Get physical for mental well-being
WITH rates of physical and mental illness alarmingly high throughout Australia, it comes as no surprise that researchers are starting to look at how our physical health and lifestyle choices impact our mental health and vice versa.
The beauty of this is that through some simple lifestyle changes we are able to improve not only our physical health but our emotional well-being too.
A wealth of research conducted over the past 50-plus years has demonstrated a strong association between our food choices and our long-term health.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, has been investigated in depth due to its positive influence on physical and mental health.
In more recent years, this has turned to the role of specific nutrients such as vitamin B12, folate, iron and omega 3 in keeping our body and mind working efficiently.
Filling up on vegetables, fruit, lean protein and wholegrain carbs ensures you get the spread of nutrients your body needs.
Exercise can do so much more than just keep us physically healthy.
Regular physical activity has been shown to improve brain function, stimulate the release of endorphins (the happy hormones), improve sleep quality and reduce oxidation in the body associated with poor mental health.
Unfortunately up to 70% of Australians are not meeting the physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise each week and missing out on these benefits.
How can you get more movement into your week?
Caffeine and alcohol
Depending on the situation, many of us turn to either caffeine as a pick-me-up or alcohol as a relaxant.
This approach can work in the short term but can lead to issues if it becomes a regular occurrence.
Both alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate underlying mental health issues, masking them until things boil over.
Alcohol, in particular, is also doing no favours for our physical health.
Call to action
The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This definition really brings home the strong association between our physical and mental health and the importance of looking after both.
Encouragingly, by making a few small changes to your lifestyle (be it food, exercise, alcohol or caffeine) you are able to live a healthier and happier life.
HEALTH IMPROVEMENT: Explore the link between physical and mental illness and how to best look after both.