The Mood Boosting Plan

woman sportyWritten by positivity coach, Miriam Akhtar. Who is currently working with Ryvita and Davina McCall as part of their Positivity Panel to inspire women into #getmore good in their lives https://www.ryvita.co.uk/living-well/miriam-akhtar

Try  these tips to give yourself a lift when life is getting you down. Happiness is something we do rather than something that just happens so build some of these practices into your day to #GetMore good into life. Start with the ideas below, which are all known to grow happiness, and then plan your own playlist of mood boosters and do one thing from it every day, whether that’s going for coffee with a friend, or having a treat like a massage.

Three good things

What’s good in your life? What’s gone well? What are you grateful for? Just before bedtime sit down and write a list of your three good things for the day. Counting your blessings focuses your attention on the positives in life, which lifts the mood. We are wired to notice what’s wrong before we notice what’s right, so practiSing gratitude helps you tune in to appreciate the good things you have.

Slow down and smell the roses

A powerful mood booster is to savour positive experiences so that you squeeze all the juice out of them. Bask, marvel, relish, feast and luxuriate to maximise your enjoyment. First up you need to slow down and put your full attention on whatever you’re savouring so stop multi-tasking and switch the phone off. Then use all your senses to turn the volume up on the experience. In workshops I teach people how to savour with fruit – noticing the colour of a strawberry, its sweet smell, the crunch as you bite into it, the texture on your tongue and the full flavour of its delicious taste. You can savour the past – reminiscing over a happy memory or the future – relishing the excitement of something you’re looking forward to like a holiday. Ask yourself what is good about it?
Be a good friend

The number one source of happiness is other people so you can get an instant mood boost by reaching out to someone. Pick up the phone and speak to a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Write someone a thank you letter. Help someone out. Acts of kindness help both givers and recipients feel good, so you get positivity bouncing back and forth between you. It’s also a useful distraction from your own troubles.
Get into nature

Green exercise is physical activity in a natural environment. It only takes a few minutes of walking in the woods or wild swimming to start generating positive emotions. Doing it by water has extra calming benefits for the mood. Find your nearest patch of green and get physical – go for a walk or do a few yoga stretches.

Play to your strengths

Your strengths are your positive qualities, such as courage or kindness, and your talents – the things you’re naturally good at. What are you doing when you’re at your best? What do you have a gift for? Finding ways to use your strengths can help you perform better at work and grow your well-being. Your strengths are like levers that you can pull to help you reach goals and resolve issues eg. how can your strength in perseverance help you reach the goal of running 5k?

Reframe

When something goes wrong, try to find the positive in the negative. A Sunday walk that’s rained off becomes an opportunity to linger over the Sunday papers or curl up on the sofa with a box set. Look for the positive in what happens. On the other side of a negative is an opportunity to prioritise your needs, pamper yourself and have total control over the remote!

Get into flow

What puts you ‘in the zone’? Flow is that state where you’re so completely absorbed in what you’re doing that you might lose track of time. People get into flow through hobbies like crafting or baking, doing something physical like gardening or jogging or creative like painting or jewellery-making. Try to set aside a couple of hours a week where you lose yourself completely in a flow activity. It’s a very satisfying experience.

Something to look forward to

Make a list of 3 positive things that you expect to happen tomorrow and then relish the anticipation of them coming up. What is there to look forward to? Indulge in some day-dreaming and spend a few moments anticipating the positive feelings that you will get from it. By doing this practice regularly you’ll start to feel more optimistic and excited about what’s ahead.

 

Discovering chia seeds

Chia seedsChia seeds may be tiny, but they are packed with vital nutrients so if, like me, you hadn’t tried them previously, it’s well worth starting to include them in your diet. They come from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Central and South America and a member of the mint family. It’s said that they were used in the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilisations as a source of energy (the word ‘chia’ means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language).

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three fabulous recipes right here:

The seeds are rich in fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and are a good source of plant protein. They taste a bit neutral, compared with other seeds, but they do have the interesting property of rapidly absorbing liquid to form a gel. This is the basis of ‘chia pudding’ (see recipe below) and also means you can use chia seeds as an egg substitute or thickening agent if you’re vegan.

There’s some (albeit rather limited) evidence that chia seeds might help you lose weight and, maybe, help prevent diabetes and heart disease. As ever, don’t rely on getting direct health benefits from chia seeds, but perhaps try including them in the ‘healthy balanced diet’ we always advocate to add variety and interest.

