Art by Ally Armstrong
As college students living in the same community, Pepperdine students have a lot of things in common. Self-care techniques and healthy eating habits are not always commonly shared, but they are commonly needed.
What are included in these many commonalities are the shared struggles with endless amounts of studying, staying up and stress.
Also involved are the long-term effects that these college struggles can have on individuals’ overall mental states, according to the 2011 study by Micheal T. Hartely.
With these increased feelings of stress, anxiety, worry or depression on top of an overwhelming homework load, there is often a decrease in practices of self-care, according to “The Importance of Self-Care for College Students,” published by Stanford University.
Usually, when students talk about self-care, it’s normal to think of extra sleep or maybe a bubble bath, but in this case, the focus should be shifted to eating habits.
When students are busy with studying and are consumed with feelings of stress, healthy eating habits are one of the first things they neglect, according to Olivia Shackleton’s article, “Effects of stress on college students’ eating habits” in BioNews.
While it is known among students that a stressed mood means eating not-so-good food, it is also true that eating better foods can create a more positive mood.
Eating a balanced diet can aid in the activation of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, according to the website for Kaiser Permanente Hospital.
But what exactly does it mean to eat better types of food?
Being college students makes it even harder to navigate the world’s ever-changing notion of what healthy eating means.
Is it vegan? Low-carb, low-fat, paleo or keto? The trends are always going to vary but having a healthy diet doesn’t always have to be complicated, especially because the purpose is to reduce stress.
Focusing on eating more nutrition-rich foods in place of junk food and more protein and healthy fats in place of artificial and processed foods can do wonders for the mind, according to “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food” an article by Harvard Medical School.
It can be as simple as choosing the vegetables and brown rice in the Caf more frequently than choosing the chips and pastries at Starbucks, as tempting as that can be during busy times.
Although in the past people didn’t always recognize the correlation between improved physical health and improved mental health, this movement is quickly gaining the recognition that it deserves.
A 2013 study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the risk of depression is significantly lower in those who eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish while avoiding dairy products and red meet.
This, along with the increasing amount of studies that have been done since, means students can take steps toward improving mental health, stress and overall emotional states with something as practical as food.
Another aspect of healthy eating that can help improve mood is how individuals eat, or more specifically how individuals are choosing the foods they eat.
Practicing mindful eating can have an impact on mood as well. This means being grateful and present while consuming food throughout the day and learning which foods make the body and mind feel their best.
What college student doesn’t enjoy a late-night binge on delicious yet extremely unhealthy foods? It’s important to indulge in fast-food favorites from time-to-time, and one night of this gratification most likely isn’t going to have any negative effects on mental health. But however, breaking the repetitive cycle of stress and unhealthy eating can be extremely beneficial for not just the body, but for the mind and mood as well.
Email Jillian Johnson: Jillianjohnson48@gmail.com