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Fermented Food Helps Social Anxiety, Study Says

Fermented Food Helps Social Anxiety, Study Says

Psychologists usually look to factors in the mind in an attempt to help people struggling with mental health issues. But that process is quickly changing. While the mind is a beautiful and powerful place, studies show that the stomach may also play an important role in your overall health — physically and socially.

In a 2015 study done by William & Mary Psychology Professors Matthew Hilimire and Catherine Forestell in conjunction with University of Maryland School of Social Work Assistant Professor Jordan DeVylder, researchers reveal a possible connection between the mind and the gut. Their findings disclose a connection between fermented foods which contain probiotics (the good  bacteria in your digestive tract) and social anxiety symptoms. Those probiotic filled foods could be the answer to decreasing one’s fear of social situations.

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Psychologists asked over 700 college students about the fermented foods they consumed over the course of 30 days. The questionnaire also asked about consumption of fruits and vegetables as well as exercise frequency. The researchers found that individuals who had consumed more fermented foods (such as yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha) had reduced cases of social anxiety. The effect was greater in those who rated highly on the neurotic scale. The researchers also found, secondarily, that those who exercised more were more likely to have reduced social anxiety. So, those who were susceptible before the study would show the strongest connection between eating yogurt and participating in group therapy.

While further research is needed to solidify some other points of the study such as whether or not a causative connection can be made between eating fermented foods and reducing social anxiety, it’s safe to assume that a diet which includes probiotic filled foods is good for your health and your social life.

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Here are five fermented foods that are tasty, healthy, easy to eat, and that help to decrease social anxiety:

1. Yogurt

All yogurts contain some probiotics. The yogurt with the “Live & Active Cultures” seal contains approximately 100 million probiotic cultures per gram when it’s manufactured — this equates to about 25 billion probiotic cultures within one cup. Kefir, a fermented milk product, is a drinkable type of yogurt which has even more probiotics.

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2. Kombucha

Kombucha is a type of effervescent tea which combines black (or green) tea, natural sugar, yeast, and bacteria (the good kind). The yeast and bacteria consume the sugar and the result is a delicious drink high in B vitamins, acetic acid, and probiotics. A very small amount of alcohol is included in this drink during fermentation and studies have shown that it helps to stabilize blood glucose levels.

3. Miso

Miso, a Japanese seasoning, is a paste-like substance made from soybeans, rice, and barley. It has a bold taste and works well in soups, stir-frys, and drinks including this Blueberry Miso Smoothie. Since it is high in sodium, only a little bit is needed to season up any dish.

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4. Tempeh

Tempeh, the nutty-tasting relative of tofu, is made from naturally fermented soybeans. It is a good source of probiotics as it contains amino acids. It contains a good dose of iron, calcium, and protein. It can be used in burgers and stir-frys. And because it’s fermented, it’s much easier to digest than some soy products.

5. Kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy fermented cabbage, closely related to sauerkraut. Pasteurized versions of kimchi do not contain probiotics. However, if you look for “unpasteurized,” “live and active cultures,” or “naturally fermented” labels, you will find the real deal. Don’t forget to refrigerate as getting sick from rotten food that is already unpasteurized is a greater possibility.

What we eat is just one way to look at our mental states. As researchers and psychologists continue to learn about the connections between our brain and our stomach, it seems like food will increasingly have a profound effect upon how we feel and how we connect with others. This is just one wonderful reason to be kind to your tummy.

Featured photo credit: Frozen yogurt with raspberry coulis at Frozen in South Yarra/Katherine Lim via flickr.com

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Daniella Whyte

Psychology Researcher

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Overcome Boredom

How to Overcome Boredom

Have you ever been bored? Restless? Fidgety? In need of some inspiration?

I have a theory on boredom. I believe that the rate of boredom has increased alongside the pace of technology.

If you think about it, technology has provided us with mobile phones, laptops, Ipads, device after device – all to ultimately fix one problem: boredom.

