A new study in the journal Molecular Psychiatry shows that depression and stress, if left unchecked, has unknown effects on metabolism and can even override the effects of healthy food choices.

The study tested the inflammatory responses* of women who alternatively ate a meat-based meal high in saturated fat one day followed by a healthier, plant-based meal the next day. On the days when the women ate a plant-based meal and were not subject to stress, they showed a low inflammatory response. However, when the women were stressed, even when eating the plant-based meal, they showed an inflammatory response of someone consuming the less healthy, meat-based meal.

This small study points to why, in our fast-paced, stressed-out world, there’s a need for techniques and tools, such as the use of mindfulness, to balance out the stress and pressure of work and life.

Mindfulness, often used as a therapeutic technique, is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”

Breathing, meditation, yoga, relaxation and other techniques have been shown to promote mindfulness, which in turn has the potential to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and even cognitive skills.

And mindfulness, meditation and yoga can help with focus, stress and attitude, especially when combined with regular exercise and proper food choices. Another study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience revealed that people practicing mindfulness had a greater ability to control negative emotions. And a little goes a long way: Just 20 minutes of daily meditation has the potential to improve anxiety and mental health.

So how does one go about practicing mindfulness? There are some popular smart phone apps for the DIY crowd, but many people have better results in a group setting. The Herbalife Nutrition Philosophy is a holistic approach that emphasizes proper food choices, hydration, rest, exercise and healthy habits as part of a balanced diet. And Herbalife Nutrition Clubs provide a venue for people to get good daily nutrition and participate in activities like group workouts, yoga and other exercises to promote wellbeing.

I have also blogged about the benefits of incorporating a short yoga session with stretching into your daily routine, and about how just a few minutes of meditation can help you relax and focus. If you’re feeling stressed at work, try taking a walk for 20 minutes to clear your mind. There are lots of ways to combat stress, but it takes a plan and a few simple steps each day to put it into practice.

*The Molecular Psychiatry study is one of the first to measure how depression, stress and diet can influence inflammation response.

Samantha Clayton

Samantha ClaytonOLY, ISSA-CPT – Vice President, Sports Performance and Fitness Education

Samantha Clayton serves as the vice president of Sports Performance and Fitness Education at Herbalife. She is also the Vice Chair of the Fitness Advisory Board. Clayton represented Great Britain at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay events. She is a certified personal trainer with specialty certifications in group fitness, youth fitness programming, senior fitness and athletic conditioning. Clayton has an associate degree in pharmaceutical science and studied chemistry at the University of Wolverhampton. She then went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in public health and a master’s in medical nutrition from American Public University and Arizona State University, respectively. As a mother of four, she enjoys cheering for her kids at their sporting activities. Her favorite Herbalife product is Herbalife24® Rebuild Strength.