Autumn smoothie

I’ve been collecting blackberries from my local nature reserve and used them with chia seeds to create this beautiful pink-purple smoothie, with my usual cacao and matcha boosts.

Serves one
Around 300g blackberries
One tsp chia seeds, soaked for five mins in 3 tsp water
Almond milk, as required to make a thick, or thinner, drink
One tsp matcha
One tsp cacao powder
Blend all ingredients in a Nutribullet, or similar and drink immediately.

Carrot and chia salad

I’ve added chia seeds to my usual mix of sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds that I use for adding to salads.
Serves two
Four carrots, sliced into ribbons with a mandolin or spiralizer
Ten radishes, sliced
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
One tbsp. mixed pumpkin, sunflower, linseed and chia seeds
100g pomegranate seeds

Mix all the ingredients except the pomegranate seeds. Dress the salad with linseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon juice and top with the pomegranate seeds.

Chocolate ‘blancmange’

I saw the possibility of creating a very healthy chocolate pudding with chia seeds. No sugar, no dairy and with, hopefully, the texture of chocolate blancmange (anyone seem blancmange in recent years?) or mousse. There are many recipes online and lots of yummy pictures. I did some research and here’s my experiment. To be fair, the texture is a bit more tapioca (if you’re old enough to remember that pudding!) than blancmange/mousse, but I’m excited by my discovery of a cacao powder blended with cinnamon, which adds a luxurious depth of flavour to this dessert.

Serves four
400ml coconut milk (or almond/hazelnut/hemp milk, or a mixture)
60g chia seeds
2 tbsp cacao powder with cinnamon
1 tsp coconut palm sugar

Whisk all these ingredients together in a bowl and chill overnight. Serve topped with berries.

Next time: Experiments without potatoes

Experiments with low carb

raspberries low carbsWithout getting too heavily involved in the low carb, low sugar, low glycaemic index debate, I’d like to offer up just a few suggestions…My first thought was to look for lower carb versions of favourite pasta, rice and potato dishes. But I couldn’t face fish pie or shepherd’s pie with ‘alternative’ mash in this weather (I’ll be back with those in a couple of months) – so I’ve gone for a refreshing fruit smoothie instead. And when I say sugar, I generally mean a simple natural carbohydrate like fructose rather than added sugar, which is usually sucrose.

Our guest blogger, Dr Susan Aldridge,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition, provides her advice and three fabulous recipes right here:

Refreshing raspberry smoothie

All fruit contains some sugar but the amount varies quite dramatically. Check these amounts in grams per serving:
• Lime – 1.1
• Raspberries – 5
• Kiwi – 6
• Orange – 12
• Banana – 17
• Mango – 46

I’d usually make up a smoothie with hemp/almond/coconut milk, but the presence of the lime will make it go lumpy, so I used cactus water, which is lower in sugar than coconut water. I’ve added the matcha and cacao, as I do to all my smoothies for an extra healthy boost. The result has a refreshing sharpness that I think you’ll love!

Serves one
Four limes, juiced
Large carton of raspberries
Four kiwi fruit, peeled and halved
Cactus water
One tsp matcha powder
One tsp cacao power
Add all ingredients to your blender/Nutribullet, using the cactus water to make up the volume. Blend and drink immediately.

Protein pasta

You can find pasta made with a wide variety of grains, with lentil and spelt pasta being the most readily available. The one with the highest protein/carb ratio I discovered was edamame fettucine.
For comparison, per 100g.
Wholewheat fusilli 30.2g carb 5.2g protein
Edamame fettucine 15g carb 44g protein

I made up my favourite sauce to serve with the pasta…substitute your own.
Serves two

Large carton cherry tomatoes, halved
One large red chilli, finely chopped
Two cloves garlic, crushed
400g tin tomatoes
One tbsp. tomato puree
One tsp. mixed herbs
Fresh basil
Grated pecorino cheese

Fry the garlic and chilli till soft in olive oil then add the other ingredients and simmer until thick. Cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet, drain and serve with the sauce. Finish with torn basil and grated pecorino. Makes a good pasta salad when cold, or reheat.

