Updated: Jan 11, 2019
We are all aware of the importance of maintaining optimal physical health. We try to exercise three to four times a week and try to eat our "five a day"; five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day. But how much attention do we pay to the mental health part of that equation? Do we make deliberate choices in life aimed at improving our mental well being?
I am not a physician or mental health professional but I have done some research into the issue of improving mental health through nutrition and other means. I have identified these three practices as instrumental in improving mental health and alertness.
1. A Healthy Diet
Maintaining a diet rich in all the essential nutrients is probably one of the most talked about means to improve mental health, and rightfully so.
Research shows that the quality of your diet goes a long way to determine your physical, emotional and psychological state. Scientists have identified a few food groups that are not just great for your body but also your mind.
It is recommended that you eat fish at least once a day. Folks who consume fish at least once a week have a 60% lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. This is according to research conducted by Martha Clare Morris, ScD, an epidemiologist and associate professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
The reason being that there are large quantities of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid found in a healthy human brain. Cold water fish such as Salmon, tuba ad cod also contain significant amounts of the same nutrient as well.
Studies have also shown that one can slow cognitive decline about 10% by consuming a weekly seafood-based meal, turning back the clock on mental and psychological disrepair. Diet can also play a role in the management and treatment of other mental conditions like depression, schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHA).
This is not to say that simply eating the "right" foods will, alone cure, or even manage these conditions or your mental health as a whole. It is also recommended that a healthy diet is maintained in conjunction with other activities and treatments as well.
2. Regular Exercise
A decent diet is paramount to maintaining mental health and alertness but so is keeping the mind active.
There have been many debates and speculation in the media in recent years about the ways in which one can slow down cognitive decay and brain degeneration in aging. Research has been done to uncover ways in which we can overcome Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Besides consuming healthy foods, one of the ways in through which one can maintain optimal mental health is regular exercise. Cardiovascular activity pumps more oxygen-rich blood to the brain, which is like giving a car a shot of gasoline," says Thomas Crook, PhD, an expert on cognitive development and memory disorders.
Regular exercise pumps blood to the brain, the blood carries glucose, which is like jet fuel for your brain cells. Studies show that almost all the cells in your brain, especially the frontal lobe light-up during cardiovascular workouts. Some of the best physical activities to keep your brain active and mind sharp are running, hiking, cycling and power-walking.
3. Positive Thinking
There is immense power in positive thinking. It may seem trivial to some, but studies show that those who look at life via positive lenses tend to experience healthier lifestyles and improved quality of life.
Various research studies show that positive emotions and thoughts have a positive effect on your ability to process information and are linked to better brain health over time.
Your mind takes shape based on the types of ideas, thoughts and experiences you are exposed to. This means you have the ability to feed your mind with exactly what you choose. What you choose to feed your mind with is your "Mind diet". Surround yourself with positive people. Try to look at most setbacks as learning opportunities and try to laugh at yourself from time to time. It is important that you choose a healthy mind diet as to facilitate a healthy mind over time.