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When thinking of the term mental health you probably think of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and social components. Which is true. Mental Health is your emotional, psychological and social well-being. However, your physical health also has a huge impact on your mental health. There are various ways that your physical and mental health interact with each other. Poor mental health can lead to potential physical health issues and poor physical health can lead to mental illness. Nearly one in three people with a long-term physical health condition also has a mental health problem, most often depression or anxiety. You may be curious as to why mental health and physical health are directly related. Essentially, mental health issues or medications can affect your motivation to take care of yourself, leading to other health issues. Physical health problems commonly lead to anxiety and depression for a variety of reasons but a few include medications, anxiety about the issue returning, hopelessness of never getting better, and losing a sense of normalcy. There are many other ways that your mental and physical health interact, these are the most basic ways to explain it. Bottom line, if you want to improve/maintain either your physical health or mental health, you can do both! So here are some ideas on how you can improve your mental health and physical health at the same time!

GO OUTSIDE

There are five main benefits of being in the sun. The first, is that sunlight can improve your mood! Sunlight increases production of serotonin, often referred to as the happy hormone! It also increases your energy so if you're feeling unmotivated, spend 15 minutes outside! Sunlight also can treat seasonal affective disorder, a mental health issue also known as seasonal depression. This is also because of increased serotonin levels that combat that feeling of depression. Additionally, sun exposure can reduce stress because it helps to regulate melatonin production in the body, which is necessary to maintain the circadian rhythms of the body. Irregular circadian rhythms negatively affect a persons ability to sleep and function which in turn can cause various mental illness and physical health problems. Sun exposure has a large effect on your sleep cycle because it regulates melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you tired at night so without it you may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. The last main benefit of sun exposure is that it produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential to strong bone health and other various physical health aspects. To reap all these benefits of sun exposure you only need 30 minutes in the sun! So remember to soak up some sun each day.

YOUR NUTRITION MATTERS

Eating healthy is important for your physical health, we all know that. However, the food you eat also determines how well you function mentally. Think of it this way, your brain is like a vehicle. To keep it running, it needs fuel. Food is your brains fuel source. What you eat has a direct effect on the structure of your brain which affects all areas of your mental health. Your brain runs best when it is receiving high quality "fuel." This means eating high quality foods that are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants are extremely important when thinking of your mental health. Antioxidants are what protect the brain from oxidative stress which can damage cells. Refined sugars actually promote oxidative stress as well as irregular insulin supply. This is only in excessive amounts. So you don't have to cut out refined/added sugars completely but should reduce your intake to around 30g or less per day. Additionally, your diet affects your hormone production. Serotonin regulates sleep, appetite, moods and inhibits pain. 95% of this hormone is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Your GI tract is highly influenced by the bacteria in your body. There is good bacteria and bad bacteria. Prebiotics and Probiotics are the best bacteria for a happy gut. Some foods that contain this good bacteria are whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, garlic, soybeans, artichokes and fermented foods like yogurt. Your gastrointestinal tract is highly influenced by the foods you eat and is a vital component in regulating your emotions, so try to achieve a healthy and balanced diet! If you have trouble doing this, reach out to a nutrition professional!

MOVE YOUR BODY

We know the numerous benefits of exercise for physical health. It reduces risk of disease, improves brain function and sleep quality, lowers blood pressure, and aids in weight management. Exercise also combats five of the most common mental disorders; depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, and ADHD. How you may ask? Let's start with depression. When referring to depression, exercise can serve as an antidepressant without the side effects. It does this through promoting neural growth, reducing inflammation, and creating new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are the powerful chemicals in your brain that give you energy and make your mind and body feel good. Additionally, exercise combats stress and anxiety through its easing of tension and its promotion of mindfulness, an effective method for combatting anxiety. Mindfulness helps dissipate and interrupt worrying which is a huge part of stress and anxiety. Physical activity also acts as an ADHD treatment because it immediately boosts the brain's dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. Medications used to treat ADHD do the exact same thing. Physical activity acts as a natural medication for all kinds of mental disorders and illnesses. Try at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day and watch your physical and mental health drastically improve.

These are just a few ways that physical health improves your physical and mental well-being. Many people think they don't have time to fit exercise into their day, but taking thirty minutes of your day to move your body can add years to your life!

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