Exercise, diet and sleep: three important ingredients for health, and also for mood stability. Keeping our bodies healthy is a vital strategy for mental health as well. All body systems work together, so it makes sense that a healthy balance in one area will contribute to a healthy balance in others.
Try this experiment: make a chart or note of your moods for a period of two or three months. At the same time, also chart your exercise and sleep routines and the times when you have kept to a healthy diet. You should soon see a pattern: physical health helps you keep a stable mood, and slippage in one area leads to slippage in all of them. The good news is, we all have the power to manage our lifestyle choices, and commit to actions that will lead to better overall health.
One of the best ways to manage excess anxiety and restlessness, a regular exercise routine also helps with mood stability, and, of course, physical health, strength and weight loss. The best way to establish an exercise habit is to choose something you enjoy doing. Even so, self-discipline is required, especially in the first month or two, but the payoff is huge. Choose two or three activities that you enjoy (or think you might enjoy) and make a commitment to do one of them at least thirty minutes a day, five days a week.
There’s soooooo much diet advice out there! But the one that has the most robust research underlying its recommendations is the Mediterranean Diet. Based on the diet of rural people in Greece, and throughout the Mediterranean region, it’s heavy in olive oil, fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes, as well as fish and nuts. Like all traditional diets, it doesn’t include much sugar in the form of baked goods, breakfast cereals, sodas and candy. It is also light in red meat, eggs and dairy products
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of regular, healthy sleep patterns to mood stability and general health. Moodsurfing has highlighted several healthy sleep strategies over the years, and we always stress the importance of a routine schedule that is kept rigorously.
If you’re saying “I’ve tried everything and nothing works!” how about trying a scientific experiment approach: take just one “tip” for sleeping well, say, no TV for 30 minutes before bed. Don’t make any other changes, just that one for six to eight weeks. Apply the rule religiously and take notes on how your sleep patterns change or don’t change. After a set period, maybe two months, stop following that “tip” (whether it’s working or not). Choose a new tip and do the same thing. Within a few months, you will have lots of data about how the suggestions work or don’t work for your own situation. People often zig-zag from one strategy to another, or try one for a while and then forget all about it. Consistency is really important, so whatever you do, try to do it consistently.
For more detail, and more practical exercises, see our new Bipolar Disorder Workbook, now available from Amazon.