The connection between Mind and Body has been clear for some time.
Our mental health can affect all parts of our life – our relationships at home and work, our self esteem and our physical health.
Just like keeping our physical health in good condition there are strategies we can easily add to our day to day life that can keep our mental health positive and healthy.
Start small and consider some simple strategies that are well supported by research and are quite manageable.
Step One – Regular Higher Intensity Exercise:
The good news is that you don’t need to look like Aquaman/Wonder Woman for exercise to be good for your mind!
Research shows that just 15 minutes a day of higher intensity exercise or one hour of lower intensity exercise such as walking, gardening or housework may help prevent depression. (Though, if you’re like me, housework may not be a regular chosen activity!) and lower symptoms of anxiety.
Even gentle movement and stretching can be useful to supporting positive mood, whether it be a formal yoga or pilates class or just taking some time to attend to your body.
So next time you’re exercising you feel good knowing you are:
– improving your blood flow, which is good for the brain, circulation, heart and muscles
– optimising your sleep quality
– boosting energy levels
– enhancing your endorphins (natural feel good chemicals)
The key is to focus on whatever exercise or activity gives you enjoyment and make it regular.
Step Two: Eat Healthy
We can all relate to the impact of food on our mood. When we look at depression or anxiety however, some foods are better than others. Many of us use Caffeine, Alcohol, Tobacco, Sugar (CATS) to justify making us feel better, to get us in the mood, but these are not particularly good for the brain! The sugar connection to depression is to do with a balance of glucose supply to the brain. Too much sugar can result in extreme highs followed by extreme lows.
A recent study, found that diets higher in plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, including fish, are associated with a reduced risk for depression, while those whose diets included more processed foods and sugary products were associated with an increased risk of depression.
We already know the impact of too much alcohol, and caffeine and the withdrawal symptoms (angry, twitchy, anxious) when we cut back. This shows that our brain does care about what we put into our bodies and that we can change our brain chemistry and mood through what we eat.
Step 3: Learn Mindfulness
Mindfulness is now an on-trend word we hear at work, in the media and with friends.
Mindfulness activities have gained much publicity in the Western world recently, in particular because the neuroscience is confirming that there are benefits of Mindful Meditation to improving cognition, focus and relaxation.
How does it impact Mood?
Emotions are triggered in the brain by thoughts, which are often unconscious. When we are confronted by a potential threat, this can trigger fear or anger or the urge to run away. Quite often, our reaction is an over-reaction, due largely because our rational brain thinking is not thinking!
The regular practice of mindfulness and in particular meditation, deep belly breathing and yoga may help us to recognise when thoughts arise, to observe them in a detached manner rather than react automatically.
T Take a few breaths
O Observe what’s going on; where is your reaction coming from
P Proceed calmly
Step 4: Social Connectedness as the Social Cure
Being socially isolated increases a person’s risk of depression.
Also, being depressed often causes a person to withdraw and isolate themselves which can create a vicious cycle.
Psychological research has shown that people who belong to social groups, have friends and a connection to others have some resilience against developing mental health issues.
Join a group that you identify with and that shares your interests, your values and passion and you have found the opportunity to reduce your low mood! (We believe in this so much, that we have actually developed a social group at Revive for people that want to practice their social skills, develop friendships and support each other – email us at: admin@revivehealthandhappiness .com.au or call us on: 6381 0297 for more information).
Psychologists are trained in helping people understand the relationship between the mind and body, and helping to develop skills which can optimise your mental well being.