Jun 24

5 Easy Ways to Get Started with the Mediterranean Diet

By Vickie | Mediterranean Diet

Diet is such a habit isn’t it? An ingrained habit from childhood. Often what we eat and the amount we eat as kids sets us up for our dietary habits over a lifetime.

I remember as a child eating a lot of meat and potatoes: boiled, mashed or roasted. There was meat at almost every meal. Spag bol for lunch, roast chicken for dinner. Home-made sausage rolls for lunch, meatloaf for dinner. Chicken soup for lunch, lamb curry for dinner. Hearty, stodgy and meaty.

You need hearty, stodgy and meaty when you come from Scotland, as my Mum does.

Today, I prefer a lighter, more plant-based diet with lots of fish. I follow the Mediterranean Diet which is brain-healthy. Much better for your body, great for your mind.

Now, changing what you eat may not give you an instant mood booster.

What will make you feel good is the knowledge that by choosing healthier food you are taking better care of your body and mind. This shows you believe that you are actually worthy and deserving of better health, which will counteract those negative thoughts about yourself.

There is also something very exciting about eating food that looks good and tastes good. Fresh coloured fruits and salads. Salmon not only tastes delicious, it’s also great for your brain.

Different colours and textures on the plate are appealing and we begin to feel better even before we’ve started eating. We expect our food to taste good and that we’re going to enjoy it. Eating mindfully adds to the experience and enjoyment.

They say ‘we eat with our eyes first’ and if you can prepare a dish of interesting colours, textures and flavours, that is a real mood booster.

Now, it can be difficult to change your entire diet overnight. Some dieting books recommend you throw out everything in your pantry and fridge and just start again.

I’m not sure how effective that is.

For me, incorporating better food into your diet is something better done gradually and with minimum effort. Like trying to fit more physical activity into your day, find ways to include healthier foods without it seeming an ‘extra’ effort.

Try these simple steps:

  1. Buy 2 apples, 2 bananas and 2 oranges (or choose two of three different fruits you enjoy). Don’t
    http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/fruit-1863189_1920.jpg Mediterranean Diet

    Start to incorporate more fruit and water into your diet.

    buy more than this (unless you’re in the habit of eating fruit regularly). Eat two different fruits each day. Eat one as part of lunch and halve the other so you are eating one half in the morning and the other in the afternoon. For example, half a banana with morning coffee, an apple with lunch, half a banana with afternoon tea. The natural sweetness in the fruit should satisfy you’re sweet cravings. Set yourself up to make this a very simple habit for the next 3 days only.
  2. Replace pasta and rice with canned chickpeas, beans or lentils. So, next time you’re having pasta with bolognaise sauce, leave out the pasta and have lentils instead. Or have half pasta/half lentils. Next time you’re having curry and rice, leave out the rice and add chickpeas to the curry. Beans and lentils are full of protein and fibre and will fill you up without the stodge of carbohydrates.
  3. The only thing you should throw out is any bottles of soft drink (soda); coke, lemonade, fanta, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew etc. Do not replace with bottled juice as these are packed with sugar. It’s time to go back to water but this can be made more appealing with a squeeze of lemon juice. Aim for a few glasses of water each day, or even just one if you’re not in the habit of drinking water.
  4. Have at least one fish meal this week. An oily fish like salmon or tuna is best because it’s
    http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/salmon-1485014_1920.jpg your body

    Salmon not only tastes delicious, it’s also great for your brain.

    packed with Omega 3 fats which are important for brain health. Fresh is best, but snap frozen or tinned fish is fine. Steamed or pan fried with a squeeze of lemon juice and few black olives. Keep it simple.
  5. This week, make yourself an omelette for breakfast. Get up 10 minutes earlier if you have to. Two eggs, a little chopped red onion, tomato, green pepper and feta cheese. Pour the beaten eggs into a fry pan and let cook a little. You can mix the onion, tomato and pepper with a little olive oil and cook in the microwave for 30 seconds then add to one side of the egg. Top with cheese. Fold over the omelette and serve when egg is firm. Delicious, easy and quick. Make it even faster by chopping vegies the night before. A cooked breakfast is sustaining and will help avoid reaching for muffins or doughnuts mid-morning. Eggs are full nutrients which keep your brain healthy.

A healthy diet is important for physical health and also to keep your body and brain working properly. There is also a demonstrated connection between the food we eat and our mood. It is very satisfying to prepare home-cooked meals and this doesn’t mean it has to be time consuming. Simple, nutritious, delicious food is the way to a brighter mood.

