Nurturing your mental health is just as pivotal as taking care of your physical wellbeing.

The stats say that each year in the U.S., roughly 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness of some sort. In 2019, 43.8% of them, or 5.8 million individuals, did not receive mental health services. Countless factors can jeopardize one’s mental health. Improper sleep, excessive stress, and emotional imbalance are some of them.

Nevertheless, two of the most considerable triggers that can negatively affect mental health are undoubtedly poor nutrition and — you guessed it — lack of exercise. Your eating and exercise habits may also be referred to as your behavioral health.

Let’s examine the behavioral health advantages of regular exercise and proper nutrition in keeping your mental health in tip-top shape.

What Exercises Improve Mental Health?

Science has long supported claims that physical activity dramatically boosts one’s physical and mental health. According to a related study, increased physical engagement reduces the risk of depression by 30%. Adding to this notion is another study, which found that individuals who exercise regularly experienced 43% fewer days of poor mental health in a given month if all other factors were the same.   

As for which exercises soothe your mental wellbeing the best, read on.

1. Walking

The most affordable, gym-free exercise that boosts your mental health is walking. Moderate or intense, walking sharpens up the focus and helps shake off excessive stress. Even a simple 10-minute walk every day can do wonders for your mental health. It keeps your body moving without being overly demanding. It also encourages alertness, positive thinking, and helps clear the mind of emotional obstacles. Regular walking — daily, that is — is most suitable for individuals suffering from frequent panic attacks or any form of anxiety.

2. Yoga

Whether looking to clear your mind, refocus, or restart your day, yoga can help you do it. Yoga exists in many shapes and forms, and everyone can find their perfect pace — whether you’re a beginner or experienced. Yoga can be gentle in a way but does wonders for your mental stability.

It sharpens the concentration, balances the breath, controls the thought flow, and works particularly well when combined with meditation.  

3. Swimming

When in doubt on how to boost your mental health, go for a swim. Whether in open waters or swimming pools, swimming gets your psyche in order. As a low-impact exercise, swimming for a minimum of 15 minutes a day can reduce brain fogginess, confusion, and disorientation. Regular swimming also encourages the release of feel-good chemicals and hormones, boosts brain function, and increases sleep quality.

4. HIIT

HIIT, or high-intensity exercise, is a more drastic exercise option, yet it is beyond worthwhile. Popular opinion may state that HIIT boosts stress levels, but in fact it does the opposite. It reduces the cortisol levels in the body and makes you more relaxed. It also helps the brain produce more adrenaline and keeps you active and sharp.

As HIIT is all about overcoming challenges and obstacles, it ultimately strengthens one’s will and determination and delivers a sense of emotional accomplishment.  

What Foods Boost Mental Health?

Saying that nutrition plays a key role in building your mental health is an understatement. Nutrition plays such a big role in mental health that many companies are spending millions on research and development. Various nootropics, supplements, and CBD oils, which can now be put into vape juice, are all showing promising results in this space, but are yet to overthrow a good old-fashioned healthy diet. 

As per a review of 56 studies, diets based on olive oil, legumes, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables showed dramatically reduced depression and anxiety among participants.

Here are the foods science acknowledges as mental health boosters.   

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish has been long considered brain food. Why? As per science, fatty fish like salmon, trout, and tuna are rich in DHA. This unique omega-3 fatty acid helps strengthen long-term memory, focus, and optimizes overall brain performance. Omega-3 fatty acids can also promote a better mood and significantly reduce anxiety.

2. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries — take your pick! Berries are exquisitely favorable to one’s mental health, all thanks to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants found in berries help reduce cortisol levels in the body and therefore fight anxiety and depression. Berries are also rich in polyphenols, compounds responsible for boosting one’s concentration, memory, and attention span.

3. Yogurt

Interestingly, yogurt boasts an array of compounds able to reinforce one’s mental health. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which are especially important for the digestive system but also for the brain’s connection to it. Among other perks, yogurt can decrease stress and anxiety levels, and combat depression symptoms.

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are exceptionally rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that accelerates the production of serotonin. Also known as the feel-good hormone, high serotonin levels can help clear one’s mind, reduce mood swings, and promote healthier sleep.

5. Walnuts

Out of all nuts, walnuts are at the top of the list of foods that are good for your mental health. Shaped like the human brain, walnuts are rich in antioxidants, which help inhibit brain and body oxidation. Moreover, walnuts assist the brain in growing new neurons, delivering higher energy, and fighting off feelings of hopelessness. Imagine walnuts conference calling all the cells in your brain, giving them a pep talk!

6. Dark Leafy Greens

From spinach and kale to arugula, collard greens, and Swiss chard — dark leafy greens provide strong support for your mental health. According to a related study on dark leafy greens and mental health, individuals who have consumed the recommended daily servings of dark leafy greens experienced greater cognitive clarity as they aged.

The Verdict

Practicing sufficient mindfulness and being physically active on a daily basis can largely contribute to sharper and more optimized mental health.

While diet and exercise are only part of the process of caring for your mental health, implementing an adequate training regimen and a suitable nutrition are two excellent starting points for improving your mental health.

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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