Category Archives for "Mediterranean Diet"

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 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 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. lifestyle change

I love the fresh, delicious tastes of Mediterranean cooking.

Save get enough sleep
May 12

Stop Rumination and Get Enough Sleep

By Vickie | Get Moving , Mediterranean Diet , Sleep Better

Is depression something you feel you can take control of?

Did you know that what you eat, how much you move and whether you get enough sleep can all affect your mood? In these three posts I’ll show you how making simple changes in these three areas can really help you feel better.

If you’ve been taking medication and believe that depression is a physical illness with an external cause, then you may find it hard to believe that your well-being is actually in your hands.

Thinking about moods, feelings and emotions as natural, rather than abnormal, may help you get treatment and feel better. That treatment may be self-sought and self-applied. That treatment might be to do more exercise and enjoy a better diet, include more social occasions and increase connectedness, get enough sleep and pursue more meaningful life. Get out of your head and into your body.

But you won’t do those things if you believe your moods are caused by something you can’t control.

What would be the point? You can’t make yourself produce more insulin if you’re diabetic no matter how hard you try. Same with an underactive thyroid. You can’t force your body produce more thyroxine. You have to take this in artificially.

The fact that some activities make you feel less down shows that you can produce, by setting your mind to it, the kinds of neurotransmitters which are involved in good feelings. This you cannot do with diabetes or thyroid malfunction. But you can with low mood.

This should be empowering. This means your health is in your hands. And in your body.

It does not mean, however, that your chronic low mood is your fault.

No, because we all do the best we can with the resources, knowledge and information we have at the time.

So what if your decision wasn’t the best one you could have made? You did your best at the time. You can change and choose to do better next time. Be kind to yourself.

Isn’t that empowering? Does that make you feel different about depression? That you could grow and learn to react differently and improve your knowledge and information and responses?

I guess if there is a ‘gift’ in depression it’s the opportunity for self-growth.

This post covers the first of the most important things you need to lift your mood and think more positively about the future: Sleep.

Sunshine and Sleep

Nobody operates well on less than the optimal amount of sleep. It’s the worst feeling, being sleep deprived. Many people experience poor sleep, insufficient sleep and move through their days in less than ideal form. The longer we go without adequate sleep, the worse we feel and it quickly becomes a downward cycle of misery.

Not getting good sleep is a characteristic of depression.

One of the things which interferes most with a good night’s sleep is rumination. your body

Are you sleeping like a baby? Waking up every for hours crying?

Rumination is thinking things over and over and over, without reaching any conclusions or solutions. When we are depressed we often ruminate over our lives, our depressive symptoms, our hopeless future. We also go over conversations or incidents that occurred that day.

It’s very hard to go to sleep and stay asleep when our mind is churning over like a never ending factory machine.



How to turning off the rumination machine:

  1. In another room (not your bedroom), take a notebook or piece of paper and a pen and make notes about the things that are worrying you. Do not use whole sentences. Use bullet points and make brief notes about the people, situations, health or financial issues that you are facing. It might look like this:
  • Ask Dave (my manager) for a day off next week so I can visit my aunt who is very ill
  • Stop eating so much chocolate and cake: I must lose weight before Jenny’s wedding!
  • Start saving more money
  • See the doctor about that pain in my leg
  • Try not to be so nervous in meetings

2. Now that you have your list, note down one or two things you can do to solve each problem. For example:

  • Ask Dave (my manager) for a day off next week so I can visit my aunt who is very ill – I’ll ask him directly after our team meeting tomorrow morning
  • Stop eating so much chocolate and cake: I must lose weight before Jenny’s wedding! – After work tomorrow, go to the supermarket and buy some salad vegetables.
  • Start saving more money – Ring the cable company and cancel that TV subscription. I never use it anyway.
  • See the doctor about that pain in my leg – Ring Dr Roberts tomorrow in my lunch break

Try not to be so nervous in meetings – just take a few breaths before the meeting starts and go into the room with a smile on my face.

3. Now you have listed your main worries and provided a simple course of action. Close the notebook and put it away.

4. When you are lying in the dark, if your mind starts up with all your worries, say to yourself,

“I’ve thought about that problem and I’ve already come up with a solution. I’ve written down everything I need to do. I won’t forget. I don’t need to think about that problem any more. If I need to, I can think about it more tomorrow. Giving myself permission to switch off and go to sleep now”.

Like any new habit, this will take some practice. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find your mind going around and around. It probably will!

