DISCLAIMER: I am not trying to advise anyone on managing their mental health. I am sharing my experiences and this recipe for brownie.
When I was younger we watched ‘Freaky Friday’ as a family, and had a good giggle at the Mum shouting ‘make good choices!’ as she saw her daughter off to school. As we grew up we threw this phrase around as a joke – when one of my siblings or I would leave the house to go somewhere, we would often call ‘make good choices!’ out to them as they went. I still use this as a joke with my friends and flatmates, but I recently realised that it has stuck with me.
As an adult, I have learned that we live with our decisions, big and small. I know that if I choose not to exercise, or do not choose to make time for exercise, I do not feel good. I get grouchy and my back starts to twinge. If I eat things that are not good for me, I do not feel good.
I don’t think that happiness is a choice. Sometimes the chemicals in our brain or the health of our gut, or the circumstances of our lives dictate or influence the way that we feel. But I do think that we can make good choices that lead us toward feeling good. Everybody thinks about happiness in different ways. I like to think about appreciating moments for what they are, and always being hopeful about the future. There is good here and there is good coming.
For the not so good days, I like to keep a toolkit of things to change the way I feel about my day. My toolkit includes exercise, making lists of things I am grateful for, guided meditations, phone calls, favourite books and poems, putting down my phone and picking up my knitting, and often choosing to do things I don’t feel like, because I know that they will change the way I am feeling.
I recently listened to a Radio NZ interview with Rachel Kelly, who discovered that intentionally making an effort to make good food choices was an excellent tool for coping with life with depression and anxiety. She, along with nutritional therapist Alice Macintosh, has put together this book of recipes that support positive mental health. I have adapted their brownie recipe to make it vegan and low-FODMAP, and I have it in my freezer, and in my ‘toolkit’ so to speak. When I find myself feeling low (and hungry), I can reach for something that is good for me- and that feels good.
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Brownies
70g brazil nuts
3 tbsp flax seeds
1 cup almond milk
1/3 cup olive oil (coconut oil would work here as well)
125g dark chocolate (I had 72% on hand but higher = less sugar = better for you)
1/2 cup rice malt syrup
1/2 cup gluten free baking mix
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup frozen raspberries (I used blueberries the first time I made this and they're both excellent)
Preheat your oven to 180°C.
Place the brazil nuts, flax seeds and almond milk in a blender and puree until smooth. The flax seeds act as an egg replacer so make sure they're well blended.
Melt the chocolate gently with the olive oil.
Combine the nut smoothie situation with the chocolate. Add the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Lastly, stir in the raspberries (mine were frozen, fresh is great too).
Scoop the mixture into a small baking tin or a 20cm round cake tin (I used a cake tin because our brownie pans are too big and the brownies turn out dry and sad). Bake for 30-35 minutes at 180°C. The top starts to crack when its done.