sabrina cadini life-work balance mental health awareness month life coaching nourish food brain health well-being life coaching

Love Your Brain – Part 1: Nourish

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a great opportunity to talk about and increase awareness about mental health and wellness in our lives.

As I do every year, I will share some tips on how to take good care of our amazing brain throughout the month of May.

Our brain is part of our central nervous system, and it’s responsible for every thought, action, feeling, and emotion thanks to billions of neurons that communicate between each other, and the release of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Well, it is a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea! It’s where we store our memories, we create habits, we shape our personality. The brain is the most complex organ in our body, and I’m simply obsessed with it 🙂

My life coaching practice is based on a six-pillar framework called Harmony Compass:

  • Nourish (nutrition)
  • Move (movement and exercise)
  • Rest (sleep and relaxation)
  • Reframe (stress, anxiety, and burnout management)
  • Care (self-care and social connections)
  • Plan (goal setting and time optimization)

I help my clients eat better, move regularly, sleep more, stress less, and find time for self-care for a balanced body and brain. At first, they focus on their North Star (the pillar where they need to change or improve first), and eventually, we incorporate all the other pillars into their lifestyle. Once they achieve balance, they can thrive in their personal life and career.

More and more research studies are linking mental health to nutrition, sleep, and exercise, and they’re identifying connections between chronic inflammation and depression plus other disorders. This confirms that a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference and improve the quality of life.

Also, taking care of our brain (even if we’re still young) can help us age better and keep our cognitive performance at its best. Aging is usually a slow process, and we don’t notice the brain is aging until later in life. In addition to that, we don’t realize how much our daily lifestyle, environment, and stress can play a huge role in the aging process. That’s why I focus on prevention and ways to keep us in our best shape, mentally and physically, thanks to healthy habits to incorporate into our daily routine.

Part 1 of this “Love Your Brain” series is dedicated to NOURISH, related to nutrition. What we eat provides fuel and energy, but it also impacts our brain, our body, and it plays a key role in our gene expression. Diet matters and you should pay more attention to it.

I utilize a personalized approach with my clients, and sometimes we work together with a nutritionist to address individual needs and allergies or sensitivities. What I also do is looking at different ways to optimize the body’s energy and brain function thanks to a balanced diet with whole, nutrient-dense “brain foods” that are rich in antioxidants (fighting free radicals, unstable atoms that can damage our cells), vitamins, and minerals. Think colorful vegetables and fruits (many of these are rich in fiber that stabilizes blood sugar), healthy proteins and fats, and complex carbs, for instance. Adding herbs and spices can enhance the flavors of your meals and help reduce inflammation as well – think rosemary, turmeric, oregano, parsley, cilantro, etc.

And don’t forget your water! When we are dehydrated, the brain is the first organ to be affected.

You should stay away from refined sugar (which is added to almost everything nowadays), processed foods filled with many “offenders” for our gut, and sodas and juices filled with unnecessary additives and sweeteners. Part of my coaching practice is to look at the nutrition facts labels in the foods my client buy, and to help them spot those “offenders”.

How does food influence our brain? Through the brain-gut axis, a bidirectional signaling network connecting the gut, its microbes, immune cells, and the neurons in our brain through the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in our body. This connection is a critical player for optimal health, not only for our brain but for our entire body. Many neurotransmitters important in our everyday life (from mood regulation to brain function) are manufactured in our digestive tract, and most of our immune system resides there. If our gut is disrupted, chances are that your mood and performance – and overall health – will be disrupted, too.

The goal is to reduce inflammatory foods that can cause oxidative stress and disrupt our immune system, and focus on foods that improve well-being, energy levels, and performance.

A great way to improve our brain function is to favor those healthy foods by buying fresh organic ingredients and cooking your own meals. This is not only good for our gut but it also improves our relationship with food, and with our family or friends. Cooking together is a lot of fun, especially if you have kids, and you can teach them how to eat healthy as well.

Clients often ask me for advice regarding diets. I don’t recommend specific diets – I think diets are not for everybody, and they’re not sustainable. This is one of the reasons why I never suggest that my clients follow trendy diets just because everybody is talking about them or trying them. Each of us reacts to food in different ways. My focus is on promoting diversity in our microbiome for improved health and immunity.

My Life-Work Mastermind (happening now until mid-June) always includes a “No More Sugar” challenge where participants are encouraged to ditch refined sugar during the course of the mastermind and to share their experience (wins and challenges) when we meet every week. Make sure you sign up for the next Fall Round.

Do you know how to optimize your brain with food? I’m here to help! Schedule your FREE Clarity Call with me today!

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