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2 Major Flaws in Your Diet That Cause Stress and Anxiety

2 Major Flaws in Your Diet That Cause Stress and Anxiety

How are you today?

‘Bit stressed out at the moment’

‘Not too bad, really tired though’

‘Feeling a bit spaced out today’

‘Not with it today’

‘Can’t seem it concentrate’

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‘I’m knackered’

Sound familiar? So often when I ask how someone is, I get these sort of responses. Often the main reason for this is the high level of stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) in our bodies. It’s a big problem because it’s stopping us from fully enjoying our lives.

What’s frustrating is your modern diet and eating patterns are probably one of the root causes for these high levels of stress hormones. It’s frustrating because it could be easily avoided.

I’m Going to let You into a Little Secret…

Before you think I’m having a go at you, I’m not at all, it’s not your fault. There’s a lot of confusing information out there and misleading marketing…

‘Carbohydrates are bad for you’ ‘But I have always been told they are our main energy source?’

‘Fats are good for you, eat more fat.’ ‘But wait, I was always told fats were bad?’

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‘You’re eating too much protein and dairy.’

Confusing right?

I’m going to let you into a secret. Come a little closer so you can hear me clearly…

It’s all a load of rubbish.

This is all misinformation that shouldn’t be taken at face value, and doesn’t take into account the individual. This is all created by money-hungry companies that don’t care about your health. They are just trying to confuse and scare you into buying a product!

Let’s shed some light on the situation…

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The Power 3

We all have what I call the ‘Power 3’ – hormones, neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) and the nervous system. The feelings and symptoms of stress and anxiety are created when one of these or all three are not functioning correctly.

But, the reason I call them the Power 3 is because when they are functioning correctly/optimally they also have the power to empty the body of these stress hormones to the correct level and create that feeling of serenity.

So, why I’m I talking about the Power 3?

Because your modern day diet has two major problems that is causing the Power 3 to not function correctly. Therefore creating those symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Have you ever wondered why you feel stressed and anxious out for no rational reason? It’s because something has triggered a negative response to your Power 3.

These two major problems are what I’m going to call ‘Negative Nutritional Triggers’ because they are triggering a negative response to your Power 3.

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The more these negative nutritional triggers creep into your diet, the more your body fills up with stress hormones, therefore inhibiting your Power 3. This can happen quickly or can be a slow build up over time. Either way, the outcome is the same. You get stressed out. You also leave yourself open to other mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

Negative Nutritional Trigger 1 – Modern diets create an energy imbalance throughout the day

This is mainly caused by ups and downs in sugar levels throughout the day. For example, breakfast is too imbalanced. Most people eat a breakfast that is imbalanced and overloaded with refined carbohydrates. This creates an up and down effect on your sugar levels. This increases stress hormones as the body tries to balance out its sugar levels,  therefore putting stress on the Power 3. I’m not for one moment saying carbs are bad, just that imbalanced meals are.

Solution: Eat a balance of fats, protein, carbohydrates and fibre in every meal.

Negative Nutritional Trigger 2- Modern diets create an imbalance of gut bacteria

Often our diet is filled with foods that trigger a negative response to our gut. This is because so many of the foods we eat these days are too high in processed ingredients that are completely unnatural to the body. This imbalances bacteria in the gut and disrupts how well the Power 3 function through something called the gut-brain axis.

Solution: Avoid something I call ‘Negative Trigger Foods’. To start with, just check the label on foods. The more processed the food is, the more it will increase stress.

Motivational Energy

If you are someone who suffers with stress and anxiety, I hope you found this article useful and have some Motivational Energy. “Motivational Energy” is how I describe that small burst of mental clarity you get when you realise what you have to do to get something you want – the light bulb is suddenly switched on. The problem is, Motivational Energy doesn’t last long before the light bulb goes out. So what’s important is what you do right now to put this motivation to good use.

Things like stress, anxiety and depression are on the rise and the problem is getting worse. I believe these ‘Negative Nutritional Triggers’ are a big reason why. They should not be ignored. If you’re feeling a bit stressed or anxious, put your motivational energy to good use, try out the solutions I listed to get yourself started.

Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety, always seek medical advice and talk to a doctor. These things are nothing to ashamed of. If you found this useful please like and share, as it might help someone else going through the same thing. We can beat things like stress and anxiety together.

More by this author

Ben Jones

Fitness Coordinator

We Feel Empty Because Our Bodies Aren’t Evolved to Cope With the Current Lifestyle How Not to Let Negative Thoughts Trump the Positive Vibes The 20-Minute Morning Routine That Relieves Anxiety The 10-Minute Daily “Lifestyle Trigger” That Relieves Anxiety and Depression 2 Major Flaws in Your Diet That Cause Stress and Anxiety

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

1. Performing Arts

One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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2. Visual Art

Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

3. Zone Out

If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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4. Practice Mindfulness

The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

Final Thoughts

So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

More Tips on Boosting Creativity

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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