Last week, I wrote about my feelings towards looking after our mental health. Just like any other illness, mental health problems are impacted by our lifestyle choice. I wanted to put together some practical tips on how to look after your mental health. I have broken these down into dietary and lifestyle elements, all of which have been gathered from scientific research that has shown these points to have a positive impact on your mindset.
Life will always be a rollercoaster, with events that will shake your foundation. However, trying to maintain a healthy mind and establish techniques on managing your emotions can really help you during these points in your life. I really hope you find the below useful; please drop a comment below with anything else you think readers may find useful.
How to look after your mental health through diet
Fats are really important for the brains development and function. However, with the modern diet there is a misbalance of the different types of fat. Saturated fats are consumed in large quantity with mono and polysaturated fats being less so frequent in the diet. Saturated fats have been shown to increase neuroinflammation, inflammation in the brain, often leading to an increase in depressive symptoms.
On the other hand, monosaturated fats, found in olive oil, have been associated with decrease in depression. Omega 3 and Omega 6, polysaturated fats, are commonly talked about mental health. These fats are known to protect against neuroinflammation and help regulate glucose levels in the brain. These both have an impact on emotions. Lack of polysaturated fats is known to impact the serotonin and dopamine receptors, two chemicals associated with depression.
- UK guidelines state a woman should have less that 20g saturated fat in a day.
- We should aim to replace saturated fats with mono and polysaturated fats.
- These can be found in: Avocadoes, olives, olive oil, rapeseed oil, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, oily fish such as salmon, mackerels and tuna, sunflower seeds and pine nuts.
Oxidation is a natural process that takes place in our body which sees oxygen be metabolised. This realises free radicals which, when attracted to other molecules in the body, cause damage to the cells and DNA. The brain is vulnerable to this type of attach because it is so active and requires constant energy. Antioxidants are essential in creating a tight balance between the damage and maintaining the brains function.
Major antioxidants include Vitamin A, C and E; there is lots of research showing these vitamins are protective against decline of the brain function and against mental health disorders including anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression. Low levels of these vitamins can leave a person vulnerable to development or progression of mood instabilities.
Where can you find such antioxidants?
- Green Tea
- Blueberries and blackberries
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Dark Chocoalte
- Peacans, walnuts
- Kidney Beans
How to look after your mental health through lifestyle
Many studies have shown spending time outdoors, among animals and the natural environment can have a positive psychological impact Reducing anger, frustration, and developing a sense of calm are among some of the effects. The more time spend outdoors, the greater the advantage on the mental wellbeing of a person. Equally important, is the exposure to sunlight that comes from being outdoors. Sunlight is essential in providing our body with Vitamin D, which has long been associated with mood changes. Interestingly, more recent research has shown low levels of Vitamin D can put women at risk of depressive symptoms in later life. It is paramount to keep vitamin D levels to a satisfactory level.
- Adults and children over 1 years of age should receive 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day
- Taking supplementation, especially in winter months, is a good way to ensure your levels do not drop.
- Particularly at risk of vitamin D deficiency are those of darker skin, people who cover up and the elderly.
Take time out
Stress gets the better of all of us. Life involves paying bills, dealing with grief, developing physical health problems, struggling to achieve what you want to – all of these things can put pressure on your mental well being because we are constantly thinking and worrying. It is a horrible cycle where physical stress from your environment puts you under emotional and mental stress, which only leads to the original factors to be amplified and made to seem even bigger and much more scary. So, how do we take time out?
- Turn off your phone, laptops and TVs – take a moment to sit without the background noise and breath. Think about the mundane things in like such as what colour you want to paint the walls and if you want to eat chicken rather than fish for lunch.
- Slot in time for you – make it a routine to do something that you enjoy. This can be something we fail to do if everything seems great in life however it can be the lifeline that helps us put life into focus
- Use your annual leave – even if you are staying at home in your PJs, take time off work and away from the stress it brings.
- Spend time with family and friends – relationships can often be the source of a lot of worry but this is worsened when you fail to spend quality time with people, developing and nourishing those relationships. They should not merely just exist but should be something worked on to be solid. Equally, a time may come when these loved ones are no longer around and this can often leave you with regret – do not put yourself in that situation.
Know your purpose
I think this is one of the biggest factors. Life is always going to have times that are hard but we have to remember out purpose in life. For me, it is the belief that worshiping God brings peace and harmony to your life. This may not be the case for everyone however, remembering what purpose is for you can pull your through those dark times. Focus on this every day, reminding yourself when you wake and when you sleep. Those factors you can change, change. Those which you can not, find the good in them and cherish the things that are amazing in your life.