We all experience feelings of depression and anxiety on some level just as we all have different ways of coping with these aspects of our mental health. Exercise and nutrition are important components of mental health. We tend to think of our minds and bodies as separate entities when really we are all one, giant pile of vibrating stardust - ok but for real, your mind and your body are equally part of what make you you. Exercise and nutrition can help heal and manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
Exercise is a natural drug. You can load up your adaptogen arsenal, rub CBD oil on the soles of your feet, and sprinkle rare Aztec-blessed dried flowers in your bath, but moving your body is a wonder drug that is instrumental for feeling good. The effects of increased blood flow from exercise run the gambit of boosting your brain to glowing skin to muscle and joint health. Not to mention that it's mood elevating super powers can help lessen your stress, increase the quantity/quality of your sleep, up self esteem, and help decrease those feelings of anxiety and depression.
When you move your body we all know that serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are released which give you that juicy, good buzz. But neurotrophic proteins are also released which stimulates nerve cells to grow and create new connections which can help lessen feelings of depression. The hippocampus is a part of your brain that houses memory, emotion regulation, and learning. Studies continue to prove that exercise directly affects hippocampal neurogenesis. Also, simply focusing on the sensations in your body while exercising forces you to be present instead of worrying about what already happened and what is to come.
I believe that inflammation is the root cause of most disease. This being said, I’m not a doctor, nor a scientist, just an obsessive wellness researcher. We need a healthy level of inflammation it is our body’s immune response to infection. Too much or chronic inflammation is where we start to develop symptoms of disease. Your immune system is largely housed in your gut and because our brain and gut brain are in constant communication our gut health affects our mental health. I could talk about this topic for weeks, the science is still newish and people are finally starting to catch on, but I without a doubt believe that we can control our mental health (to a degree) by our nutrition. When we are exposed to more toxins both environmental and dietary we are likely to have more inflammation. Does your mind feel clearer after you spend a week eating clean, whole foods or after you’ve eaten processed food on the fly for convenience (hello brain fog)? There are certainly foods that have been proven to cause inflammation, but every body is different and everybody is affected differently which makes this topic even trickier. To be clear, I think there is a time and a place for medication and also a time and a place for some less than perfect eating, but if we are in tune with our body we are able to pinpoint foods or lifestyles that do and do not work for our specific needs.
To create a lifestyle, you must create a habit. Your life tends to be a sum of your habits. Creating a healthy habit doesn’t have to be a life changing event from the get go. Make small changes. We live choice to choice. Start making choices that support the habit you want to create. Day after day keep making these choices to lead you in that direction. Remember how accomplished it feels when you succeed in these choices. For example, you want to start working out in the morning. Each day when you wake up you choose to move. Maybe starting small at first and then eventually getting to the gym or taking a class. But the more you do it the more it becomes ingrained in your day. Tell yourself that you’re one of those people who bang out their workout bright and early! It’s the new you, it’s now the way you choose to live as long as it serves your needs. When you fall off that wagon, hop back on by remembering how good it feels to start your day with a sweat, not to mention you may be inspiring people around (looking at you Karen from cubicle 10) to create healthy habits too!
To take care of our mind is to take care of our body and vice versa. Our thoughts feed our health and our healthy choices enhance our mood. The more in tune you become with your mental health the better you will feel. It’s not easy, it’s a journey - an often frustrating one at that but anything worth having requires time and commitment and you are your best investment.