The mind and body are not separate. What affects one, affects the other.
Positive health can be characterised not only as a long and disease‐free life but also less frequent ailments, ability to recuperate, and more physiological reserves. From the growing research, we know that positive psychology characteristics, such as experiencing positive emotions, high levels of optimism, emotional regulation, having a life purpose, positive social relationships, and spirituality, promote positive health and longevity. To integrate positive lifestyle behaviours for the long‐term requires a lifestyle change.
As we spotlight in Chapter 1, our mental health protective factors that encourage positive outcomes include lifestyle factors of good nutrition, adequate physical exercise, good‐quality sleep, and the avoidance of drugs and smoking. And in this chapter, the ‘L’ of the PERLE Resilience Model, our lifestyle, is the focus. We start by exploring how, as dental professionals, we can integrate the key findings from lifestyle medicine to build greater resilience.
Nourish by Eating Well
Food is a fuel not just for the body, but also the mind. There is growing evidence that nutrition has links to well‐being and optimal functioning. Greater levels of well‐being were reported in individuals who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (Rees et al. 2019). The food we eat impacts how we think and behave. See Table 9.1 for mood‐boosting vitamins and minerals that can help our physical well‐being as well as our psychological wellness.
Table 9.1 Mood‐boosting vitamins and minerals.
|Vitamin/mineral||Food||Benefits on mood|
|Vitamin C||Oranges, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, sweet potato, broccoli, peppers||A well‐known antioxidant that is involved in anxiety, stress, depression, fatigue, and mood state in humans. Vitamin C converts tryptophan, an amino acid present in the animal proteins in the diet, into serotonin, a hormone responsible for regulating mood.|
|Vitamin D||Oily fish, red meat, egg yolks||May play an important role in emotional regulation and warding off depression. In one Norwegian study, researchers reported that participants with depression who received vitamin D supplements improved in their symptoms (Jorde et al. 2008).|
|Vitamin B12||Meat, milk, cheese, salmon, cod, eggs||Plays a vital role in synthesising and metabolising serotonin.|
|Iron||Red meat, lentils, dark leafy vegetables||Low levels of iron cause less oxygen to get to our cells, keeping them from functioning properly and often leading to lethargy, weakness, anxiety, and depression.|
|Folic acid||Green vegetables, oranges and citrus fruits, beans||Helps the body create new cells and supports serotonin regulation.|
|Omega 3||Oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon||Emerging as effective for mood disorders ranging from major depression and postpartum depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.|
|Selenium||Brazil nuts, fish, meat, eggs||Elevates mood and decreases anxiety by raising neurotransmitter levels.|
|Zinc||Meat, milk, shellfish, bread, cheese||Involved in synthetising serotonin and dopamine.|
Gut Health and Well‐Being
Did you know that keeping your gut healthy may aid in keeping your brain healthy as well? Recently medical literature is increasingly shining a light on the important relationship between our brain and a gut microbiome (microorganisms). Eating poorly may affect the brain through causing symptoms that are similar to anxiety (Messaoudi et al. 2011a, 2011b; Hilimire et al. 2015), depression (Akkasheh et al., 2016), autism, and Parkinson’s disease. It does this through preventing us from getting key nutrients to keep healthy. Additionally, a poor diet may damage the composition of the gut microbiome and cause an inability to properly break down nutrients. Stress also greatly contributes here – and the more stressed we are, the more damage we may cause to the gut microbiome. Contrastingly, eating well contributes to creating a healthy gut, full of diverse gut microbiome. We are more likely to get sick less often, be more productive, and have greater emotional well‐being.
As with all our body systems, a combination of a diet rich in gut‐friendly foods, stress management – for example, regular mindfulness practice and physical exercise – as well as targeted supplements may all aid in creating a gut and brain that are healthy. With regards to positive nutrition, consider increasing the gut‐healthy foods in Figure 9.1 on a regular basis.
Mindful eating is a type of informal mindfulness practice that we can easily incorporate into our working days. Mindless eating involves eating and multitasking or eating past full and ignoring our body’s signals. Mindful eating, however, encourages us to slow down to notice the experience of eating.
Replenish with Exercise
Increasing movement has been long linked to psychological well‐being, with research highlighting decreases in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and loneliness with physical exercise (Hyde et al. 2013). Despite the many reported benefits, it can be difficult as a busy dental professional to integrate more movement in our daily lives.
Mindfulness can be used in exercise to encourage taking up physical exercise and maintaining a positive lifestyle habit. Researchers Ulmer et al. (2010) examined the use of mindfulness in exercise and reported that participants who maintained a longer duration of exercise scored higher on mindfulness and acceptance measures. In the next sections, we explore how we can use mindfulness principles to boost our levels of movement.
We can practise mindful walking, where we slow down and notice how our feet feel against the ground and our surroundings with presence. Taking mindful walks encourages a range of positive emotions that boost our resilience, such as awe, curiosity, zest, and self‐compassion.