By Kimberly Jensen
Senior Resource Advocate 

Holiday Depression and The MIND Diet


Last updated 1/3/2023 at 8:53pm | View PDF

Questions: I always get depressed before, during and after the holidays. My husband passed away and my children live out of the area. Is it normal to feel this way even after the New Year?

Holiday traditions and memories are very deep in our hearts. Memories of times gone by can bring up both the good and bad times that we have experienced. It is especially difficult if you are spending a lot of time in the home where those memories occurred. The home that was once filled with music, decorations, festive foods, family, joy and laughter, can be stark in comparison now.

Depression and anxiety are very common during this time of year. It is very normal to feel a reminder of the loss of what once was. To remedy falling into the same empty feeling every year, break the cycle. There are things that you can do that will help with that feeling of loss.

It is very easy to focus on our sadness during the holidays. Next year, I suggest you find a worthy cause to focus on. If you are a quilter or can sew, make blankets for the children who are in the hospital during the holidays. If you bake, make cookies and treats, and wrap them up on paper plates and deliver them to those who are also alone during this time of the year. Offer to read books to children's groups at daycares or the library. Donate your services to the SPCA, Cancer Center or Food Bank. There are so many needs in our community. The busier you keep yourself, doing things for others during the holidays, the less time you will focus on what you don't have.

When you do good for others, positive endorphins kick on in your brain and you feel better. You are not alone; many are going through very similar circumstances. It is how you fill that loss that will help you through the holidays and give you a new meaning for participating in them. Giving of your time and efforts can happen throughout the year!

What Is the MIND Diet? My mother has some dementia decline, and I heard the MIND Diet would be good for her.

The MIND diet targets the mental health of the constantly aging brain. The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative delay. It is a fusion of the Mediterranean and the Dash diet. With dementia being the sixth leading cause of death, many people are searching for ways to prevent cognitive decline. There are nutrient supplements that claim to keep the mind clearer, but I have yet to have find one that has been FDA-approved.

When I researched the MIND diet, I found that Dr. Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, published two papers introducing the diet.

Cardiologists have been promoting the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet for the preservation of heart and cognitive function. Dr. Morris and her colleagues compared the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet to the MIND diet. Results of the studies proved that the MIND diet had greater effects of keeping the brain healthier.

All three diets focus on plant-based foods and limiting high saturated foods and animal proteins. The difference with the MIND diet is that it recommends specific "healthy brain" food that you include in your diet. It warns of five unhealthy foods that you must limit, or not eat at all. This diet was shown to directly prevent the onset of dementia or slow its progression.

The intake of healthy items in the MIND Diet guidelines include:

3+ servings a day of whole grains,

1+ servings a day of vegetables (other than green leafy),

6+ servings a week of green leafy vegetables,

5+ servings a week of nuts,

4+ meals a week of beans,

2+ servings a week of berries,

2+ meals a week of poultry,

1+ meals a week of fish.

Use olive oil if a fat source is needed to cook food or use in salad dressings.

The unhealthy items are higher in saturated and trans-fat. They should be limited as follows:

Less than 5 servings a week of pastries and sweets,

Less than 4 servings a week of red meat (including beef, pork, lamb, and products made from these meats),

Less than one serving a week of cheese and fried foods,

Less than 1 tablespoon a day of butter/stick margarine.

What makes the MIND diet unique, is that it contains foods rich in certain vitamins, carotenoids and flavonoids. These are believed to protect the brain by reducing stress and inflammation. The research found a 53% lower rate from Alzheimer's disease for those with the highest MIND scores. Even those participants with a moderate MIND score showed a 35% lower rate compared with those with the lowest MIND scores. This supported their conclusion that the MIND diet was effective in the preservation of cognitive function.

The research of the MIND diet was focused primarily on brain health, but it may also benefit heart health, diabetes and certain cancers because it includes parts of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which have been proven to lower the risk of these diseases.

Although the diet plan specifies daily and weekly amounts of foods that you can include or limit, it does not restrict the diet to eating only these foods.

Always make sure to include exercise to increase the oxygen to your brain and eat portions of food that are reasonable. Also speak to your doctor before starting any new diet to get his/her feedback.

I recommend that you investigate MIND-healthy recipes online. Research studies show that this diet does have the ability of slowing cognitive decline, or possibly preventing it altogether.

Kimberly Jensen has been working with Quail Park as a Senior Resource Advocate for over ten years and has helped hundreds of families find solutions to their senior problems. If you have a question, you can send it to her at or call (559) 737-7443.


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