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I love the fresh, delicious tastes of Mediterranean cooking.


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Jun 24

Hate Exercise? The Key Is Making It Purposeful

By Vickie | Get Moving

I hate exercise, I really do. Always have, always will.

The idea of going to the gym, pounding away on the treadmill or stationary bike, doing exercises at home and getting all puffed out, I really hate it. It’s uncomfortable, boring and just unpleasant.


Living free of depressive symptoms means doing some kind of regular exercise, or as I like to think of it, regular physical movement. Moving your body often sounds much more doable to me.

Apart from all the wonderful things regular movement will do for your depression, it simply cannot be denied that regular movement has abundant benefits for your physical health generally.

We all really should be moving more, whether we’re experiencing low mood or feeling pretty good.

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Running away from large beasts probably gave our ancestors quite enough exercise!

So, how to incorporate more physical movement into your day without driving yourself mad?

Thousands of years ago we lived as hunter-gatherers. No hunter-gatherer would ever workout or choose to do exercise.

No, because their lifestyle is very active. It would be foolish to throw in an hour at the gym after you’ve already walked 11 kilometres tracking a large animal for dinner, butchering it and dragging the pieces back to camp for the others.

Dr Steven Ilardi (The Depression Cure) suggests that one reason why we sometimes find going to the gym so boring and so hard to get motivated is because there is no obvious purpose to it. No purpose other than keeping fit, that is.

We look at the exercise bike and something inside us says, ‘What a waste of time…I mean, you’re not going anywhere!’ (Ilardi, S, TedTalk).

If you can motivate yourself to go to the gym, go for a swim, go for a jog, great! But so many of us find that motivation hard because it seems like an hour or more out of our day without a direct or immediate result (unlike the effort expended in bringing home dinner).

The trick is to get more purposeful activity into your regular daily routine.

6 Strategies For Getting More Purposeful Movement Into Your Day:

  1. Leave the car at home as often as you can. Walk to the train station or bus stop instead of driving. Shop locally. Walk the kids to school. Get to know your local facilities instead of driving further afield; use the local doctor, dentist, hairdresser, library, fruit shop. Carry your shopping home.
  2. If you must drive, park further from your destination.
  3. An oldie but a goodie, take stairs instead of the elevator wherever possible.
  4. Get up and move about regularly throughout your day. Don’t sit for longer than 20 minutes if possible.
  5. Offer to take your elderly neighbour’s dog for a walk now and then.
  6. Get off the bus or train a station earlier and walk the rest of the way.

There’s plenty of physical activity you can do without leaving your house as well.

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Put the music on and get moving!

  1. Be vigorous with the vacuum cleaner!
  2. Dance with the duster!
  3. Waltz with the mop or boogie with the broom!
  4. Do calf rises while you’re washing up (up and down on your tippy toes).
  5. Do squats while you’re brushing your teeth.
  6. Raking up leaves and other yard work is fabulous exercise. Offer to mow your neighbour’s nature strip or grass, especially if they are frail or elderly.
  7. Take 5 or 10 minutes through your day to go through a series of stretches.
  8. Use canned foods to do arm curls to build your arm muscles.
  9. Do something with your garden. Plan a delightful outdoor space and select appropriate plants, perhaps a water feature and a place to sit. Build it!
  10. Learn how to plant veggies or fruits; fun and very rewarding.
  11. Wash the car and vacuum the inside.
  12. Clear out your garage.

Getting out into the world, out of your head and back into your body, experiencing new things, learning new skills…this will give you physical activity, a sense of pleasure and purpose, a chance to meet new people and expand your social network. These new experiences are what life without chronic low mood is all about!

  1. Join an active group or class. Dance classes are fun, social and you can learn about a new culture if you choose something like Greek circle dancing, Spanish flamenco or Indian dan
  2. Join a walking group which heads into beautiful natural environments once or twice a month
  3. Join an environmental group taking care of your local park, river or reserve.
  4. Go camping or hiking, canoeing or horse-riding.
  5. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or chance; horse riding, rock climbing, tennis, golf or archery, ballet or gymnastics! It’s never too late!
  6. Go on a farm holiday with the kids…lots of great new activities like feeding the chickens, moving the animals, milking cows and other fun tasks to get you moving.
  7. Some animal shelters will take volunteers to walk the dogs, clean their kennels and feed.

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May 25

Depression Means You’re Human

By Vickie | Uncategorised

How are you feeling today?

