Boost your mental health with diet and exercise

Mental Health

What is Mental Health? 

Mental health is the well-being of an individual's emotional, psychological, and physical state of mind. Mental well-being promotes the ability to enjoy life, be productive, have relationships, and cope with problems. In contrast, mental illness is a condition that disrupts the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. 

It has significant effects on a person's life, including their relationships, work or school life, and day-to-day activities. The most common mental illness worldwide is depression. In India, 56 million people suffer from depression and another 38 million suffer from anxiety disorders.

Every year more than 300 million people are affected by mental disorders. In India, one in every five individuals will suffer from some form of mental illness at some point in his or her lifetime. However, almost 50% of people with mental health conditions receive no treatment at all.

Why is Mental Health Important?

Mental health is the well-being of your mind and brain. It's about how you feel, think, and handle the experiences of everyday life.

There is a thin line that separates good health from good mental health. It is as important to exercise your body to enhance your mental health as it is to exercise your brain. A healthy body can boost your mental health and a healthy mind helps you maintain a healthy body.

 What is Mental Illness?

Mental illness is a silent epidemic that is affecting more than 300 million people in the world. Asking the right questions to an individual suffering from a mental illness or a behavioral disorder could be critical to getting them the help that they need. Mental health is important for everyone, one’s happiness and well-being, productivity at work, relationships, and ability to reach goals.  

How to Improve Mental Health with Diet?

Diet and exercise are equally important for a healthy lifestyle. Whether you are happy or sad, you need to eat a healthy diet so that your body can function optimally. If your body lacks the required nutrients, then there can be physical and mental issues too. For example, if you are hungry most of the time, then your mind will be active and you will be able to focus on your work.  

On the other hand, if you eat more than required, then it will hamper your body's ability to function well. If your body is sluggish, then you will not be able to give your best during work. Also, excess eating causes increased fat in the body which in turn leads to many physical problems. Similarly, if you undergo physical exercise regularly, then you can maintain weight as well as mental fitness. If you do not participate in physical exercise, then your mental health may be impacted because you lack the motivation to work.

Our brain requires a constant supply of fuel in the form of food and physical workout. It can directly improve the structure and functioning of our brain. Thus, boosts our mental state as well. A balanced diet rich in vital nutrients can prevent mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Almost 90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps enhance moods, is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. So, it makes perfect sense to say that a person’s digestive system not only helps to digest food but also guides emotions. 

Essential Nutrients for Mental Health

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can be found in salmon, flax seeds, soybeans, walnuts, etc can improve learning and memory power. It also helps in fighting against mental disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, dementia, etc.

Iron deficiency can lead to feelings of apathy, depression, fatigue, etc. Therefore, do not forget to add iron-rich foods like oatmeal, raisins, leafy vegetables, lentils, etc to your diet.

Zinc helps in preventing depressive symptoms. So, it is wise to add foods like pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, spinach, etc to your diet that are rich in zinc.

Magnesium plays a vital role in developing serotonin. Fish, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, banana, almonds, dark chocolate, leafy vegetables, etc are all dense in magnesium.

Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 can help ward off mental disorders and are essential for better neurological functioning, which in turn helps regulate mood. Eggs, milk, meat, etc are good sources of Vitamin D and Vitamin B12.

How to Improve Mental Health with Exercise?

Many people believe that exercise only helps in losing weight or building muscles. Much to their surprise, exercise can improve mood as well. Exercise enhances the action of endorphins, which are chemicals that improve the body’s immunity, reduce pain and enhance mood. It also provides various health benefits such as protection against heart diseases and cancer, prevents high blood pressure, and boosts self-esteem.

Exercise creates a positive mindset and a positive impact on the body. This helps to kick out negativity from your mind, ultimately making you feel contented. Exercise helps you to focus on your breathing and teaches you how to stay calm and relaxed. This in turn takes you into a positive and happy state of mind. 

Take Away

Mental health is something that most of us rarely pay attention to. Maybe it's because we can never see it, or perhaps because we feel like it's a personal thing that we can work out on our own.

‘How are you doing?’ This is the one question that you can ask when you notice a difference in a person’s behavior to help them get connected with mental health services. Mental health is an important part of overall wellbeing. This question will let you know if anything is bothering the person. It lets you know if he/she is not doing well and is ready to talk. You can ask this question regularly, but don’t pry into details if they don’t want to share.

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