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August 22, 2023
Your mind, body, and spirit are all connected. Your body & spirit are just as important as your mind when it comes to your mental health. When I meet with people expressing concerns for their mental health, I first ask about their three fundamental physical needs: exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Nothing will compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle. Living a therapeutic lifestyle means that not only are you bettering yourself mentally through therapy, but taking care of yourself physically. Let’s dive into each component individually.
I want you to think of exercise as the best antidepressant or anti-anxiety pill. Multiple studies have shown that exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental health. Exercise is just as effective for mental health as taking a prescription pill for those with middle to moderate anxiety and depression. Research shows that the number of bad mental health days dropped by over 40% by those who exercise. Exercise has been proven to increase sleep quality, reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy levels, increase self-esteem, and increase libido. As you exercise it allows you to process your emotions, thoughts, and feelings more effectively. It even benefits the aging process too- both physically and mentally. If there is any benefit that you are wanting, exercise likely has it.
Your brain drives your hunger and appetite. Your nutrition directly impacts your overall mental wellbeing. Think of it like this- what sort of oil goes into an expensive sports car? The highest grade, right? If you were to put in low grade oil, it likely would affect the performance of the car. Your brain is the same way. Processed foods and refined sugar negatively affect your brain's function and gut health. Your gut has trillions of bacteria cells that affect not only physical function but also your mental function. Fueling our brain and gut with proper foods allows us to better process and manage our emotions. Harvard medical school published a research article and stated
“Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, and your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, or neurons, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don't just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.”
Simply put, what you eat directly impacts your mental health. Eat foods that love you back! You don’t have to be insane and eat only organic and never indulge in your guilty pleasures. However, we recommend following the 80/20 rule. 80% whole foods, non processed, non refined sugar. 20% whatever you want. It can be difficult, but it is extremely worth it.
Sleep is fundamental to our ability to manage our emotions and mental health. 75% of people with depression show symptoms of insomnia. Sleep disturbances are linked with higher psychological distress. Sleep has been proven to increase creativity and problem solving skills, increase in memory, increase in focus, and increase your lifespan. When you sleep, your brain is able to process the day's events, consolidate memories, and act as a maintenance process. Sleep is as necessary as eating and breathing.
How is your sleep? Take a moment to think about your sleep habits. Do you fall asleep easily? Do you wake up feeling rested? If not, take a moment to think about what you can do to improve your sleep habits. If you have no idea what to do, try these 6 tips.
I encourage you to take these three foundational things seriously. Exercise, nutrition and sleep are so important. I see it in the lives of my clients as well as mine. Get these things nailed down, and it will be easier to enjoy life and navigate your mental health.
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