I’m guessing you’re not feeling as great as you’d like to.

I’m guessing the joy has gone out of life. You’ve lost your bliss, your motivation, even your sense of purpose?

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Sometimes it may feel like there is no hope…

It’s a truly horrible way to live and I know how it feels. I also know you want more from life and so…I’m really glad you’ve found me and decided to come on a journey to a more rewarding and joyful future.

Any journey, as they say, begins with a single step and today you’ve taken that first step. Good on you!

You are courageous.

So I want you to feel good about doing that.

But I know you can feel so much better and I know you want that too.

Depression or chronic low mood steals the colour from your life.

Perhaps you struggle with low energy, every day yet another mammoth effort?

Perhaps you find it hard to sleep, tossing and turning through the wee small hours as you replay over and over some hurtful event or conversation, some worry about the future or regret about the past?

Maybe you’re overeating, or can’t be bothered eating much at all?

Are you finding it hard to concentrate, make decisions or remember things ?

Have you given up regular physical activity because the tank is drained and empty?

Do you look for excuses not to see friends or catch up with loved ones because the thought of getting ready, heading out and sitting among happy people will bring on a bout of something close to culture shock?

Living with chronic low mood is like trying to get through your day wearing a deep sea diving suit.

Are you crying more, experiencing strange aches and pains or just feel like your head weighs a tonne?

Do you look back and wonder where all your dreams went? Click To Tweet Has all the fun gone out of life? Do you look back to that younger you and wonder who she was and where she went?

Have you been experiencing these feelings for years and years and years?

I did.

The doctor suggested I might be depressed. Well, maybe she wanted to call it that, but I wasn’t sick. I didn’t identify with having an illness.

But I certainly didn’t feel OK. I knew something was wrong. I was struggling to get up the morning, take regular showers and change my clothes, my home was a complete mess and I didn’t have the energy to deal with any of it.

My brain was full of fog.  I couldn’t remember things, think clearly or make good decisions.

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Depression steals the colour from your life.

For 21 years I struggled with this profound sadness, dissatisfaction with life and with myself. I had a growing sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

These feelings became entrenched in my thinking; negative thoughts about my self-worth and life’s potential swallowed up my ability to see any brightness in my future.

Those feelings are entirely human. They’re unpleasant, sure, and unwanted. They feel very very wrong. But are they evidence of sickness?

We all experience sadness, even overwhelming sadness, regret, disappointment, a sense of failure, dissatisfaction and frustration at times, even for long periods, in our lives.

  • It would be strange if we didn’t feel stress at different times in our life.
  • It would be strange if we didn’t feel grief at losing a loved one.
  • It would be strange if we didn’t feel disappointment and anger at losing a job or failing an exam.
  • It would be strange if we didn’t feel dissatisfied in a job which conflicts with our values.
  • It would be strange if we didn’t feel boredom if life appears to be taking us nowhere.

Chronic low mood is a signal that something is out of whack and needs to be investigated.

Depression originates in how we respond to stress; life today is full of stress. Money pressures, work pressures, relationships, physical ill-health, loss of loved ones, loss of dreams…

Sometimes it feels like we are crumbling under the weight of our emotions…

Stress leads to overwhelming low mood and despondency which can feel never-ending and may lead us to ask, ‘What’s gone so wrong that I feel so bad? Will I always feel this bad?’

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/people-850949_1920.jpg depression means you're humanWe may even tell ourselves we deserve these unhappy circumstances, that we don’t deserve a rewarding, pleasurable life, that we only have ourselves to blame because we are weak, stupid, lazy or good-for-nothing.

Some of us experience these feelings more intensely than others; some of us are more resilient against these feelings than others.

But having these feelings doesn’t mean you’re sick.

It means you’re human.





May 15

Depressed? Get Connected!

By Vickie | Build Social Connection

Humans are connected beings. Actually, we’re hard-wired for it. Connection, co-operation, community…we need each other if we’re to maintain good health.

In the Middle East, the desert dwellers or Bedouin have an unspoken law which says that a traveller may seek refuge in a stranger’s camp for three days before the host can ask him who he is or where he is going. The Arabic phrase ahlan was sahlan, which is roughly translated as ‘welcome’ and is usually meant in that way, actually means ‘you have come to your family and flat or smooth ground’. In other words, the host says to the traveller that he is welcome as though with his own family and that his way is easy to traverse. 

It’s not easy being alone in the desert.

And it’s not easy being alone when you’re struggling with stress and an ongoing low mood.

