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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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