The First 3 Steps to Eating Well for Your Mental and Physical Health

For many of us, healthy eating becomes a topic of interest twice a year — at the new year and in pre-swimsuit season. We all know that nutritious eating is the key to many physical and mental health benefits, yet most of us struggle with making a lifestyle change.

Managing what we eat and drink, how we engage with our mental state (i.e., love, sadness, depression, anxiety), and exercising are essentials to creating a quality of life that fosters physical and mental wellness. There are three initial steps you can take to begin your wellness journey that can eventually become healthy routines.

Eat in Season

One way to make sure you’re eating clean, healthy foods packed with essential vitamins is to incorporate seasonal produce into your diet. Fruits and vegetables in season are full of their natural nutrients and are more flavorful. Local produce that’s readily available also brings a dip in prices, which is better for the budget. Furthermore, eating seasonal fruits and vegetables means you can experience a variety of foods all year long and play around with different recipes, which makes eating new and exciting as the seasons change. You can take this idea one step further and investigate the foods your region is known for and at what time of year those foods are in season, which may lead to a fun trip to your local farmers’ market.

Plan Your Meals

Take the stress out of what you’ll eat with meal planning, which will ensure you eat balanced breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. You’re more likely to eat healthier when you have readily available options in the fridge or freezer. Depending on your schedule, you can meal prep once a week, once every two weeks, or monthly. If you prepare your meals in advance, you’ll find yourself eating healthier, saving money (think less take out), and less stressed about time. Start your food prep with small planning. Base your shopping list on foods you like, what’s in season, and overlapping recipes that will help you avoid wasting ingredients. Then, have fun. Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore, and while you have some free time to enjoy cooking and preparing meals, experiment a little and get the whole family involved.

Watch What You Drink

After considering seasonal foods and meal planning, you can think about gradually replacing things in your diet that are not the healthiest of options and may be causing you harm. For instance, consider what drinks you’re consuming throughout the day. Are they filled with sugar or caffeine, which can trigger anxiety, depression, stress, and weight gain? If you notice there’s room to improve, start by replacing one of those go-to drinks with water, which is known to keep you hydrated, decrease headaches, improve skin, and increase energy. If you still need a caffeine boost, replace energy drinks and coffees with tea, which contains some caffeine but is a healthier option. In addition to drinks, you can apply the same line of thinking to snacks and desserts. The cookie might look enticing, but the peach or apple will also satisfy.

The way we interact with food plays a major role in our physical and mental wellness. Local seasonal fruits and vegetables will taste fresh and be packed with vitamins your body needs. Food preparation will ensure you stay on a healthy eating track while leaving you less stressed and with more time to enjoy your day. Learning to replace unhealthy drinks and food with healthier options will make a large impact down the road. Healthy eating all year long is not only possible, it can be a fun life change and will result in more energy and strength, better sleep, weight loss, and mental clarity.

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Four Ways Prayer Can Boost Your Mental and Physical Health


As you may already know, prayer can boost both your mental and physical health. This has been proven by a variety of scientific studies. Below are four specific ways. 

1. Prayer can help your self-control

If you’re looking to quit a bad habit like smoking or excess drinking or you’re having a hard time sticking to a new, good habit like healthy eating and exercise, prayer can help with that. In fact, prayer has been shown to increase one’s ability to perform tasks. Not only that, but prayer has also been shown to help people adhere to oftentimes difficult personal goals.

“Recent research indicates that prayer can help you get more out of your ‘self-control muscle.’ Research participants who said a prayer prior to a mentally exhausting task were better able to exercise self-control following that task. In addition, other studies demonstrate the prayer reduces alcohol consumption, which may reflect the exercise of self-control. Findings such as these suggest that prayer has an energizing effect,” says Psychology Today.

2. Prayer can help you reduce stress

Like meditation and other mindfulness exercises, prayer has a calming effect on the body and mind. Researchers have shown that prayer, and to a certain extent secular self-motivation exercises, can actually help to reduce blood pressure, slow breathing, and control heart rate. All of these physical signs point to a reduced stress level. Controlling stress is very important, as stress can manifest itself in a variety of physical ailments. Which leads us to …

3. Prayer can make you physically healthier

When we think about prayer, we usually think about its effects on our minds. It calms us, makes us feel more connected to a higher power or the world around us, and makes us more mindful and generous. But these effects actually translate to your physical well-being. 