Do you consider yourself an introvert? I am. I have no problem at all with spending hours, even days on my own. But I do have to be careful that it doesn’t become a problem.

Sometimes we confuse our personality style – introverted and extroverted – with a need for human contact. Changing your thinking about your personality style and getting engaged with your social network – even on a very small scale – is essential for a healthy mood. We all need to feel connected to other people, whether you consider yourself introverted or extroverted.

The difference is that introverts find extended periods of time with people, events involving a lot of

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In fine weather, get some friends together, jump on your bike, ride to a beautiful place and enjoy a nice picnic and being with your friends!

people or other stimulus (eg concerts or parties) and stimulating environments (eg busy workplaces, being in the city) exhausting, which extroverts thrive on exciting environments and crowds.

This is not to say that introverts can’t be in crowded environments, but that they are not refreshing or energising the way they are for extroverts.

Nonetheless, even introverts need to be connected to other human beings, but that is more likely to take the form of quiet gatherings of a small number of people.

So we all need to develop and maintain connections with others. Relationships with friends and loved ones need to be nurtured, work colleagues may become friends, we look out for our neighbours and join others in the community to work on causes and projects that are meaningful to us.

Being alone in the world is not healthy and it’s important to maintain a good mood to have some kind of human contact regularly, if not every day. This keeps us looking outward and being part of something bigger than ourselves. This gives us the chance to be looked after and to care for others.

Caring for others makes us feel needed; we are needed by others – people and causes – to make the world a better place. Changing your thinking about the need for social connection and making it a priority will help you on your journey to a depression free future – a journey you shouldn’t be making on your own.

Here Are My Tips TO Keep You Engaged With Others:

Every day:

Make sure you leave your house once each day.

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Even a friendly smile and a wave will make us feel connected to others.

Go for a walk, do your grocery shopping, head for the library, go to work.

During this outing, ensure that you smile (and wave) at two or three people and say hello to or stop for a brief chat at least once, more if possible.

This might include smiling and waving at your neighbour, saying hello to the bus driver and thanking her or him when you reach your stop, asking the checkout person how their day has been and meaning it, smiling at the librarian as you ask where a book is.

Anything to have a short human interaction. This interaction might last 1 to about 5 minutes.

Every week:

Use your diary and line up one phone call to a friend, one coffee date with another friend or cousin, sibling or even your Mum ad one other activity that puts you in contact with people for at least one hour. This sounds like a lot if you have been hiding yourself away at home but it might look like this:

Monday night, phone your Mum, Grandpa, aunty, bestie, cousin and see how he/she is, chat for 20 minutes. 

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Get a nice diary and use it to set social occasions.

Wednesday night, spin class, yoga class, dance class, book group, French class, cooking class, photography club, environmental protection group etc. At least one hour interacting with other people over a shared interest.

Saturday morning: walk in the park or gym session with your friend, coffee after.

This interaction should last from 20 minutes to an hour or so.

Every month:

Use your diary and organise one larger gathering of friends or family.

It could be dinner in a nice restaurant, dinner at your place, a backyard BBQ, a picnic in the park. It needs to include food and a group of at least four people including yourself. You don’t need to actually cook the food or organise the gathering. Get on the phone and suggest it to one friend who then helps out with the work or the inviting of others.

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Yoga on the beach…outdoors, movement, other people: perfect!

The point is that this should be a larger gathering than you would normally meet with for a hour or two over coffee. This gathering should last for several hours and preferably include some other kind of activity like a walk, a game of cricket or football, flying a kite, riding a bike, or other physical game. If that is not possible, at least dinner at a nice restaurant or at your place or a friend’s place.

Alternatively, you might find a local history society, hiking group, photography club or cooking class that has activities that last a morning, or an afternoon or an entire day. Picking up your neglected camera and joining others on a 3-hour outdoor photography session is a great way to get some longer interaction.

Join a group of others and enjoy a new hobby or rekindle a new one. Get out of your head and your thoughts and be creative!

Or perhaps there’s a local volunteer centre where you can find out about volunteer opportunities. Maybe there’s a community music festival coming up which needs volunteer organisers, or a local school fete which needs someone on the sausage sizzle or bric a brac stall. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, second hand clothing shop or other charitable organisation.

The point is to be outward looking, out of your head and out of your worries by offering what you can to others.

This interaction should last for 2 to 3 hours.

Staying Connected is a Proven Mood-Booster

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Celebrate life with family and friends! Do it often.