Just return to the thoughts above, “I don’t need to think about this now. I’ve already come up with the solution. Giving myself permission to switch off and go to sleep now”.

5. If you continue to worry and think about a particular problem, sit up in bed, or better yet, leave your bedroom and do a couple of EFT tapping rounds on that problem. Tapping on your body distracts your mind from thoughts. Don’t turn the main, bright light on! Use a torch or dim light. Then take a deep breath, go back to bed, relax and let yourself drift off to sleep. your body

Enjoy your early morning coffee in the sun and reset your body clock.

When you wake in the morning, reset your body clock by getting early morning sunshine. Within an hour of waking, step outside and stand in the sunlight for 15 minutes. Don’t wear sunglasses and don’t look at the sun. The corners of your eyes have very sensitive light conductors that connect with your brain. These tell your body it’s time to wake up and will assist with the production of melatonin when the sun goes down and it’s time to rest. It’s important to reset your body clock to ensure regular circadian rhythms.



The next post discusses how getting enough exercise will help you get enough sleep and eliminate depression from your life.








May 11

Lifestyle Change For Depression Recovery

By Vickie | Get Moving , Mediterranean Diet , Sleep Better

Lifestyle change is the key to living free from

chronic low mood.

When I understood that the crushing sense of sadness, frustration and disappointment I had experienced for so long was a result of stress caused by an unbalanced lifestyle, I set about putting the imbalance to rights.

I looked at each area of my life and made a decision about how I could make things better. After I had my moment of anger about the depression returning I set about finding solutions that were based in lifestyle change.

This is what I came up with:

How I got more active

It was clear from my reading that doing regular exercise is a wonderful anti-depressant and this put me in a quandary because I loathe exercise. This was one lifestyle change I was going to find difficult.

It’s not that I don’t like moving; I don’t mind walking and I used to ride a bike regularly in China, but I hate the idea of just walking on a treadmill, or a stationary bike, or lifting weights or even playing sport (I’m so unco-ordinated). Dr Ilardi suggests that we find it difficult going to the gym because we take a look at the stationary bikes, for example, and our brain says ‘Nooo, don’t get on…you’re not going anywhere!’¹

It seems that for the unmotivated, like me, exercise is done better with a sense of purpose and not just the purpose of fitness, even mental health. For me, exercise has to be linked to something useful or productive. So I had to incorporate my exercise into my everyday life.

However, while I was living in northern China, so much of the year is bitterly cold that it’s difficult to do outdoor exercise. So I joined a gym. I used the weight machines and treadmills but after that I did something fun; I took a dance class, salsa or Mongolian dancing. I made the ‘boring’ workout more interesting by taking upbeat music or an interesting podcast, but what I was looking forward to was the dancing. lifestyle change

Walking in the park…get some sunshine, some fresh air and a much brighter mood!

Home in Melbourne, it was interesting how I began to slip back into my old ways, taking the car most places and being busy at work, not taking time to exercise after work. As the effect of not doing regular exercise became noticeable again in my mood, I was determined not to be so sedentary. I had to make this lifestyle change to resist the increasingly low mood.

I couldn’t think of anything worse than being stuck inside a gym, so I bought some tiny second-hand weights and walked in the park a few times each week.

The more I walked the better I felt and I began to incorporate more walking into my everyday life, leaving the car at home and using local facilities.

How I ate better:

When I was low in mood, I ate a lot of stodge; bread, pasta and rice.

I mostly did this because I didn’t have much money and meals were often pasta with tomatoes or commercially made paste, macaroni and cheese, rice with chicken in curry sauce out of a jar, or sausages and onion gravy.

I grew up understanding that a balanced diet is important and tried to eat fruit each week, but somehow the depression left me craving carbohydrate laden foods, and the sugar! Oh, I ate chocolate, cake and doughnuts often. I also ate a lot of fast food when I just couldn’t be bothered cooking.

Back then I really didn’t understand the connection between mood and food and that the foods I was choosing and the meals I was creating may have been keeping my mood depressed.

When I went to China, I knew I had to start eating better. I had to make a dietary lifestyle change. I was in a new country with a new start in life. I was determined to do things differently and set about finding sources of food that would sustain my health.

Next to the campus where I was teaching was a small collection of shops and I discovered a tiny fruit and vegetable shop owned by a smiley lady. Her shop was dark and the fruit and vegetables were stacked untidily around the walls. I choose carrots and beans, tomatoes and eggplants, onions and garlic, apples and watermelon. Other fruits and vegetables were obtained from the huge supermarkets in town.

