Connecting Mental and Physical Health During National Nutrition Month

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Each March, National Nutrition Month is recognized across the United States to help educate and inform individuals about the importance of making informed food choices and developing stable eating and physical activity habits. While many may not think there is a link between physical health and mental health, clinicians say that the link is much stronger than one would think, and that it is important to nurture both equally to ensure optimal health and wellness.

Below are a few ways that the mind has a significant impact on the body:
  1. Chronic illness and depression: Depression has been shown to increase the risk for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
  2. Dehydration and depression:Studies link depression to dehydration because 85 percent of brain tissue is water, and dehydration causes a decrease in energy generation in the brain. A lack of adequate water intake can also contribute to fatigue, foggy thinking, headaches, and much more.
  3. Depression and longevity: According to a review published in June 2014 in World Psychiatry, many major mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of death. Another study, published in October 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that those with depression may have life spans from about 7 to 18 years shorter than the general population.

With these factors in mind, it is important for us to practice both positive mental and physical health activities daily.  One way to do so is by maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet to keep the mind and body happy and health. Below are a few ideas on how you can incorporate more nutritious choices into your diet to improve overall health and wellness:

  1. Don’t skip out on breakfast. The old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” still rings true today. Skipping the first meal of the day has been linked to an increase in obesity and risk for diabetes. Even if you only have time for a granola bar or similar on-the-go snack, make sure you are eating something before you head to work.
  2. Stay hydrated. It can become easy throughout a busy day to forget to grab a few sips of water. Fill up a large water bottle before heading to work each day and make it a point to finish it before the day is over. Many fitness apps, such as Daily Water, now allow you to set alerts to remind you to drink water throughout the day.
  3. Keep an inventory of healthy snacks on hand. Whether you are at home or at the office, it is important to keep healthy snacks on hand so you are not tempted to head out for fast food or make a visit to the vending machine. Snacks such as raisins, almonds, and healthy granola bars are great options and all reasonably priced.
  4. Make dinners at home a priority. Setting aside time to eat together at the kitchen table helps to maintain a healthy balance between your personal and professional lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean cooking at home every night — there are plenty of nutritious take-out options including salads and seafood.

For more information on the link between mental and physical health and how adding nutritious choices to your diet can improve both, visit the Mental Health Foundation’s website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health

Resources:
7 Habits for a Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body

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