As part of my therapy, my psychiatrist and I, aside from the fundamentals of CBT/ERP therapy, have been working on identifying lifestyle factors which may be exacerbating my OCD and Depression, by negatively impacting things, such as, my general mood, energy levels, brain health, sleep cycle, etc.
I have found this holistic approach, to be quite beneficial so far. Small changes, on their own, can often seem pointless, and unlikely to have much in the way of a positive impact. Yet, I have found, that these small changes, really can make a big difference, in their own right, and even more so when you add them all together. I guess, in the unexpectedly wise words of a certain supermarket’s slogan, “every little helps”.
I intend to document each of the individual changes I have made, here, in my Therapy Diary, over the next few weeks, starting today, and starting with diet.
According to my psychiatrist, studies have shown that there is a strong link between “good gut health” and “good brain health”. In order to promote “good gut health”, it is advised to eat lots of vegetables, of as many varieties as possible, and foods containing, “light bacteria”, such as yogurts, unpasteurised cheeses, and any breads made with sour dough. Conversely, foods that are processed, and contain lots of excess sugar, and fat, such as crisps, chocolate, sweets, biscuits etc, have been shown to negatively affect mood, and as such are to be avoided.
“But Doctor, surely we all deserve a treat in our lives?” You are probably thinking at this point, and I most certainly asked, when faced with the prospect of eliminating all treats from my diet. Thankfully, dark chocolate (ideally containing 85-100% cocoa – I am currently using 70% cocoa and trying to work my way up into the recommended bracket), is allowed to remain on the menu. I say “remain”, however in my case it has been added, in place of milk chocolate.
At first, it really does seem a “bitter sweet deal”, as you forgo a lot of the little pleasures you are accustomed to; however, for me, the benefits, in terms of improved mood, far outweigh the loss of such foodstuffs. The lift such treats give us is transient, you feel good initially, however it is never long before you feel lousy. I would often feel guilty, bloated, sluggish, and to be honest, a little dirty. Having nixed them from my diet, I feel significantly better in both body and mind. Also, I am really enjoying the dark chocolate, and provided I eat only a small amount after dinner (between 2-4 squares at the minute), I feel none of the aforementioned negative feelings I would have, having eaten milk chocolate, or sweets etc. So ultimately, I guess really, it’s a “sweet deal”, nothing bitter about it! Well, other than the dark chocolate, in taste only, that is.
Have I slipped up since making these changes? Of course I have! Did I expect I wouldn’t? Of course not! Do I expect I will slip up again? Of course I do! However, knowing that studies have shown that such changes, can, improve mood, and having experienced such improvements first hand, it is something I intend to stick to, to the best of my ability. After all, looking after my mental health is a priority.