My only concern was getting enough protein. Chinese butchers tend to sell the whole animal (it seems) and I’m no good at home-butchering. With no language skills I found myself having to make do with canteen meals containing meat and cooking vegetarian. In time I found a meat counter at one of the bigger supermarkets where I could use hand gestures to show I wanted a small portion of beef, for example (and some fatty minced pork for the various dogs I was forever adopting).

I also found tinned tuna, eggs and yoghurt, so that covered some of my protein and calcium requirements.

By the time I got back to Australia, I was eating a low-meat, high vegetable diet, though I still chose pasta and rice with most meals. Yes, changing my diet was an easy lifestyle change to make.

One thing I really missed in China was fresh herbs and spices to add flavour to my cooking. I had Chinese flavourings, sure, but I really missed fresh basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley and chives as well as spices.

When I moved from northern China to a city more centrally located, Xian, I had access to a wider variety of foods and I even found fresh basil. It was a bit wilted but I snapped it up with glee. It was the only time I found it; that supermarket had always run out whenever I returned. I adore the smell of basil; it transports me to exotic countries where the days are mellow and the sun is hot. China was fascinating, but my heart lies further west, around the Mediterranean. lifestyle change

I love the fresh, delicious tastes of Mediterranean cooking.

When I returned to Melbourne from China I started my new teaching job at the university. It was busy and there was much to think about. I was trying to get my head around the curriculum, plan lessons, attend meeting and do assessments; things that were never needed in China because as a foreign English teacher, all these requirements were left up to me.

I began to feel the stress of the job mounting up and my mood dipping again.

I started to buy comfort foods on the way to or from work. Stopping in a fast food restaurant for a sausage and egg breakfast burger seemed a treat which sweetened the start of the work day. Going home, tired out and unhappy, I’d stop for a Chinese take away so I didn’t have to cook.

I heard my mother’s voice in my ear, ‘Carrots make you see well in the dark’ and ‘Fish is good for the brain’ and I knew my health would suffer if I continued down this path to my old, depressed ways of eating.

Somewhere I heard about the Mediterranean Diet and set about reading more.

The more I discovered, the more excited I became. Not only does the Mediterranean Diet have significant health advantages, it’s emphasis on fish and plant based foods is also very important for brain health. Not only that, the recipes just looked delicious.

I read further and knew that the Mediterranean Diet would be a perfect fit and an easy lifestyle change to make with its simple combinations of foods and flavours. Some meals could be frozen for convenience, but the added bonus from doing more cooking was that I was feeling like I was really taking care of myself and preparing meals was very satisfying, an accomplishment whereas before cooking and eating was more of a chore and definitely didn’t make me feel very good.

In the past I was focussed on just not being hungry and buying cheap, filling foods that were not enjoyable to prepare and even less enjoyable to eat.

Now, I was loving the preparation of the food, absolutely delighted by the look of the dishes with their bright colours and textures and loving eating the new, fresh flavours. My mood was definitely improving as a result of this important, dietary lifestyle change.

How I started sleeping better

My major stressors have always been work and where I’ve noticed the effect the most is in my sleep patterns.

Trying to build a business with seriously low mood is a recipe for disaster and I spent every evening dreading the long night time hours when I’d like awake, staring at the walls, tears often coursing down my face.

When I closed the business and retrained as an English teacher, that source of stress evaporated. I felt confident teaching in China, but when I returned to Australia, I found the teaching much more difficult and I slowly felt the stress creeping back.

As my stress around work increased, I got less and less sleep. My thoughts whirled around in my head. I had a particularly difficult class, with younger students who were disruptive in class, low motivation and poor participation.

Despite loving teaching in China, I began to wonder why on earth I had chosen to teach English as a second language. I had envisaged a class of adults, who were all keen to learn, who were courteous and determined. Instead, I had older teens (an age group I know nothing about) who were learning English under duress, were surly, bored and aggressive.

I went to bed each night dreading the next day. I found myself more and more weepy and unable to turn off the thoughts that invaded my mind each night when I laid my head on the pillow. I woke groggy and grumpy. Things were not going well for my mood.

My level of exercise had dropped and I was probably not physically tired enough to fall asleep easily. Not only that, but my internal body clock was out of whack. I was sleeping too late and finding it very difficult to wake up in the morning. I wasn’t spending enough outdoors to reset my body clock. lifestyle change

Your brain does important cleaning work while you’re sleeping; make sure you’re getting enough!

It was imperative that I learned to relax more and switch off those thoughts. It was imperative that I made sleeping better a lifestyle change urgently.