“[During prayer] the body’s metabolism decreases, the heart rate slows, blood pressure goes down, and our breath becomes calmer and more regular. This physiological state is correlated with slower brain waves, and feelings of control, tranquil alertness and peace of mind. This is significant because Benson estimates that over half of all doctor visits in the U.S. today are prompted by illnesses, like depression, high blood pressure, ulcers and migraine headaches, that are caused at least in part by elevated levels of stress and anxiety,” says Richard Schiffman writing for the Huffington Post.

When you take into account prayer’s ability to boost your ability to manage bad habits and stick to good ones, coupled with its physically calming effect on your body, it’s no wonder people turn to prayer to make themselves feel better.

4. Prayer can help you deal with depression

Prayer is not a cure-all for depression. Depression is a serious illness that can manifest in a variety of ways, leading to irritability, sleeplessness, and even substance abuse. It’s always smart to consult a doctor if your depression symptoms become overwhelming. But prayer can used, in connection with other treatments, to help you get through tough times.

The way prayer does this like nothing else is that it gives you a sense of purpose. When tragedy strikes, it’s important to put things into context. If you feel like everything is part of a greater plan, it’s easier to cope when you feel down. 

Prayer also promotes happiness and generosity at a chemical level. When you pray, your brain produces hormones that give it a boost – similar to what happens when you do any other pleasurable activity.

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How Gardening Can Improve Your Physical And Mental Health

Everybody knows that exercise is good for them and necessary for maintaining good overall health, but not everybody enjoys working out. People tend to think of physical activities like running or hitting the gym when it’s time to get their heart pumping, but those who cringe at the idea of hitting the gym may want to consider taking up gardening instead. Gardening is a great way to improve your physical health and it provides substantial mental health benefits too.

Gardening may be the perfect activity for resistant exercisers

The Washington Post shared information from Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman who believes that resisting exercise is natural. While the jury may still be out on whether resistance or a reluctance to exercise is a learned behavior or biologically set for many people, working out can often feel like a chore. Many people are hard on themselves for not exercising, or not being active often enough, but it may be that they just have not found the right activity yet.

Running or sweating at the gym may work for some people, but others may find themselves more likely to stick with an exercise that keeps them active if they have fun with it or see other benefits as they do it. Gardening definitely fits the bill in that respect, and Women’s Health confirms that this is a hobby that should not be undermined in terms of the level of exercise it can provide.

Moderate amounts of time gardening and yield big results

The Telegraph explains that those who work in a garden often get so caught up in the process of gardening and the enjoyment they experience from it that they don’t even realize how much physical activity they are getting. This is a hobby that can get your heart rate up enough to compare with some other types of vigorous exercise and as you dig, you will challenge your body with squats, lifts, and plenty of other movements that challenge your muscles.

As Natural News notes, it doesn’t take an extreme amount of time gardening to see an improvement in your physical health. Even 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can produce positive results, and most people start to see improvements in their mental health as they garden as well. As people see how much they enjoy gardening they may invest a great deal more time in it than 30 minutes a day, but that is a great starting point to utilize in order to see some initial benefits. 

Your mental health will benefit from gardening too

Even if your motivation for gardening is to sneak in some exercise without feeling pressure or misery, you will likely start to feel better mentally, too. Gardening can lower one’s cortisol stress hormone levels, and it can lower levels of depression and improve mental health, which can even help some people overcome addiction. Many people find that gardening stimulates their brains, gives them an opportunity to connect with nature and other people, and can even help with spirituality as well.

Exercise comes in many shapes and forms, and those who are resistant to jumping on the treadmill, lifting weights, or going to an aerobics class may want to think outside the box a bit. A hobby like gardening provides plenty of physical activity and there are mental health benefits that come as well as it can stimulate your brain, reduce your stress levels, and help combat depression. If you are feeling guilty about not exercising, consider gardening as the ideal activity to improve both your physical and mental health.

[Image via Pixabay]