Science Wednesday: When your brain just will not take a seat and calm down.

You know what? Sometimes the world just looks kind of insane.

It can especially look insane the day after a holiday weekend, when we have to trudge back to our regular lives. Or it can look insane on a day when there’s sad, sad news going around the place (Robin Williams…random shootings…journalists being killed for doing their craft in war zones…all a part of the recent past in the news ether of the United States).

The secret to life when your brain just won't calm down? Look at what you've been feeding it recently. Then, improve the quality of that fuel. (Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
The secret to life when your brain just won’t calm down? Look at what you’ve been feeding it recently. Then, improve the quality of that fuel. (Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

And sometimes you wake up and everything just looks kind of dark, even when the news of the world isn’t particularly grim.

Here’s what I’ve learned through massive amounts of trial and error. When my brain simply will not calm down, when it’s racing a mile a minute, when it’s sure that everything around it is a threat and I can’t see straight…

I ask myself one simple question. Well, two.

1. When was the last time you exercised and really got your heartbeat going while doing it? For, say, an hour or so?

2. What did you eat over the last three days?

Funny how those two questions get us all centered on the biology of the situation. Our brains run on fuel – and there are two kinds of fuel you get from healthy eating and exercise. One is the happy-happy hormones like serotonin. That’s where exercise comes in. The other is the gas for the engine – carbohydrates. And wow, are they way easier for our bodies to grab and utilize from foods that are natural, unprocessed, and simple – as opposed to, say, the raft of sugary desserts that presented themselves to me and jumped on my plate during a weekend potluck party a few days ago.

There you go. If I haven’t exercised, and I’ve eaten poorly, it’s like pouring sugar into a car’s gas tank and expecting it not to short out. Our brains need real fuel.

Here’s some of the science behind the situation:

 WebMD’s list of foods to eat for a healthier brain. I’m not a huge fan of “eat this not that” lists, but this list is pretty good and gets to the heart of what unprocessed, healthy foods look like.

One of my “duh” moments of the day: a new study showing brains rewire themselves to crave healthy foods if you actually, you know, eat healthy foods. I know this one is true. It’s the exact thing that happened to me. Happy to see that science is starting to quantify the phenomenon.

And a reminder, again from WebMD, that exercise can absolutely help alleviate depression symptoms. Remember to always consult a medical professional if you are experiencing depression symptoms, by the way. Exercise is not necessarily the only thing you need. But if you’re feeling down, exercise may absolutely be able to help. Again, please, please tell a medical professional or someone who cares about you if you’re feeling depressed and nothing you do seems to shake it. Somebody out there cares.

Now, get out there…and get your brain food on.

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