Eat happy, vibrant spring risotto & joy dots.
This is my first post to support the happy neural networks in your brain, as a counterbalance to the endless stress we are bombarded with 24/7.
Every Sunday I’ll post a letter to your inbox sharing a recipe, introducing you to Ayurveda, connecting you to nature and letting you know something you can do to shift a stressed brain to a relaxed one. Then, there will be ad hoc posts on Wednesdays and Fridays with recipes and warm words to support your feel-good neural networks. As you read the words your positive neural networks will start firing up.
As the months go by I will be creating podcasts, fall asleep stories, yoga nidra and relaxation recordings to support your well-being.
And look out for the podcast of me reading my book “Your Peaceful Belly”.
Eating happy is one of the ways I keep my mind and body in a good place. I remember as a kid being told not to play with my food, but I think that advice was wrong because I love playing with food and eating with my fingers. I like sinking my hands into the soil too.
When I was a kid I used to go into the back garden to make mud pies, it was my favourite thing, the more the better. We had a little garden in Charlton, London. I remember there was a wooden bench with crimson peonies and orange marigolds growing around it, and lots of mud pies.
When my kids were growing up I rented two allotments. This was at a time when half the allotment site stood empty. I loved those allotments they kept me sane, well, just about! As well as growing lots of food at that time, I worked, put myself through university and cared for my children. There wasn’t much time and I was exhausted and stressed for most of it, but sinking my hands into the soil daily was always such a joy, as well as kicking ball and snuggling with my tiny chaps before they went to bed.
I’ve also always loved knowing I can feed myself from something out of the ground that I have grown. Growing food is also a great way to connect back to nature. You start really looking forward to the seasons, with each season bringing something special. Let me know in the comments what your favourite season is and your favourite food, then I can make recipes you will like to make yourself. Over the months you will end up with a cookbook!
My specials this week are beetroot, carrot and wild garlic. I used them to create three pesto recipes, one for each Ayurvedic constitutional type — that doesn’t mean you can’t eat them all! Ayurveda has whole healthcare plans for the different constitutions and there are certain foods and tastes that each constitution needs to eat more of to feel really well. I will be sharing all this with you as the weeks go by.
The first pesto I made this week was a beetroot one for vata types. This is a really cosy pesto with the heavy sweet qualities of beetroot and the warming sweet qualities of roasted garlic. The next was for pitta types, made from carrot and cashew nuts. The carrots and cashews bring sweetness and I served with some bitter leaves, both tastes that help to balance pitta constitutions. Kapha types benefit from pungent, bitter and astringent tastes, so I made a vibrant pesto with a pungent kick, from wild garlic and basil. We are currently moving through kapha season of late winter and spring, so here’s the recipe of a risotto I made using the vibrant pesto with a pungent kick.
Vibrant Spring Risotto
The pesto used in this recipe will help to clear out any stagnant winter energies, give your system a kick and, added to the other Ayurvedic spring tips I will be sharing over the next couple of weeks, it will support you to move into the vibrant energies of spring and new growth with a bounce in your step.
To make the Pesto
2 packed cups fresh wild garlic leaves
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated paramsan or cheddar (leave out if you prefer vegan version)
1 cup pumpkin seeds
Pop the seeds into a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add the other ingredients. Begin with 1/2 cup of olive oil, juice of half a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of rock salt and process. Next adjust for a runnier consistency with more oil, and for a taste that fires up your taste buds by adding more fresh lemon juice and rock salt if needed (sea salt is fine to use but get one that hasn’t been processed for the taste and mineral content if possible).
To make the risotto use arborio rice. I use 1/3 cup uncooked rice per person. I add a little ghee or butter to the pan, but use a little olive oil if you prefer vegan. Then add the rice stirring for a few minutes. Next add hot stock little by little — as the liquid is absorbed add a little more until cooked. Then add a few dollops of the pesto, some freshly grated lemon zest and fresh herbs. Simple but delicious. It is so enjoyable to savour the tastes of just a few ingredients.
Photo by Shahadat Rahman
What we feed our mind makes a huge difference to how we feel too. The news, social media and many TV programmes are constantly feeding our minds stress and anxiety. Sometimes this can overload our brains coping mechanisms and it can become addictive — we seek out those very things that are keeping us trapped in a stressed and unhappy life. That’s where joy dots come in. A joy dot is a few words that describe something you see or experience that uplifts you. The simpler the better.
A joy dot is a few words that describe something you see or experience that uplifts you.
When I started to learn about the brain, I came to understand that what I was being fed each day through the news, social media and some TV programmes/films, was an underlying cause of anxiety in my life. My brain was being filled up with so much stress that it’s natural coping mechanisms to deal with stress in my own life, were being eroded.This meant my brain was losing its ability to think, talk and act in a positive way and that meant no feel-good chemicals. I became stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions which in turn created more stress for my brain to deal with.
Health tip #1
Create 3 joy dots a day speaking them and writing them in a notebook at least 3 times during that day, to discover their magical effect on your brain. It can take time, but it’s a game worth playing.
Doing this consistently helps lift people out of depression as their neural pathways rewire in a positive way. It also calms anxiety and stress. At the end of the week read and say out loud the whole weeks joy dots, then at the end of the month re-read and say out loud the whole months joy dots. By the end of the month you should be feeling the effects no matter how stressed you started out. Of course this isn’t a cure for depression, but it can contribute towards a gentle shift, and lots of little shifts can add up in a big way.
Here are some of my joy dots to get you started. Leave a gap in between saying each one for a second or two.
Warm sunlight on skin.
Deep red shiny apples.
Sunlight golden across the carpet.
Blue sky starting to shine through.
Birds flying with silver wings.
Children's laughter, warm and rich.
Dew drops on grass.
Soft afternoon light.
A single bird flying.
When I trained in Hypnotherapy I learned that our neural networks are constantly firing up or fading away — use it or lose it.
When we are stressed we start to operate from the survival brain, and this part of the brain can only operate from a negative place, because it’s job is to notice anything that could threaten our survival, and so when stress levels are high thinking is likely to be negative. That means the neural networks for positive thinking aren’t firing up and it really is a case of, if we don’t use it, we lose it. Joy dots are a workout for the positive neural networks in our brain so we don’t lose them during times of stress. And they build like a snowball.
Well that’s it for today, next Sunday I will introduce you to a simple Ayurvedic spring cleanse.
Thanks for reading What to do when you don’t feel great!! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.