a factor in the way you’re feeling.
Number fifteen is Lack of nature & grounding. Any of you know when you spend time in nature, docent it just feel nice. Like you never spend time in nature and you feel crappy. It always feels nice and its because we are one with nature, we aren’t separate, we are part of it and its absolutely fundamental to our mental health, And grounding as well in nature so hen you are in nature if you have the opportunity get those bare feet on the ground or hug a tree or something like that. Sounds a bit crazy but it really doesn’t make a difference.
Number sixteen is What content you consume. This is a big one. Mainstream news, social media, trashy tv. Please just stop watching this crap. Its honestly one of the best thing I ever did for my mental and emotional wellness. I cannot express how important this is. Swap your morning news watching for meditation and your life will transform.
Number seventeen is Relationship to others: so meaningful human connection, the quality of our relationships, feeling supported. Super super important. The people we hang out with, you’ll know if you think about the people you hang out with, how you feel when youre around certain people. so if the people youre spending time with are causing you to not feel good then thats something to reconsider.
Linked to this is Sense of purpose & meaning. If we dont have a sense of purpose or meaning this can make us feel really low.This is also why helping others and contribute to others makes us feel so good. Ans It’s a fundamental human need.
Number nineteen Lack of hugs/touch. This effects the production of our feel good chemicals, and its other fundamental human need and some of us go weeks without hugs and human touch and its becoming a real problem so thinking about how many hugs and touch your getting with other human beings. If you have a pet you’ll know that just juggling your pet makes a massive difference to how you feel.
Number twenty is Trauma from the past. You know trauma is, a lot of people when they think about trauma think its stored in our head. Trauma is actually stored in the physical body, and feelings in the body from this can then create thoughts and hence mental health challenges. Emotions are actually energy in motion and so we must release this energy thats stored in our body, and theres various ways to do this which I'll cover another time. On a day to day basis its important that we experience our feelings and we don’t suppress them and pretend to ourselves that everything is fine.
Twenty one is Unmet expectations or things not working out as we want or expect - If we attach our happiness to how we think things should turn out this is a recipe for psychological stress, its one of the major root causes of us feeling stressed.
Number twenty two is Not being in the present and not being accepting and grateful for what currently is.Most of us spend our time dwelling on past or worrying about future. And I think its episode nine, I cant quite remember but in one of the previous episodes I share a passage from a talk given by Sam Harris about presence so if you want to find out more you can check that out.
Twenty three is Not enough joy - having fun, laughing, having fun, playing, that childlikeness that most of us have lost. We’ve become so serious! So it’s super important to make time to do little things you actually enjoy, watch some comedy, it doesn’t matter what it is, anything you enjoy doing.
Twenty four is Not being connected to yourself - So being in alignment with your true self, being connected to your heart, following your inner compass. These are all so important. Trying to be who you think you re supposed to be is utterly exhausting and id say probably yer number one thing that exhausts people is trying to be who you think you’re supposed to be and who others want you to be. It is really exhausting and can cause a lot of emotional pain.
Which moves me onto the last point which is Over caring what others think.- This can manifest in lack of boundaries, saying yes to everything, putting self out for others, burning yourself out and then feeling resentful, drained or sad or angry or whatever. This is something I see a lot of and as a recovering people pleaser I really do get it.
Ok so thats twenty five things!
What sits at the deeper root of some of the things, the ones which are behavioural in nature, and our ability to change them is actually the state of our inner world. Our beliefs and thoughts about ourselves, others and the world, which is basically a result of past experience and conditioning throughout our lives. and this is stuff that we really must address if were going to truly feel happy and have positive mental and emotional health.
Just remember that everything has a room cause and therefore it can all be agreed
And i recognise that some things are simpler and easier to rectify than others and trust me Ive been through this journey, but please know its completely possible to overcome your challenges and to feel truly awesome.
I really hope thats been helpful for you in some way and if it has I massively appreciate you leaving a rating and a short comment on the review for ITunes. Reason being is in order to share this information with more people, in order for more people to benefit people have to talk about it so if you feel called to do so please leave a rating a review and also please do share with anyone you think might benefit in any way from this information I’ll massively massively appreciate you sharing it with them. So thats it for me from now. Wishing you a super awesome day.