Get into the habit of scheduling contact on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We need to be around each other, supporting and being supported by our friends and loved ones. We need to know we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our own small lives.

Be actively interested in your friends’ lives, help out your neighbours, get involved in your local community.

You’ll find your mood brighten; and I wonder whose day you’ll make just that little bit more special?





May 12

Depressed? Changing Your Thinking and Living Your Values Is Key

By Vickie | Build Social Connection

Making healthy lifestyle changes – diet, exercise and sleep – will inevitably mean changing your thinking patterns, friendships and relationships and values. 

Dealing with Negative Thinking

My favourite way of dealing with negative thinking is Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT.

I use tapping whenever I feel upset, out of sorts, down on myself, angry, overwhelmed, irritated with myself or others, stressed or any other negative emotion.

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Do negative emotions keep you awake at night?

Just taking ten minutes and tapping on the emotion seems to reduce it and calm me down. When depressed one of the most important things is to relax and switch off that stress response in the body. Calming yourself will help with changing your thinking about a situation and allow you to find solutions rather than just more conflict.

It seems a bit woohoo and I don’t know how it works and frankly, I don’t care. Opening your mind and changing your thinking about techniques you’ve avoided in the past might just be an important step in your depression recovery.

EFT is easy to learn and very effective, though the reason why is not clearly understood. It may simply be a distraction from the emotions being experienced. It has worked for me on numerous emotional issues and is by far my favourite instant calming technique. The advantages are that EFT is free, can be applied to yourself, can be applied anywhere anytime for instant relief, takes minimal training, is painless and totally without side effects.

Unlike anti-depressant medication….

There are two parts to using EFT.

  1. The ‘set up’ phase:

In this phase you state your feelings out loud, while tapping on the outside of your hand, the part that you use if you were to do a karate chop on a brick. This is called, imaginatively, the ‘karate chop point’.

While tapping this point with the fingers of your other hand, you simply state your emotions, while at the same time accepting them as being all right in that moment. You say this three times.

It might go something like this:

“Even though I am really, really angry at my brother….I totally accept this anger”.

“Even though what he did makes me so mad! How dare he? I just can’t believe he would do that and I’m so angry…I totally accept my feelings”.

“Even though I can’t believe my brother would do a thing like that make me so angry, I deeply and completely accept my feelings”.

It’s important to accept your feelings because the opposite would be to squash them down and deny them. The fact is you’re feeling angry at something your brother did, don’t try to push those feelings away, just accept you feel angry and through the EFT, the level of anger or distress you feel will decrease. Then you’ll be in a better, calmer state of mind to deal with the situation itself.

2.Tap the various points on the face and upper body

Use two or three fingers to tap (firmly but gently) five or six times (the number doesn’t matter) on each of the places shown on the chart below. While you are tapping, repeat out loud the emotional issue. It may seem strange to be focusing on what is bothering you, but there is something about tapping which seems to relieve the emotional sting.

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Chart showing tapping points on face and upper body.

You might say something like:

Eyebrow point: I’m so frustrated because I can’t sleep

Side of Eye: I just want to fall asleep, but I can’t

Under Eye: I hate it when I can’t fall asleep

Under Nose: I’m so frustrated that I can’t switch off my thoughts

Chin: All these thoughts, all these worries, why can’t I stop?

Collar bone: Perhaps I can choose to relax a little now

Under the arm: I can worry about these things tomorrow.

Top of Head: I’m going to allow myself to relax and fall asleep now.

You begin by stating the problem and then suggesting a solution. Keep going around and around the tapping points until you feel you’ve said all that you want to say about the problem, then introduce a very simple solution (it could be just choosing not to have that emotion right now). You may find yourself sighing or yawning as you go around the tapping spots. I find I yawn then I’m changing my thing around issue and beginning to let it go.



Where’s the Evidence that Any of This Works?

So far we’ve discussed how you can more exercise in your day and more nutritious food into your diet. We’ve looked at how better sleep and social connection can lift a low mood. We looked at how you can be aware of your thinking, especially negative thinking styles. Finally, we’ve found a way to reconnect with activities that made you feel better in the past.

But does any of this actually work?

Is getting more exercise proven to help lift a chronic low mood? Is it scientifically-proven that socialising helps you feel better? Is there research that shows a really connection between brain health and eating healthier food? How are your thinking patterns related to depression?

More importantly, how is the effect of all these habits and activities found in the brain?

Well, read my next post to find out!

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Get connected, change your thinking and lifestyle and the world is your oyster!