Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes boost tryptophan levels in the brain, and help to make serotonin, the feel-good hormone, writes AMAR CHANDEL.
After spending time in a cage, birds often get so used to being imprisoned, so that even when set free, they return to the cage. Something similar happens to those who are under stress: it becomes their favourite prison from which they do not attempt to break free. It is said of such people that they are at their happiest when they are sad.Of course, it is not as if they really enjoy being in a state of distress, but it looks like that to an onlooker. Being stressed becomes a habit they can’t break. The problem is that we change our habits only if we hate them. But if we feel there is nothing wrong with us, there is no way that we will ever try to free ourselves from this mental state.
This paradox becomes more complicated when stress manifests itself as anger. And therein lies the danger — because we may end up thinking that it is our temperament that makes us angry. It is only if we realise that anger is a manifestation of stress that we can steel ourselves to break loose.
Unfortunately, we find several excuses to justify the kinks in our personality. If we are short-tempered, we claim that we do not mean any offence; it is only our impulse or hot blood that makes us ‘stand up to every kind of nonsense’. If we are the worrying kind, we say that we are ‘sensitive and prone to weighing all pros and cons’. The fact is that in both cases, we are victims of stress.
Make a conscious effort to convince yourself that you are trapped in a prison whose doors open only from the inside. Decide that you will slowly and patiently break free. If you get more worried than others over problems, you are in need of correctives. And if you get angrier than others over real or imagined insults, then it becomes even more necessary for you to go in for behaviour modification. Aggression and depression are two sides of the same coin. To overcome these, the first task is to concede that you need to change the pattern in your own interest.
Half the battle is won the moment you decide to make a fresh start. Whenever you are sad or angry, do not justify your behaviour. Convince yourself that the problem lies in you and you will work on yourself first and react later.
Even the most even-tempered person can turn into a foul-mouthed terror when suffering from some ailment for too long. It may come as a surprise to some that food has a strong bearing on our mood as well. It is a fact that some foods do make us irritable and moody. At the same time, there are other foods which bring us peace and calm. Only those with strong willpower can curb their tendency to forgo foods that are high on taste but can play havoc with their moods and emotions.
Our stress level goes down as more serotonin, a known mood regulator, is synthesised in the brain. To make serotonin, the brain needs tryptophan, a nonessential amino acid. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes help boost tryptophan levels in the brain, besides providing important nutrients and fibre to the body. All these are good sources of folate. A recent Spanish study using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women showed that rates of depression tended to increase in men as folate intake decreased.
Similarly, Omega-3, polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts may help protect against depression by affecting neurotransmitter pathways in the brain.
Instead of giving an exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts for food, I will offer a general rule of thumb: Almost all naturally made food products are hope inducing and lead to serenity, while a majority of processed foods happen to have exactly the opposite effect and induce stress. In other words, junk foods tend to make you edgy in the long run. We eat these foods for pleasure, but ironically these take away pleasure from life and we end up feeling miserable. The brief high that we get is followed by a long-term low. It is up to you to decide if you are willing to give up immediate pleasures for the sake of lasting benefits.
Do remember that eating natural does not mean that you have to eat everything raw. But go for foods where processing has been minimal. For example, if you have a choice between eating a fruit and jam, opt for the former. In the same way, using wheat flour would be fine, but opting for maida or refined flour would harm your body. So use your discretion. Stress To Serenity, Konark Publication Pvt Ltd.