Who would you call a fit person? The one with a healthy body or a healthy sound body? A person is reasonably fit when enjoying a healthy harmony between body, mind, and the soul. According to the constitution of WHO,
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”Quote from WHO websiteTweet
In other words, mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.
A recent Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) claims, “one in six people today suffers from a common mental problem, anxiety or depression.” The requirement for practical ways to understand and improve mental health has never been this urgent.
This briefing draws attention to nutrition to be effectively integrated into public health strategies to protect and improve mental health and emotional well-being. It describes the relationship between food and mental health, the risk and positive factors within our diets, and proposes an action plan.
Rapid social change, stressful working conditions, social discrimination/ exclusion, sedentary lifestyle, and physical ill-health are causes of poor mental health. We have to remain conscious of our actions taken as individuals to promote health and wellness in our lives. We must strive for a better environment for ourselves because negative vibes can ruin our mental peace forever.
This article will take an insight into some simple and inexpensive ways to become aware of mental health and how we can achieve that.
Mental health and nutrition
Science has clearly defined the relationship between nutrition and mental well-being in depth. The quality of our food has a significant role in our overall physical and psychological health. The famous proverb, “we become what we eat,” establishes that the secret of our fitness lies in the kitchen.
Clean, green, organic, and farm-fresh are always healthy choices. Vegetables, fruits, legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), whole grains (rice, quinoa, ragi, oats, etc.), nuts, and seeds are ideal for a vegan diet. Fish, organic chicken, and milk are good options for non-vegetarians.
Research has shown that people eating a healthy diet are 35 percent less likely to develop depression. Sweet, processed, and fatty foods can trigger weight issues, leading to low esteem and obesity, and disturbed sleep patterns. Some foods stimulate the brain drastically and temporarily affect mood. We know that coffee and chocolate are very popular stimulants and people trust heavily on them for instant energy sources.
Importance of Diet for Mental Health
We can easily understand the connection between food and mental well-being because we get quick relief from hunger, which leads to a better mood. Moreover, it becomes complex as the gut bacteria affect the chemicals that your brain produces, which profoundly affects your psychological state. Therefore, your gut is known as the ‘second brain.’
Diet to the hippocampus a vital brain area involved in learning, memory, and mental health. People who believe in a healthy diet have more hippocampal volume than those who follow an unhealthy diet. Similarly, Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D3, and the B group vitamins are essential for brain health. They should consume natural ways, and supplementation may be needed if there is a deficiency. Pregnant women and children must have access to nutritious food to reduce the risk of mental health issues later on in life.
Exercise for a healthy mind
Any exercise like cardio, Pilates, weight training, and yoga is mandatory to release happy hormones like endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. It reduces stress in the form of positive reaffirmations and visualization techniques. One must learn to let go and step back in particular situations and not sweat over the small stuff.
Practicing Mindful Eating
Surprisingly, most of us don’t pay close attention to our eating habits. What if I tell you that drawing attention to how you eat and what you eat? That is actually the first step to making sure that you eat well-balanced meals and snacks. How about keeping a food journal to note down some tips and reminders? Documenting food stories is a great way to gain insight into your patterns.
Avoid overeating when stressed. Divert your attention to some other activities. Remember, overweight people can never enjoy high energy levels. Indulge in quality food and avoid solid spices, which are hard on digestion—choose five or six smaller meals or three large ones according to your feeding habits.
Pursuing Hobbies, spending time fruitfully
Good seven hours of sound sleep at night is crucial to having a blissful day. Good quality sleep is also related to a good diet comprising complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and exercise. Pursuing hobbies, dancing, and reading are productive ways to remain mentally agile. One also has to learn to limit social media exposure. Develop listening to soulful music, meaningful podcasts, and healthy discussions.
Being a social animal, man feels alive and kicking among his friends and community; therefore, he must continue developing his social upliftment through active participation in cultural and literary activities. Join happiness clubs and share your experiences with friends. Interacting, laughing, and crying with loved ones brings joy and fulfillment in life.
From Brain to Behaviour
Abstract concepts and understanding alone cannot bring mental health unless it creates strong sensory reactions or emotions in a person. Although the human brain works promptly at becoming aware of things, it’s a lot harder for this awareness to implement changes in behavior patterns.
JUST raising awareness is not enough. It is something like advertising how smoking is harmful to health, yet people buy a packet of cigarettes immediately after watching that ad.
We have to take action in the right direction and implement many strategies to translate into the willingness to do something concrete on the ground.
Mental health awareness is one aspect, but action brings the solution. Awareness is excellent for supporting those with issues to seek help, but it will be meaningless if there’s no help available.
Community-level schemes, affordable, nutritious food, particularly in communities at higher risk of mental health issues, should be made accessible.
Emphasizing nutritional literacy as part of a national mental health literacy program to ensure initiatives in the public interest will help strengthen the cause. As part of the national curriculum, proper focus on education in schools and colleges with practical food skills and cooking and growing should be introduced.
Let us walk together holding hands to be physically and mentally fit: all it needs is to make minor changes to one’s lifestyle. Let us say no to chronic diseases and expensive treatments. Say no to depression and increase our happy circle where we all can enjoy the supreme energy. Let us make our soul and spirit power to choose darkness over light.