I went back to Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a strategy for dealing with troubling thoughts and feelings I had learned many years before. This involves stimulating the traditional Chinese acupuncture points using the fingers instead of needles. Tapping on various parts of the face and upper body while stating emotions out loud clears the negativity held in the body by these emotions. I’m not entirely sure how it works, perhaps it just distracts us from our thoughts.

Each night I wrote out the problems or challenges I had experienced during the day and used this calming practice to soften my feelings about them. Writing out the problems I had had and also planning for the next day, not in detail, just in note form, helped to get those thoughts out of my head.

Then I took a warm shower and used lavender scented soap. I had a hot milk drink and read for about 30 minutes before turning of the light.

Lying in the dark, it did take some effort to shut off the thinking and I used mindfulness (especially of the breath) and relaxation techniques. With practice, these techniques were effective and I found myself dropping off into sleep more easily and remaining asleep during the night.

Getting out in the sunshine while having breakfast or early morning tea or coffee helped reset my body clock and dimming the lights around the house, switching off the computer and television and ensuring my room was cool and dark enough also improved the quality of my sleep. This is a simple lifestyle change that can make all the difference to your mood and daytime functioning.

How I started socialising more

I am a private, introverted person. With the exception of my 20s when I lived in shared houses, I have always lived alone. I enjoy and need time alone.

At university I went to parties or the pub and mostly enjoyed those occasions, but I usually had a sense of discomfort, of not being able to fully participate, of feeling a bit ‘on the outside’. I think this was a lack of confidence. I didn’t feel as witty or attractive as my friends (though they never intentionally made me feel like this; I have lovely friends!); instead I felt rather dull, uninteresting and serious.

I longed for more intimate gatherings in quiet venues with just a few close friends who shared similar interests as I did, without all the stress of going to parties.

As my mood dropped, the idea of meeting up with friends was something I began to dread. I felt terrible about myself and was convinced I’d make terrible company. At work I was around people constantly and I found it draining. When I got home I was greeted warmly by my dog and felt I needed no other companionship than my faithful, non-judgemental furry bear.

Nonetheless, there was something that made me long to share some part of my life with others and I think it was for that reason that I enjoyed the appointments with the psychologist. We had a cup of tea together and chatted about life. I also felt oddly comforted by the occasional visits of the local Seventh Day Adventist lady, Lorraine. Her gentle outreach lifted my mood.

So it was clear that to live without depression, some kind of social interaction was necessary and important.

But how?

This was another lifestyle change I was going to find difficult.

After I lost my job twice in three years I set up my own paralegal consultancy offering immigration advice. I had few clients but had read about the power of networking. In a moment of rare energy I found a local small business networking group in a neighbouring suburb and joined up.

We met weekly in a café for breakfast and to discuss business matters. I usually felt a tremendous sense of trepidation and anxious nervousness before the meetings. After all, I wasn’t a successful businesswoman by any means. Rather, at the beginning I felt a bit of an imposter, a fraud.

Nonetheless, I got myself up and dressed nicely and headed off in the early morning light to our café. The people were very friendly and welcoming and overall I enjoyed these gatherings very much, even if they didn’t contribute greatly to the growth of my business! It helped develop my identity as a business person and was a great lifestyle change, giving me interaction with like-minded small business people.

I also began to think about how much I had enjoyed dance in my life. From daggy jazz ballet classes at school and flamenco lessons in my 20s, I had always enjoyed moving to music. There was always a sense of not being very good at it, of self-consciousness and fear of what others may think, but I enjoyed it enough to go to classes regularly. lifestyle change

There’s something incredibly joyful about dance!

I found a small local salsa class and started to go to the casual classes they offered. It was tiny, only about six of us were there at any given class. This suited me perfectly. I got to know the core group and become comfortable with them, even venturing out to clubs with them sometimes.

Looking back, this gave me many of the things you need for a anti-depressant lifestyle; friends and human contact, exercise and for me it was much more ‘cultural’ and meaningful than bopping about on a nightclub dancefloor where people are mostly showing off. This was a really important lifestyle change as it reconnected me with something I loved.

When invitations to coffee or meals out came from friends I still found myself dreading the approaching date. It took quite a long time for me to feel comfortable with more than a small handful of my very closest friends. I’m not sure why this should be. I know I did compare my life with theirs, my constant career changes with their steady rises up the professional ladder, my material possessions with theirs.

