The 10th of October 2022 is World Mental Health Day, so I am taking a moment to highlight how you can support your mental health with small practices, every day. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing, it affects how we think, feel and show up in our lives. Our mental health can determine our resilience to stress and overwhelm, how we connect with others as well as the choices that we make.
Mental health can be influenced by:
- Brain chemistry and neurotransmitter imbalance
- Genetics and family history
- Life experiences, circumstances and trauma
As a naturopath I am guided by and continuously brought home to the “foundations of health” which include nutrition, sleep, movement, sunshine, fresh air, connection and joy. These are the non-negotiables for good health no matter the condition, symptom or presentation, if one or more of these areas are out of balance then the body and mind cannot thrive.
Think of these as daily promises that you can keep with yourself to support your mental and emotional health while also seeking individualised support from qualified professionals.
Preparing a nourishing meal is a great act of self-love. Our mental health relies on the nutrients provided by food to produce the necessary neurotransmitters that regulate our mood, such as serotonin. A balanced wholefoods diet, similar to the Mediterranean diet has shown to reduce the risk of anxiety and depression by regulating glycaemic control, modulating the immune system, down-regulating inflammation and maintaining our gut microbiome. When the diet contains pro-inflammatory foods such as refined sugars, excess refined carbohydrates, trans-fats etc. we increase our susceptibility to mood irregularities too.
Simple food for a good mood:
- Abundance of fruit, vegetables, nuts & legumes
- Moderate consumption of poultry, eggs and dairy products
- Fish 3x weekly & occasional consumption of red meat
- Enjoy 2-3 litres of filtered water daily
- Specific nutrients: magnesium, essential fatty acids, B vitamins
Sleep has a bidirectional affect on mental health where mental health conditions tend to make it more difficult to sleep and poor sleep can be a contributing factor to the initiation and worsening of mental health problems. So, encouraging good sleep can reduce the risk of mental health conditions, however you may also require additional mental health support, see a list of various modalities that can support mental health at the end of this post. Sufficient sleep is also important for balanced blood sugars which will assist in making better food choices throughout the day.
Tips to improve sleep for mental health:
- Reduce bright lights at least one hour before bed – including screens!
- Finish eating two hours before bed
- Promote relaxation: deep breathing, meditating, yin yoga, reading
- Passionflower: a beautiful anxiolytic herb that reduces excitatory neurotransmitters, it can be found in Sleep Inner Beauty Powder & serenity tea
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Ensure natural light exposure upon waking
- Implementing a regular exercise routine
When we exercise, the body releases endorphins which are hormones that the body releases in response to pleasurable activities such as exercise, getting a massage and even sex. Endorphins help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve a sense of well-being. Exercise has also shown to reduce anxiety and depression by increasing blood circulation to the brain and stimulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that communicates with the part of the brain responsible for motivation and mood.
Introducing a regular exercise regime:
- Go for a daily walk
- Find an activity you enjoy doing: yoga, pilates, skipping, running, swimming, hiking etc.
- Try some work outs on Prae TV
Sunshine & Fresh Air
Inadequate levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of depression. This could be because Vitamin D regulates the HPA axis and protects against the depletion of feel-good neurotransmitters; dopamine and serotonin. Meanwhile, breathing fresh air raises oxygen levels in the brain which in turn boost serotonin production.
Spending time outside:
- Enjoy your morning cuppa outside soon after rising
- Take your lunch breaks outside
- Open the windows!
- Ensure weekly trips to the beach, national parks, mountains etc.
- Exposure your forearms or thighs for 20 minutes daily (even if it’s overcast!)
Connection, Joy & Purpose
When struggling with mental health making meaningful connections and cultivating joy can be quite challenging. You may like to try taking some time to identify your values. Values are our hearts deepest desires, it’s how we want to live our life, how we treat ourselves, others and the world around us. Our values are distinct from goals, we will often measure success in goals achieved but consider living in alignment to your values and setting goals execute your values! For example, you may value feeling healthy and well so you set a goal to increase your vegetable intake, or you value being creative so you set the goal to paint more often. When we live a values based life, we have a greater chance at enjoying the journey.
Making meaningful connections, cultivating joy & finding purpose:
- Take some time to reflect on your personal values & make space for them
- Engage in activities you’re passionate about
- Revisit what you loved doing when you were a child: painting, woodwork, hula hooping, dancing, baking etc.
- Start a meditation practice, I personally love the insight timer app
I understand that when struggling with mental health it can be challenging to initiate positive action towards oneself. I want you to know that you’re worth the time taken to nourish yourself. My recommendation is to select 1-2 things from each area and build upon that. You may begin by ensuring 1 piece of fruit everyday, going to bed at the same time each night, taking a daily walk around the block, enjoying a hot drink outside and reflecting on your values.
If you require further support you may like to explore some of these modalities:
- Neuro-linguistic therapy (LNP)
- Emotional focused therapy (EFT)
- Somatic therapy
- Art therapy
- Massage therapy
Meghan is an accredited Naturopath based in Sydney and practices Australia-wide via her virtual clinic. Meghan listens compassionately to your health journey, meets you where you’re at and goes at your pace. With your health goals in mind, she interwinds the traditional practices and art of naturopathy with evidence-based research to support your body’s innate ability to heal. Meghan has a special interest in women’s health, hormones and fertility, teen health, mental and emotional health and at the core of it all, gut health.
Get in touch with Meghan:
Email | firstname.lastname@example.org
Website | www.inbloomnaturopathy.com
Instagram | @in.bloom.naturopathy
Book a consult | https://www.inbloomnaturopathy.com/book