The physical and creative are deeply related.
Without good physical health, we lack the strength to tackle our spiritual and mental health—and our creative energy suffers. To stay physically healthy, we need to pay attention to eating and activity. That about sums it up, right? Eat well, exercise. Blog over.
Okay, no. We tend to eat foods that spike our stress, rather than work with our bodies to reduce it. We drink coffee in the morning, sometimes we’ll have a cup at 2pm because we are experiencing that mid-afternoon drag. (And let’s be honest—those of us who burn the candle at both ends take in far too much coffee for it to be good for us.)
Flooding our systems with sugary, greasy, easy-to-prepare foods, we block our bodies’ natural ability to fight stress and modulate mood. These foods are uppers, and it doesn’t take a Martha Stewart to realize that if you invite stimulants in, they are going to grab your stress and stretch it, making it feel bigger, tighter, more tense.
We know all this.
But we do it because it’s easy.
As creative types, we are constantly on the move, in both mind and body. Food is fuel, and we cram in whatever we can, whenever we can.
I struggle with this on a daily basis. I give into my food addictions for instant gratification. What usually happens is that I don’t want to eat breakfast, so I skip. Then, later in the morning, serious hunger creeps in, and I eat the easiest thing. (Usually some type of processed food, or dare I say it, fast food.)
After that my food allergies kick in and I become a miserable man. This is a pattern, and I can feel a difference in my level of stress when I give in to the addiction. I become more irritable and sedentary. The latter can affect my songwriting, as I lack the energy to commit time to my craft.
The good news is that there are foods we can eat that have the exact opposite affect on us. Staying creatively fit isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Here are some good items for your diet:
- Walnuts. These little brainy-looking guys can help regulate your blood sugar because they’re chock full of omega-3 fatty acids. Guess what that does? It chills you the fuck out, that’s what it does. If there is too much sugar in your blood you are already on edge, and then shit hits the fan.
- Tryptophan. Bananas, yo. Eat them up. Not only do the high levels of potassium help with the muscle fatigue you’ll get from all that exercise, tryptophan will drop that stress like eating turkey drops you to the couch on Thanksgiving.
- Fruits and starchy veggies. These bad boys help keep that blood sugar on an even keel and regulate your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is basically chemical happy juice.
- Chocolate. Period. Hands down. Best thing for your mood, ever. Tell me I’m wrong, we’ll argue. But it’s gotta be dark—the darker the better. The antioxidants are gonna do you right. Just like coffee, though, there’s a fine line between good for you and death-dealing. Ride that line, and call me in the morning.
Also: Get up off your ass!
Hey, I just read this breaking news! Twenty minutes of daily exercise is really important for you! Did you know that? Of course you did. Unless you’ve been locked in a basement for the past 20+ years, you know it’s good for your physical health; that’s what we hear about most. Now we are learning that what is good for your physical health is also good for your mental health.
Here are some tips to start getting active, if you haven’t already:
- Find a friend. Accountability is the name of the game. This would be someone who you wouldn’t mind calling you at 6am, tell you to lace up and get your ass running for 20 minutes.
- Do what you like. Hate running? Well fuck it, then. Get on a bike, see how that suits you (make sure it fits, or you’ll be miserable). Don’t want to lift weights? Yeah, me neither. Get up on a rock and start climbing. You’ll build muscle, gain stamina, and you also get that amazing moment of Zen when you fall off.
- Don’t stop. When you break from an exercise routine, it is harder to get back out there and get going again. So fight those filthy voices that tell you not to run in the rain, or not to ride in the wind. You can do it, and the smile afterwards is your reward.
When we exercise we release endorphins, and these little dudes live to make us happy. It’s all they want in the world to see us smile. Couple that with the adrenaline you get from tearing down the backside of a mountain going crazy fast on your brand new Santa Cruz, you might as well be taking ecstasy. However, like any drug, you will also have a comedown. So get addicted, and do it again.
Spend a few weeks eating better and giving your body its much-needed 20 minutes (just 20 minutes!) of exercise, and return to your art. You may be shocked at the difference.
Photo by Kevin Dooley.