What is Boredom?

We have become a global nation that feeds on entertainment. We associate ‘living’ with ‘doing’. People now do not know how to sit still, and we feel guilty when we are not doing anything. Today, inactivity has become the ultimate sin.

You might not realize it, but boredom stimulates a form of anxiety and stress. It evokes an emotional state that creates frustration and feeds procrastination.

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It’s a desire to be ‘doing something’ or to be ‘entertained’ – it’s a desire for sensory stimulation. What it boils down to is a lack of focus.

If you think about those times when you’re bored, it’s usually because you did not know what to do. So, indecision also plays a big part.

When we are focused on what’s important to us and what we want to achieve, it’s pretty hard to be bored. So, one answer to boredom is to become focused on what you want.

Sometimes It’s Good to Be Bored

If boredom is a desire for sensory stimulation – then what’s the opposite of that? To be content with no stimulation – in other words – to enjoy stillness.

Sometimes, it’s not boredom itself that causes the frustration but the resistance to doing nothing.

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Think about it. What would happen if you were to ‘let go’ of the desire to be entertained? You wouldn’t be bored anymore, and you will feel more relaxed!

In my experience, it’s often the most obvious, simplistic solutions that are the most powerful in life. So, when you’re bored, the easiest way to combat this is to enjoy it.

It may sound weird but think of ‘boredom’ as a form of ‘relaxation’. It’s a break from the constant stimulation that 21st-century living provides – constant TVs, mobile phones, radios, internet, emails, phone calls, etc.

Who knows, maybe ‘boredom’ is actually good for us?

Next time you’re ‘feeling bored’ instead of feeding the frustration by frantically looking for something to do, maybe you can sit back, relax, and savor the feeling of having nothing to do.

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In this article, I’ll share with you my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom.

3-Step Strategy to Overcome Boredom

1. Get Focused

Instead of chasing sensory stimulation at random, focus on what’s really important to you. Focusing on something important helps prevent boredom because it forces you to utilize your time productively.

You should ask yourself: what would make good use of your time? What could you be doing that would contribute to your major goals in life?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend some time in quiet contemplation considering what’s important to you.
  • Start that creative project you’ve been talking about for the last few weeks.
  • Brainstorm: think of some ideas for new innovative products or businesses.

2. Kill Procrastination

Boredom is useful in some ways because it gives you the energy and time to do things. It is only a problem if you let it. But if you use it to motivate yourself to be productive, then you can more easily overcome boredom.

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So, the next time you’re bored, why not put this good energy to use by ticking off those things that you have been meaning to get done but have been too busy to finish? This also presents a great time for you to clear your to-do list.

Here are some ideas:

  • Do some exercise.
  • Read a book.
  • Learn something new.
  • Call a friend.
  • Get creative (draw, paint, sculpt, create music, write).
  • Do a spring cleaning.
  • Wash the car.
  • Renovate the house.
  • Re-arrange the furniture.
  • Write your shopping list.
  • Water the plants.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Sort out your mail & email.
  • De-clutter (clear out that wardrobe).

3. Enjoy Boredom

If none of the above solutions work, then you can try a different approach. Don’t give in to boredom and instead choose to enjoy it. This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to waste your time being bored. Instead, think of it as your time to relax and re-energize, which will help you be more productive the next time you work.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to be constantly doing things to be productive. In fact, research has shown that people are more productive when they take periods of rest to recharge.[1] Taking breaks once in a while helps boost your performance and can help make you feel more motivated.

So, take some time to relax. You never know, you might even like it.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to overcome boredom may be difficult at the beginning, but it can be easier if you make use of some techniques. You can start with my 3-step strategy on how to overcome boredom and work your way from there. So, ready your mind and make use of these tips, and you will be overcoming boredom in no time.

More Tips on Overcoming Boredom

Featured photo credit: Johnny Cohen via unsplash.com

Reference

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