All blog posts from Dr. Allott are provided for educational and informational purposes only. As Dr. Allott is also a licensed medical practitioner, we must make it clear that nothing on the blog is intended to constitute medical advice, consultation, recommendation, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are concerned about your health, please seek appropriate care in your area.


Short Cuts: Ways to keep your mind in charge of your brain

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We all need routine to make our busy lives efficient. We need to put things on autopilot to function. But sometimes we become too efficient. Part of what governs what the brain does is “what happens together wires together”. As the behavior happens hundreds to thousands of times, it becomes a brain-habit and we feel uncomfortable if we deviate from it.

Examples of this are: We eat the same thing for breakfast every day, we always watch a show at 7pm, we have alcohol with every dinner, we do only one form of exercise… However, if we maintain three options for any given activity, we are more likely to vary our choices and not get bored and stop or consistently turn to addictive foods, screens, or substance.

So what are your three go-to options for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, before bed activities, and ways of moving your body?

To help you with the meal and snack options, we have handouts for omnivores and for vegetarians.

Short Cuts: Use a hand blender to support physical and mental health

The key to eating better is having the right tools to prep food quickly and deliciously. To get my clients to eat more veggies, I often encourage salads. For the busiest individuals, they can buy a package for pre-washed lettuce, add a tomato, a couple of canned artichoke hearts, and ½ avocado, plus a link of sausage cooked over the weekend or a can of skipjack tuna. Add salad dressing and it is good to go.

Making my own salad dressing keeps me from getting bored of salads. One day it is apple cider vinegar, garlic, mustard and olive oil. Another day, it is tahini, apple cider vinegar or lemon, tamari, garlic, graded ginger from a jar, and water. Great with baked cauliflower. Third options is red wine vinegar, olive oil, handful of cilantro, garlic. All of these come together in less than 5 minutes by having a hand blender.

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The short cut that makes the biggest difference for me is using a plug-in hand blender. I tried the cordless blenders and then I never had power when I needed it. I have had the Cuisinart version for years, but you can buy cheaper ones - they all seem to work. What’s awesome about hand blenders is that it takes 3-5 minutes to make the best salad dressing, so quick that you can easily make a different one every time. As a bonus, hand blenders help make great soups in the wintertime too.

How a hand blender helps support mental health:

  • When cooking is easier, we do the self-care of feeding ourselves well more often. Eating at home generally offers healthier choices, particularly if we make it ourselves.
  • Ideally we should be eating 5 or more cups of veggies every day to nourish our bodies; Salads generally have 3-5 cups, and we’re more likely to eat them with good-tasting dressings.
  • Cooking for ourselves is a chance to decide if we like something or not. We get to experiment. We set our own standards for the day. We get to practice creativity and how to recover from small failures (by learning which combinations of ingredients we don’t like). Salad dressings are a cheap and recoverable place to start. You can try a new dressing quickly with the hand blender and if you don’t like it, throw it out and try again.
  • Hand blenders cost $20-40 and is a tool for self care.

Again if we are going to cook more, we have to make it easier.

Here is an example of what I am taking about:

Be sure to write in your questions on how to do the self-care for better mental health. Feel free to write anonymously ("I have a friend…")

Short Cuts: Experiments to feeling better

We often think that feeling better takes a lot of time and energy. This idea is certainly supported and promoted by the weight loss industry! But there is a difference between feeling better today, next week, and weight loss. It’s also important to understand that sustained weight loss is very complicated. However, what if our goal is just to have 10 to 15% more energy and mental clarity? This is very possible right now, with a little experimentation.

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I like doing experiments for my health. It allows me to evaluate if a new behavior is worth continuing and also when to use it most effectively. There are lots of little experiments that can improve how you feel, in as little as 10 minutes or just a few days. And this means you might then have the energy to do more to feel even better.

For example, years ago I discovered that if I exercised in the morning my dyslexic brain worked better. With more experiments I discovered that it takes about 20 minutes of walking or 15 minutes of stretching, weight lifting and balance exercises to see a benefit at the end of the day. When it is beautiful out, I go for a walk; when it is raining I work out in my living room.

Every experiment has to have a definable benefit. Not just “because I should”. For me, when I work out in the morning, I can get my clinical notes done with the patient in the room or in the time before my next patient. When I don’t exercise, I spend 45-60 minutes charting at the end of the day. On my non-clinical days, I spend less time wondering around the internet looking for heartwarming videos and more time on my own passions. It took a month of morning work outs for me to see the correlation. Now that I see it, I can see that the benefit is immediate.

Here is a pdf that outlines some short cuts to feeling better. I invite you to choose one to experiment with. Let me know how it goes, or share your own short cuts, by commenting below.