How Mood Affects Executive Functioning

By Lisa Shanken | Healthy Living

How does mood affect cognitive functioning?

I’m glad you asked…

And because my company mainly helps people struggling with mental health disorders, I have unique insights and real-world experience to share.

When we help such individuals by practicing better gut health, we see marked improvement in their cognitive and executive functions.

How do we know this?

Because we also coach people with Executive Functioning (EF) skills.

So let’s take a deeper dive…

How Mental Health Disorders Correlate To EF Skills

Conditions such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder have a major impact on cognitive functions. And once cognitive functions are impaired, EF rapidly decreases.

Such cognitive functions may include organization, clear thinking, time management, keeping a calendar, and many other vital day-to-day tasks.

EF deficits may cause problems in the workplace, social situations, school, finance management, relationships, and many other areas.

According to a paper published in Frontiers In Psychology, EF coaching should be given to patients with psychiatric disorders and ADHD, as they are most likely coping with EF

Failure to do so may lead to feelings of failure, inadequacy, poor self-esteem… and ultimately increased depression.

Tips To Improve EF Skills

To avoid hurting a patient’s self-esteem, it’s extremely important you explain that EF deficits (as well as ADHD and other learning disabilities) are completely separate from their intelligence and overall self-worth.

While EF needs are highly specific to each individual, here are a few tips that can be very helpful in overcoming such challenges:

  1. Set 5 minute goals. Start by setting smaller and shorter goals instead of larger ones. Start with one per day, then add two per day after you have mastered the first one. For example, if cleaning a messy room is overwhelming, set a timer for 5 minutes and choose a specific section of the room to clean up. After 5 minutes you may choose to continue for another 5 minutes… or call it quits. But you’ve at least made progress… and eventually your entire room will be clean!
  2. Get more consistent with daily tasks and responsibilities by using apps like Nomie or Momentum to create and track “streaks” (especially relatable for kids who use SnapChat, where keeping “streaks” is a trend). Such apps make it easy to create consistency in any area of your life!
  3. Use the “Wait 5” strategy to control impulses. Frequently, people with ADHD struggle with impulse control, which can manifest by purchasing things too quickly, blurting out verbally, or making important decisions without enough thought. The “Wait 5” strategy simply involves taking 5 deep breaths before acting impulsively, which allows you to temporarily pause, relax, and reflect before acting.
  4. Improve “working memory” with brain games. Working memory is like a muscle, and the more you train it, the stronger it will get. People with EF deficits often have poor working memory… but it can be improved! Practice flexing the memory muscle with brain apps like Lumosity and Fit Brains Trainer. However, I strongly encourage starting with the physical game Memory, because it can also help with spatial relations which is harder to simulate on an app.

Many other EF skills like procrastination, organization, and motivation can all be improved through various techniques.

If you feel you need EF improvement, please reach out so we can have a conversation and figure out the best strategy to help you be more efficient, organized, energized, and confident!

You are not alone… and support is the best way to help yourself! Click here to schedule an appointment and start feeling more organized and self-confident.