Before I headed off to China I had a small party to say goodbye to my loved ones and that was fun. When in China, it’s impossible to be alone for long (it’s a collectivist society where the group is paramount and your employer treats you like parents, regularly calling you to be involved in various activities including dinners). I made friends with my teaching colleagues, both foreign and Chinese and also with the students. I also got to know people who worked at the gym I attended and who had good English as well as through a book group I joined. My years in China were very social.

Back in Australia, my work kept me interacting with people, but it was my job that started to stress me out and I began to notice my life outside work began to be affected. I longed for the weekend when I could be alone. I started house-sitting for people who were away on their holidays, looking after their dogs and once again canine company was enough for me.

This was the time when I noticed my mood dropping and my thoughts turning more negative and before they could take a hold of me, I realised what was happening and that’s when I began my hunt for a solution, particularly in lifestyle change.

How I started living a more meaningful life

What do I mean by a ‘more meaningful life’? I’m not a philosopher, but what I mean by a ‘more meaningful life’ is one that is satisfying, that is rewarding, that makes you feel good.

My career path has been one of twists and turns. Every eight years or so I come to a cross-roads in my working life and find I need a change for some reason. At times I envy those people who have one set course in life and know what it is from early on. They know from childhood that all they ever wanted to do was be a nurse or a teacher or run their own business. I never had that. All I knew was that I was fascinated by the world, its history, cultures and peoples. lifestyle change

Take time to reflect on your values and what gives meaning to your life.

So I went to university and studied archaeology. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the fact that there are few jobs in archaeology world-wide, let alone in Australia. I was happy in the world of 3000BC. To keep myself alive I temped. In the year I took off in between my third and fourth years I did a reception training course, learned how to type and answer phones, and started temping which stood me in good stead on and off for decades after that. I didn’t enjoy the work, but it wasn’t dreadful either.

By the time I finished my doctorate in archaeology I was so demoralised that I turned away from the field I had so enjoyed and retrained in immigration law.

Wow! Archaeology to immigration law. That’s a bit of a leap, isn’t it? Yes, but in my mind the link is an interest in people and culture.

I got a job where I could hear different languages spoken all around me and engage in cultural traditions and customs from around the world. This was one of the things that had attracted me to archaeology; the fact that I could travel and excavate in fascinating parts of the world. So while it wasn’t life BC, it was still an area that I loved.

But the community sector is poorly funded and for this reason I found myself without work twice in fairly rapid succession and for this reason thought that working for myself might be the solution. Of course I had no business experience and found it extremely difficult and this is when I might have experienced an episode of more severe depression.

When I finally got professional help with my ‘low mood’,  I decided that perhaps I should wind up the business and when my dog died, I knew it was time for a lifestyle change. There I was at another crossroads.

By this stage I thought I was just strange, a person who felt disconnected from the rest of my friends and family who had been in their work for some years, were starting to buy apartments, marry and start families. In contrast, my life looked totally different. In fact I felt I hadn’t really grown up and was still living like a university student.

Heading to China to teach English as a Second Language I felt like this was my last career, the thing I was meant to be doing with my life. I had a wonderful three years in China, developing my skills as a teacher, making friends, visiting fascinating places and recovering my sense of equilibrium. It was as though I had had a clean slate from which to start the rest of my life. I returned to Australia refreshed and ready to start teaching in Melbourne.

I got a job at a university in Melbourne in their English language centre. I felt like a fish out of water. I was still teaching, but the curriculum was set, the exams were prepared for me and the marking rubric used to grade them, I had to work with another teacher and attend meetings, CPD training sessions and basically found myself in way over my head.

I put a smile on my face and got on with the job, but it became clearer as the years went by that I was unhappy and feeling increasing stressed at work for a number of reasons.

I made a decision. I stopped caring about what other people thought of my working life and slowly slid out of the job. I was slowly coming to peace with my lifestyle, the life that society does not usually accept as normal. I began to think of myself as interesting, resilient and adventurous.

Now it’s your turn…

What can you do, today, this moment or this week to start putting your life back in order? What kinds of lifestyle change can you make to live a more fulfilling, enjoyable life?

I’ll let you know right here… lifestyle change


If you have found this post helpful, please share it with Your friends! Thanks for spreading the word!


(1) Ilardi, S, 2010 The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, Da Capo Lifelong Books.


Mar 26

Epicurus, Gardening and Eating with Others: A Recipe for Depression Recovery?

By Vickie | Mediterranean Diet

A few weeks ago I had dinner with good friends. It was the end of summer and the evening was warm and they had set up the dining table outside, in the garden.

