World Mental Health Day: 5 Tips for Combining Diet, Exercise, and Mental Health
Happy World Mental Health Day, readers! A day for celebrating mental health, advocating for safe and effective treatments, and banishing the stigma of mental illness!
I’m so honored you’ve chosen to add Your Body, Your Mind on your roster of reading today.
Given the nature of Your Body, Your Mind, I wanted to use today to highlight some tips to help you combine diet and exercise with balanced mental health.
After all, so many of us already know how important diet and exercise is to our mental health, but, combining it all can be pretty intimidating.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
Let’s just go ahead and get this one out of the way.
It’s recommended that you talk to your doctor whenever you want to start a new diet or exercise program.
Let’s take that general disclaimer further and recommend that you talk to both your family doctor and your therapist or psychiatrist if you want to:
- Start any diet or exercise program that might interfere with your current mental health treatments.
- Try substituting diet and exercise for mental illness treatments like anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, and mood stabilizers.
- Engage in activities that might challenge your current problems. (For example, joining a yoga class if you struggle with social situations.)
I’m not saying DON’T do any of that; I’m saying TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR before attempting anything of that nature.
2. Keep Things Simple
Don’t feel like you have to learn all sorts of extravagant recipes in order to have a healthier, more balanced diet.
Plenty of simple foods – fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, nuts, whole wheat (if you’re not gluten intolerant), and dairy products (if you’re not lactose intolerant or vegan) – provide your body and mind with scads of benefits, like:
- Boosts in serotonin production.
- Vitamin B for your nervous system.
- Vitamin E for nervous membranes and thiamin that helps the brain and nervous systems turn glucose into energy.
- The glucose your brain needs, and the fiber helps regulate its release.
3. Do What Works for YOU
I talk a big game, but regardless of what I promote, I realize that what works for one isn’t going to work for all.
For example, I once encouraged you to exercise outdoors, but I know that isn’t possible or practical for everyone.
So, instead of doing what you think you’re supposed to be doing (and, eventually burning out and quitting because it ends up not being the best thing for YOU), do what works for YOU.
If exercising outside works well for you, do it. If you’d rather take advantage of gym amenities, do it. If you’d rather workout at home because exercising in front of people causes you anxiety, do it.
4. Mix It Up
On that note, mix things up.
One of my biggest problems with maintaining a good diet and exercise program is that, whatever I’m interested in doing, I go at full blast.
After a week or so, I’m bored or suffering from burnout.
So, as you plan your healthier diet or exercise program, remember that you don’t want to eat or do the same thing every day. Salads are great, but do you want one for lunch every day? Running is fun, but can you keep it up (especially on the same track) 5-6 days a week?
HINT: If you need help figuring out if your menu or workout schedule, ask yourself, “What About A Month From Now?”
5. Have Fun!
At the end of the day, it’s important that you’re having fun. If you’re not, you’re not likely to stick to your plans and your new diet and exercise program could actually do more harm than good, causing stress, anxiety, frustration, feelings of failure, and guilt.
Need ideas to keep things fun? Try:
- Setting challenges for yourself, like learning one or two new healthy recipes each month.
- Sprinkling activities, and not just exercises, in your workout routine. Try skating, rock climbing, and volley ball!
- Teaming up with friends to keep yourself motivated and give yourself someone to talk to while you work out.
Now, how about YOU, readers? What advice can you offer for combining diet, exercise, and mental health?
This Your Body, Your Mind post is part of the Psych Central World Mental Health Day Blog Party.
For similar posts, as well as information about and resources for mental health and emotional wellness, visit www.psychcentral.com.
Sparks, A. (2012). World Mental Health Day: 5 Tips for Combining Diet, Exercise, and Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/your-mind/2012/10/world-mental-health-day-5-tips-for-combining-diet-exercise-and-mental-health/