Making Healthy Choices Keeps You Mentally Healthy
Did you know that being physically healthy can keep you emotionally healthy as well? Eating well and exercising regularly are as important to being a mentally healthy person and having a positive self-esteem as are avoiding negative people and behaviors.
Eating a typical diet you would find in the U.S. — one filled with processed meats, packaged meals, takeout food, and sugary snacks, has been linked in several studies to higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. It may even play a role in whether someone develops ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia. It has also been tied to an increase in the risk of suicide in young people.
Eat Healthier — Improve Your Mood
Improving your diet to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing your intake of sugar, fat, and carbohydrates may help improve your mood and overall well-being. Eating healthier can lower your risk for developing mental health issues. If you already have been diagnosed with a mental health problem, it can even help you to better manage your symptoms.
Don’t Seek Perfection
You don’t have to be perfect. Improving anything in your diet can help your mood, but it is really your overall pattern of eating that makes a difference. Switching to a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean all or nothing. In fact, completely depriving yourself of a favorite food that may not be the healthiest choice is a guaranteed recipe for relapse. You can end up totally giving up on healthy eating and revert to eating less healthily than you were before you tried to change.
Moderation is the key word to observe when trying making healthier choices. Eat only as much food as your body needs. Eat until you are satisfied, but don’t eat until you are uncomfortable. Avoid eating when you are bored, sad, or looking to procrastinate from work. This is called emotional eating, which amounts to empty calories and usually undesired weight gain. Moderation also means maintaining a good balance of protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates — and supplementing anything you might be missing with vitamins.
The single most important thing to do in making healthier food choices is probably to reduce the amount of added sugar in your meals. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain and causes energy spikes that can lead to depressive episodes once the spike wears off and you “crash.” Read the box before buying or eating certain foods, as sugar is also found in bread, cereal, canned food, frozen dinners and even low-fat meals that are supposed to be good for you. Your body gets all the sugar it needs from sugar naturally occurring in food. Added sugar just means more empty calories.
Even though the word exercise can produce an immediate groan from many, it has been proven to have many emotional benefits. Regular exercise can help you gain confidence in yourself, and make you feel better when you notice yourself starting to look better. Concentrating on exercise can distract you from your worries and give your mind a break from the daily stresses you endure that can lead to anxiety and depression. Going to a gym or even just walking around the neighborhood can give you more social interaction. Making a new friend or two will always make you feel better, knowing that there are people out there who will always be happy to see you.
Exercise also can help you cope with mental issues you already may be battling. Trying to manage anxiety or depression by drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or just hoping your troubles will go away can lead to making your symptoms even worse.