To the sound of birds getting ready for bed, evening scents of jasmine and lavender hanging in the air, we dined on lentil salad with tomatoes they had grown themselves, grilled fish with lemon and wonderfully-perfumed basil from their herb garden, stuffed zucchini flowers from the plants which sprawled half-way across the veggie patch and finished up with fruit including figs and apricots, plucked fresh from the tree that afternoon. Epicurus Depression Recovery

Recipe for depression recovery: eat fresh food you’ve grown yourself, preferably outside with friends!

It was a feast!

We had a delightful evening, sitting under the stars in their productive and gorgeous garden, enjoying the fruits (and veggies) of their labour, sharing our news, the funny and perplexing anecdotes of our lives.

And it made me think. It reminded me of Epicurus and his property in Athens which he shared with friends and grew fruits and vegetables which appeared on their dining table.

Epicurus was a philosopher who lived from 341 to 270 BC and died of kidney stones at the age of 72. Like many philosophers, he was concerned with what makes a happy life. He set up a school of philosophy, known as ‘The Garden’ because it met in the garden of his home, which he shared with his friends. It had few students, both men and women, but they were devoted to him and his teachings.

Asclepiades of Bithynia introduced Epicurus’ teachings into medical thought and methods in Rome, where he practiced. He advocated that people with illness be treated in a friendly and sympathetic manner and be given painless treatments. Those with mental disorders were to be treated with compassion and not locked away. He suggested that diet and massage were effective treatments for mental disorders…quite progressive for the day, one imagines.

According to Epicurus, some of the ingredients for a happy life are; eat with others of foods you have grown yourself. Be self-sufficient and surround yourself with friends.

According to Epicurus, some of the ingredients for a happy life are; eat with others of foods you have grown yourself. Click To Tweet

Why would that make us happy?

Growing your own food is very satisfying.  

We are so distanced from the origins of our food. We go to the supermarket and buy things in packets, open them and zap them in the microwave and eat them from plastic trays. Well, sometimes we do. They’re called convenience foods but while they may be convenient, I wonder whether they are actually food.

Oh sure, tinned foods and frozen foods are handy and I can understand why you’d have them in the pantry. I used to have many more than I do now because having adopted the Mediterranean Diet several years ago, I know it actually doesn’t take that long to prepare meals from real, raw foods. After all, people have been doing it all the way back to Epicurus’ time!

But getting back to the origins of our food – hunting and gathering and farming – these are time-consuming tasks but can you imagine the joy of finally eating a juicy steak of whatever it was you caught or sinking your teeth into the first apples of the season?

Do you eat mindfully? I never did, not years ago. I would eat on the run, often in my car, or at my desk. I was already thinking about the next thing I had to do. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what I’d eaten that day.

How sad, when eating is one of the great pleasures of life!

I bet when the wild boar is roasting on the open fire at the hunter’s camp or the chicken is coming out of the oven in the farmer’s kitchen, there is a real sense of anticipation.

Why? Because so much effort has gone into catching or raising that food. Epicurus depression recovery

Build your own herb garden and enjoy the satisfaction of using your own produce in the kitchen.

Growing your own food is very satisfying. It’s satisfying because it’s an accomplishment, it’s rewarding and things that are rewarding make you feel good. ‘These are my carrots’ you say to yourself proudly. ‘I nurtured them through the work of my hands and they’re going to taste fantastic!’

There’s something visceral about connecting with your food. Burying the seed in the earth, watering it, watching and waiting for the seedlings to appear. Watching for rain, nurturing the young plants and finally harvesting. It’s work that connects us with the earth and the food it produces.

It’s slow work, farming. There are no instant results. You have to watch over the plants and the animals, ensuring they get what they need to stay healthy. Weeks or months (sometimes even years) later, the harvest is brought in or the animals are taken to market.

When you’re experiencing a chronic low mood, there often isn’t much that feels satisfying about life. Growing your own food, even creating a small herb garden, can make you feel better in a number of ways.

First, it is a mindful task that requires your attention. While your attention is focussed on your plants, it gives the mind a break from the worries that can often take over. Working on your garden means there is no space for rumination. Focus on the earth in your hands, look at it, feel it, smell it.

Working on your garden means there is no space for rumination. Click To Tweet

Shut your eyes and meditate mindfully for a few moments on the experience of being in the garden.

What can you feel? Is it a warm day, a windy day? Are you sitting on grass or crouching over the path? How does that feel in your legs, your knees?

What can you smell? Are there fragrant flowers? Something earthy in the compost? Something a bit unpleasant coming from the rubbish bin? Don’t make any judgements about it. Just focus on the smells.

