Eat Your Way To A Healthy Brain

Our mental health is impacted by just about everything we do. How we eat, drink, and love, how we handle stress, depression, sorrow and anxiety – all of these daily actions impact the state of our mental health. If these activities can impact our brains, then it stands to reason that what we eat can help (or hurt) our brains.


Self-Care: Survive This World by Putting Your Mental Health First

There’s a reason we suddenly hearing about self-care. Every day seems to present new ways to make us miserable. The 24-hour news cycle, increase in natural disasters, and the little things people do that get under your skin — the struggle to make it through a week is often overwhelming. Taking care of your body emotionally, physically, and mentally makes it easier. Self-care is constantly trending because people need a way to maintain their mental health.


Self-Care and Diet


The fact that we have to eat in order to live can sometimes make meals feel like a chore. Instead of sitting down to something of substance, we fall back on cheap convenience foods that are often stuffed with salt, fats, sugars, and questionable ingredients. We buy processed food knowing it is bad for us, so we consume it mindlessly as a way to avoid guilt.


A better alternative is embracing mindful eating. Mindful eating is the practice of truly enjoying the food we eat. You focus on the moment, accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations as you eat. The basic tenets of mindful eating include:


  • Taking the time to consider the nutritional value of the food you buy.
  • Not skipping meals.
  • Limiting portion sizes.
  • Practicing gratefulness when sitting down for a meal.
  • Noticing the color, texture, aroma, and sounds of foods when cooking and eating.
  • Taking small bites and putting utensils down between bites.
  • Chewing your food thoroughly.
  • Eating slowly and appreciating your food.


Self-Care and Exercise


Just like meals, exercise has a tendency to feel like a chore. However, getting enough physical activity is essential for good health. Humans are not meant to be stationary animals, so when we live like sloths, our bodies’ resources (fat, cholesterol, etc.) stay stagnant and build up, which leads to health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. The neurochemicals released through exercise also help with mental illnesses such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety.


If you want to incorporate more exercise into your life but you don’t know where to start, begin with a step. Walking, despite its enjoyability, is a pretty effective workout. Anyone can do it, it’s easy on the joints and lungs, and it gets you outside for the added benefits of fresh air and sunshine. Invest in a smartwatch or pedometer to track your steps and try to hit 10,000 to 12,000 a day for the maximum benefit.


Self-Care and Relaxation


According to recent surveys, Americans are feeling increasingly stressed over their health, safety, finances, politics, and relationships. Stress and anxiety have serious health consequences both mentally and physically. While you can’t control the outside stimuli that contribute to stress, you can do things that help alleviate it at home.


  • Get enough sleep. When your body is not well rested, it has a difficult time operating throughout the day. Adults need eight to nine hours a night, so if you are getting less than that, adjust your sleep schedule accordingly.
  • Take time to relax. It’s easy to get caught up in our social and work obligations, but rest and relaxation are essential to your health. Don’t be afraid to say no to a commitment or call in sick for a personal day if you feel frazzled.
  • Pick up meditation. Meditation is scientifically proven to help with everything from chronic pain to anxiety while also improving heart health and boosting mood and immunity. Set aside some space in your home for a meditation room where you can sit in peace and let go of stress for the good of your health.  


Practicing self-care is essential for survival in a world that is constantly taxing our mental health. Instead of rushing through meals consisting of cheap processed food, try mindful eating that brings the joy back to the experience. A lot of people hate to exercise, but you don’t have to be a gym junkie to reap the benefits. Even gentle walking can help prevent disease and boost mood. Getting enough sleep, taking time for yourself, and practicing meditation help alleviate anxiety and contribute positively to your overall mental health.


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Exercise Your Brain: Why Physical Fitness is a Great Hobby for your Mental Health

More than half a century ago, Dr. Brock Chisolm said, “Without mental health there can be no true physical health.” He was a psychiatrist and the first Director-General of the World Health Organization, and though the statement he made was one of the first suggesting the link between mental and physical well-being, he turned out to be entirely correct.

Your body responds physically to how you feel emotionally, and vice versa. For example, when you are stressed out, anxious, or upset, your body may respond with symptoms like high blood pressure or a stomach ulcer. Alternately, when your body is not working as it should, you can experience emotional symptoms. In the case of a long-term disability or chronic illness, you may become depressed.  

Even though the connection between the two is clear, in many cases mental health issues and physical ailments are still being addressed separately. General practitioners commonly “prescribe” exercise as a treatment for physical ailments like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. According to some experts, mental health practitioners should be doing the same for mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and even addiction.

Research shows that, by addressing the physical and mental health together, you can see better results in both areas simultaneously. Patients being treated for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are seeing immediate and long-term results. There is even evidence that incorporating physical activity into treatment can help addiction patients get clean and stay clean.

In actuality, exercise isn’t all that much unlike taking an anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication in a lot of ways. Physical activity causes your brain to release endorphins and serotonin, your body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Studies have proven that aerobic hobbies, from walking to gardening to dancing, positively impact more than just your heart health. This type of physical fitness also reduces anxiety and depression while it increases self-esteem and cognitive function almost immediately. Some people call it the “runner’s high,” and it’s real.

Some mental health practitioners are even beginning to prescribe exercise either in conjunction with or as an alternative to traditional treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy. Scientists say these common treatments don’t always have the desired effect on mental health patients and note ease of access and low cost as additional benefits of physical activity as a mental health treatment option.

This concept of treating mental health issues with “alternative” treatments, known as integrative medicine, is becoming more popular. As more evidence-based research becomes available regarding the efficacy of these non-traditional, non-drug treatments, more and more mental health professionals are beginning to incorporate them. As more doctors prescribe exercise and other integrative treatments and see more success, we’ll likely see more funding go towards the study of these alternative treatment options specifically.

Furthermore, integrative medicine is becoming more popular with patients who are taking an active role in their own healthcare. As the healthcare landscape in America continues to change, many of these patients are seeking alternatives to the high cost of traditional mental health drugs. Others are seeking a substitute so they can avoid the dependency and sometimes-debilitating side effects that can accompany antidepressants and antianxiety medications.

Hobbies are a great way to ward off stress and give your life more balance. Making physical fitness your hobby — whether you dance, jog, rock climb, kickbox, or simply find a favorite cardio machine at the gym — can help you maximize the benefits even more. So get on your feet and boost your mental health!


Photo via: Pixabay

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Teenagers are the perfect candidates for brain exercises — especially considering how many of them are glued to their phones. These short and fun games can help your teen’s growing brain work on spatial direction, concentration, strategy, and observation.