This is a guest blog post by Hydaway Ambassador and health coach, Lori Krausen. Follow her on Instagram @lori.krausen.
As you may have already heard, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. There are many things that go in to effect when dealing with our mental health on a daily basis, most of which we probably do not even consider. Did you realize that mental illnesses are the biggest cause of illness and disability around the world? Depression is one of the top five disabilities across the planet. So why is this topic such a taboo one? Why are more people not discussing how we can help it?
The things we put into our body have a large effect on how our brain ultimately functions. When you each a nutrient-rich diet, full of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and unsaturated fats (healthy oils) you are 35% less likely to develop depression than those who do not (The American Journal of Psychiatry). If your diet regularly includes foods that are sugary, fried, and processed, the risk of depression increases by 60%. Your diet effects your brain and mental health by involving the hippocampal part of the brain, which is used for memory and learning, along with mental health. When you eat more healthy foods, the volume of the hippocampus increases. We always hear about how we need to eat healthy for strong bodies, but we also need it for our minds.
Tips: Remember to make smart choices at the grocery store by passing up the processed food and shop on the outside of the store where the whole foods are. Skip the fast food whenever possible.
When we do not have an adequate amount of water in our bodies, it effects our mental health. There is no “true” set amount of water you should consume in a day. Some sources say eight-8oz glasses, while others say half of your weight in ounces per day. Do know that what is best for you might be different from someone else? It all depends on your activity level, climate, health, and age, among other factors. When you do not drink enough water, you begin to become dehydrated, which effects the way you feel and think. Since your brain contains more water than the rest of body and it is easy to drink water, why let yourself become dehydrated?
Tips: Keep a water bottle with you at all times. You will increase your water intake before you know it. Add an app to your phone to remind you to drink water every few hours, if needed.
For mental health, exercise is a great tool. Sometimes it can be difficult to have the initiative to start the activity, but by making exercise part of your normal routine, you are less likely to develop depression, panic disorder, and phobias. Exercising has similar effects to cognitive behavior therapy for reducing anxiety (Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology) and is helpful with reducing symptoms of schizophrenia (Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica). Being active on a regular basis helps the brain by producing endorphins that give you the “runner’s high” and leave you feeling good for a while. Serotonin is then produced, which helps you to sleep better, helps with your appetite, and your mood. If you are not a gym person, you can always do activities around the house where you are being active, because the best movement is more than what you were doing before.
Tips: Find a good support system to help you stay motivated on the days your mental health gets the best of you. Find a routine that works best for you. Look for exercises outside of the gym – online, with friends, local 5Ks, library, etc.
Our mental health is vital. There are many things we can do try to help improve or make our mental health a little better. Diet, water intake, and exercise all play an important part in our brain function. Mental illnesses do not have to be such a taboo topic. Help one another. Help yourself. Make every bite, sip, and step count.
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