What can you hear? Are there birds in the trees around you? The rustle of the breeze in the leaves of the trees? Cars on the nearby roads? Children shouting or laughing? An argument at the neighbours? Again, just sit with the sounds, letting all worrying thoughts pass by.

Now open your eyes and finish your gardening. Have you watered your plants? Pruned any dead bits away? Put a little mulch through?

If it’s the right time of year, choose something to eat today, from your garden.

It’s very satisfying to cook with your own produce

I don’t have a garden, but I have a small balcony and on that balcony I have a little herb garden: basil, coriander, spearmint, parsley and rosemary. I hope to add others very soon. I’m planning to try my hand at strawberries and chillies and perhaps even a tiny lime tree, but I’m not sure if that would work.

I love going to my little herb garden and choosing some leaves to add to a salad or soup. It feels really

Gardening is so good for reducing depression symptoms; it gets you moving, it gets you outside, it’s very rewarding.


All over my city, Melbourne, community gardens have popped up. People who live in apartments without much space for growing their own produce can now rent or purchase a couple of plots. There’s one right in the heart of the city, over a carpark, near the main train station. A little oasis of green in the concrete jungle.

Nowadays, fruits and vegetables are available all year round. I think that’s a bit sad because we’ve lost the thrill of ‘nectarine season’ or ‘avocado season’. Produce is kept in cold storage or flown in from overseas. Does anyone preserve, bottle or SAVE food any more? Yes, I’m sure they do. But not as often as in our grandmother’s generation. Imagine opening a bottle of preserved tomato sauce or summer fruits in the middle of winter? Today we expect everything to be available all the time.

No wonder the slow food movement is so popular. People have grown tired of the instant, 3 minute, fast food lifestyle.

Why is cooking with your own produce, or at least, seasonal, well-cared-for produce better for your mental health?

Omega 3 for one thing.

And other nutrients.

When hunters bring home the wild bacon, it’s been feasting on wild grasses and plants, not force-fed grains. Wild plants contain Omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health. Meat animals today do not roam freely across the plains enjoying a healthy supply of wild-grown plant foods, so their meat does not give us the nutrients it would have supplied to our hunting forebears.

Fresh, seasonal, organic vegetables and fruits are available at regular farmer’s markets throughout my city. Look for them in yours too.

Enjoying a Mediterranean Diet, ingredients for which you can grow yourself, is a very good diet for the brain and therefore your depression.

The Mediterranean Diet has many health benefits; for the body and mind

The food-mood connection is well known now. The diet enjoyed by villagers on the island of Crete in the 1940s has many benefits for your physical as well as your mental health. Full of fish, fresh vegetables, seeds nuts and fruits, the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to be effective in improving your mood and the health of your brain.

You can grow all sorts of fruits, veggies and herbs which are consumed in high quantities in the Mediterranean Diet.

You know who else enjoyed a Mediterranean Diet?


Well, he had to really, being Greek.

Epicurus was keen on self-sufficiency as a key component of happiness, and while it may be difficult to live an entirely self-sufficient lifestyle in today’s world, growing some of your own foodstuff certainly can bring a smile to your face.

What else did Epicurus claim as the cause of happiness?

Eating with other people is very pleasant

Epicurus and his friends lived together in a large house on the outskirts of Athens. They had a productive garden, with fruit trees and vegetables and created and ate their meals together.

Friendship was one of the keys to happiness because friends provide each other with security, support and help when required. But Epicurus believed friendship was important for its own sake, that friends are more than just the bringers of benefits, but that real friendship makes the other person part of ourselves.

Diffuse communities were the Epicurean norm, rather than small, tightly knit nuclear family structures. A village if you like. Communities of like-minded individuals, supporting one another in many ways including the production of food for communal sustenance and enjoyment.

Eating with others is also part of the Mediterranean Diet. It should really be called the Mediterranean Lifestyle. Those post-war Cretans lived a hard life, eking out a living from the hilly, stony landscape. It must have been backbreaking work. But it made them fit and hardy people, and I can imagine weddings and other social occasions were the highlights of the year.

I can also imagine food having an important role in such occasions. Sharing a feast together is binding; it makes us feel that we are part of a group. It connect us with a shared experience.

Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Epicurus’ book.

Go on. Go to the nursery and get yourself some seedlings. Some basil, some parsley, some oregano. Take them home and nurture them. Harvest a few leaves. Make a soup, a salad or a stew. Invite a neighbour or someone who has been going through a bit of a hard time recently. Invite them over and nourish them with the food you have grown and created. Sit outside if you can.