Summer vegetable risotto

Use quinoa instead of rice, and twice as many green veg as in a traditional risotto recipe.
Serves 3–4

600g broad beans/peas/tenderstem broccoli/asparagus
250g quinoa
Bunch spring onions, chopped
Carton cherry tomatoes, chopped
Fresh herbs
Grated pecorino cheese

Cook the green veg and quinoa. Mix together and add the spring onion and tomatoes. Finish with chopped herbs and grated pecorino cheese.
Next month. Discovering chia seeds

Experiments with cacao

CacaoIf you love chocolate, it’s worthwhile starting to include cacao powder in your daily diet. Unlike chocolate, raw cacao is naturally fermented, unprocessed and free of sugar, milk and other additives. This concentrates the true chocolate and coffee flavour compounds, allowing for a deeper taste experience, writes Dr Susan Aldridge,  Healthy Soul’s  guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

Cacao contains over 700 different phytochemicals. Some of these have powerful antioxidant properties; cacao compares favourably with dark chocolate, green tea and blueberries as a source of antioxidants. It is also rich in magnesium. Research suggests that cacao might help prevent blood clots, improve cognitive function and insulin resistance and lower blood pressure.

These recipes use an organic cacao powder that is pressed from raw cacao beans, and has no additives.

Cacao smoothie

A luxurious, tasty and nutritious drink
Serves one
One punnet of strawberries
250mul almond milk
One tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp cacao powder
Blend everything in a Nutribullet or similar device and drink immediately.

Vegetarian chilli

I replaced the mince with a packet of quinoa with seeds (many other varieties of packet quinoa available!)

Serves 2–3 (reheats well and great for a summer party if you scale up)
Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Two chopped red chillis
One red onion, chopped
One yellow Romano pepper, chopped
One red Romano pepper, chopped
400g tin tomatoes
400g tin mixed beans
Two tbsp. tomato puree
250g pack quinoa, ready cooked
One tbsp. raw cacao powder
Fry the onion, peppers, garlic, chilli and cacao powder in olive oil till the vegetables are soft. Then add the tomatoes, beans, tomato puree and quinoa. Cook for 15–20 minutes.
Serve with grated cheese/sour cream/finely chopped chillis/sliced avocado. Drizzle with chilli oil if you like it hot.

Cacao peach melba

A healthy take on this classic dessert.
Serves two
250g of the thickest, most luxurious yoghurt you can find
Two tsp raw organic cacao powder
Two peaches, sliced
Handful of raspberries
Stir the cacao powder into the yoghurt and divide between two dessert glasses. Top with the sliced peaches and raspberries and refrigerate, preferably overnight.

Next month. Experiments with fermented foods

Experiments with pineapple

PineappleWhen I heard that sales of pineapple are booming in the UK, with one buyer claiming that it might start to rival avocado in popularity, I just had to put together a pineapple blog to follow on from last month’s avocado blog, writes Dr Susan Aldridge, HS guest blogger,  freelance writer and editor based in London, with an interest in medicine, health, science and food/nutrition.

I’ve got bad memories of pineapple from the 1960s. Tinned pineapple chunks, soggy pineapple rings with evaporated milk and pineapple and cheese cubes on cocktail sticks. Time for a re-think, because pineapples are rich in vitamin C (one serving supplies more than your daily recommended intake), potassium and the enzyme bromelain, which can reduce inflammation. One word of caution though – a serving of pineapple contains 16g sugar (compared with raspberries, which contain 5g sugar per serving). So, rather than eat it on its own, try the three recipes below where the sweetness is balanced by lots of other healthy ingredients.

Green pineapple juice
Serves one

The addition of pineapple lifts this classic green juice.

One cucumber, roughly chopped
Three sticks of celery, halved
Two handfuls of spinach leaves
Half a pineapple, sliced
One inch peeled ginger, chopped
Juice all ingredients and drink immediately.

Crunchy salad
Serves two

Three types of green leaves – I used a bag of pea shoots, two baby gem lettuce and a bag of watercress

50g pomegranate seeds
100g pineapple, cut into small chunks
Handful of mixed seeds (linseed, pumpkin and sunflower)
One sliced avocado
Toss all ingredients in a dressing of flaxseed oil, cider vinegar and lemon. To make more of a main meal of this salad, add an extra avocado and some prawns.

Fruity curry
Serves two to three

Two onions, chopped
One inch grated ginger
Two Tbsp curry paste
100g oily toor dhal (or red lentils or similar pulse)
400g coconut milk
400g tin tomatoes
400g mushrooms, sliced
100g frozen peas
one-quarter pineapple, chopped
half mango, chopped

Fry the onion and ginger in coconut oil till soft and add the curry paste and dhal. Stir and add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the mushrooms and peas. Stir for a few minutes, then add the pineapple and mango and heat through.
Next month – experiments with cacao