Take control of mind and mood with two healthy habits
Most know that good lifestyle habits are crucial to maintaining physical wellness. The decisions we make on a daily basis, from regular exercise to proper nutrition and sleep, have a direct correlation to avoiding preventable diseases. The same is true for improving our brain function and overall mental wellness.
While there are brain-boosting benefits to reading, puzzles, and learning new things, one of the most effective ways to improve mood and mental health is through diet. Just like the brain, the gut has its own nervous system which sends information to the brain. Psychology Today provides a handy list of food groups that can impact mind function and mood.
• Complex carbohydrates found in whole-wheat products, bulgur, oats, wild rice, barley, beans, and soy release glucose slowly, helping us feel full longer and providing a steady source of fuel for the brain and body.
• Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel have been shown to reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other mental disorders.
• Lean protein to maintain serotonin levels is fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, and beans.
• Leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, turnip, and mustard greens and broccoli are high in folic acid, as are beets and lentils. Deficiencies in folate and other B vitamins have been linked with higher rates of depression, fatigue, and insomnia.
• Fermented foods, such as yogurt with active cultures, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, and certain pickled vegetables, contain probiotics (healthy bacteria) that have been shown in studies to reduce anxiety and stress hormones.
The second invaluable habit to incorporate every day for proper brain function is one that is especially important for those with a mental illness diagnosis. Sleep problems lead to problems with memory, thought process, chronic fatigue and pain as well as depression and anxiety.
According to an article published by Harvard Health Publishing, we are a nation of sleep deprivation, but those with psychiatric conditions are more impacted. The piece stated that chronic sleep problems affect 50 to 80 percent of patients in a typical psychiatric practice, compared with 10 to 18 percent of adults in the general U.S. population and that sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
During sleep, our brains go into the repair stage, restoring tissue and nerves that help our hormone and immune system. Make your bedroom a sanctuary that is designated just for sleep and sex. Eliminate caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bedtime. Minimize light, noise, and stimulants like phones or TV to allow your mind to get quiet and prepared for rest.
Along with good nutrition, restorative sleep is vital for your optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. Both are key contributors to good mental and physical health but is not a substitute for professional treatment. If you’re struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder, contact Community Care Services or speak with your family physician.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 35 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.