Bet you anything you’ll feel better for it.

Epicurus said so. Epicurus depression recovery




Jan 01

Will the Mediterranean Diet Treat Depression?

By Vickie | Mediterranean Diet , Uncategorised

Ahh, the Mediterranean! Have you ever been there? Do you long to visit its sunny shores, to swim in its warm water, visit its ancient places or try its delicious and varied cuisines?

Do you see this when you look out of your window?

The beautiful Greek island of Santorini…essential Mediterranean!

No? Well, not to worry. You can still enjoy the wonderful cuisine of this part of the world no matter where you live!

It was after the Second World War, when life was pretty tough for southern Mediterranean countries, that an interesting phenomenon was discovered. People living in this region, particularly Greece, Crete and Southern Italy, appeared to be enjoying longer and healthier lives than those in affluent North America.

What could account for this? Greece, Crete and Italy had been ravaged by war, homes and farms destroyed, shops were empty and medical treatments rare.

People had to ‘’make do’’ to get by. There were no processed foods (except perhaps some home-cured meats); everything that was consumed had to be grown by themselves, arduous and back-breaking work.

And here we have a clue.

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the basic, home-cooking of people who found themselves in poverty after the War, based on the fruits of their labours on their own land, without the (dubious) convenience of ready-made meals with all their accompanying fat, sugar and salt contents. They were an active people who ate simple but delicious meals – and their health thanked them for it.

The word diet today has come to be so closely connected with weight loss that we have lost our understanding of its true meaning. The word ‘diet’ really refers to the food choices we make.  Nowadays, when people think of ‘diets’ they automatically think of strict eating regimes to help them lose (or sometimes gain) body mass.

On the contrary, the Mediterranean Diet is making choices about what to eat in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It includes cooking methods as well as the foods found around the Mediterranean Sea; Greece, Spain, southern France and Italy, North African countries such as Morocco and Egypt as well as Lebanon and coastal Turkey. Though there are regional differences and traditions, olive oil is the one main ingredient which connects them all.  

The Mediterranean Diet is beneficial in so many ways. It is high in fruits, vegetables and legumes, fish, nuts and olive oil, and low in fat. Eating this way can assist in heart and brain health, lower your cholesterol and risk of disease such as diabetes.

Simple the Mediterranean Diet may be, boring it is not.

With this wonderful diet you can enjoy the fresh flavours of herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme along with the sensational spices of North Africa including cumin, turmeric and cinnamon are an. Garlic, lemon and freshly ground black pepper enhance the natural flavours of vegetables, seafood and staples such as legumes and whole grains. Mediterrean Diet

Enjoy a wide variety of fruit and vegetables with the Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is particularly good for brain health as it is high in fish, providing protective Omega 3. salmon-Mediterranean Diet

Enjoy salmon for brain health with the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is not just about what you eat; it’s also about what you do. Take time to move everyday. Go for a jog, a bike ride, play sport or just take the dog for a walk! Living an active lifestyle with a reasonable amount of exercise will bring even more benefits to your health, both mental and physical. Mediterranean Diet

A simple pleasure like going for a walk with the dog is part of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Don’t forget that part of the reason that the people of the southern Greece and Italy were so healthy was because of their active lifestyle. Include at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. You’ll be astounded at how much energy you’ll have!

The Mediterranean Diet is delicious, nutritious and surprisingly easy to incorporate in your daily routine. Mediterranean diet

Beautiful flowers, sunshine, perfume…how could these things not make you happy?

Take time out for yourself…to smell the roses, enjoy some music, read a good book, see a movie, start a new hobby.

As important as it is to spend time alone recharging your batteries, people in traditional cultures are very family and community focused. In fact, human beings are hard-wired to require time in each others’ company. Catch up with friends and loved ones often, especially around meal times.

Spending time with friends and loved ones is important for mental health,

Epicurus, the 3rd century BC philosopher who was born and lived most of his life on the island of Samos, had a number of criteria for a happy life. Three fit nicely into the lifestyle and philosophy of the Mediterranean Diet.

The first is to grow and enjoy your own food (you can do this with a small veggie or herb garden). Second, eat with others and relish their company (invite friends and family to enjoy the fruits of your kitchen). Finally,  live a simple, self-reliant life, as free as possible from the cares of the world.

So you can see that the Mediterranean Diet not really a diet at all. It’s a  simple and mindful way of living that offers a great deal to a depression-free life!