03 May, 2012

Mental Health Month: Nutrition, Wellness and Mental Health

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the Standard American Diet(S.A.D. for short) contributes to depression and anxiety. It has a disproportionate amount of quickly absorbed sugars and fats which put anyone eating such junk on a rollercoaster of sugar highs and diabetic lows. It is also no surprise that the lack of physical activity and disturbed sleep schedule in many of our lives also leads to emotional stress, sugar imbalances and poor thought processes.

What's controversial is exactly what the perfect diet, or exactly what the perfect supplementation, sleep or exercise regime is. There seem to be all sorts of theories, from raw veganism to the mediterranean, blood type, atkins on the diet front. For supplementation there are the herbs, the omega 6 oils, the amino acids and B vitamins. For sleep and exercise there are usually pretty straightforward recommendations- 8 hours for sleep and thirty minutes of physical activity a day, but even there, some people disagree.

One of the more interesting thing to come of the Western obsession with diet and organic foods is a condition labelled "orthorexia". Orthorexia is the obsessive attention to detail about diet, usually done for health reasons. While being concerned with what you eat is, I feel a good sign, being obsessed with food to the point that you blame all of your problems on this one aspect of your life is unhealthy and unrealistic. While I feel that diet and sleep, along with exercise are some of the most important bases for good mental health, social relations, family dynamics, work, play and a whole mess of other things must also be considered. We are what we eat, but we're also what we do.

I routinely get at least nine or ten hours of sleep and if I go for too long with five or less hours a night I start to hallucinate. The tricky thing with severe mental stress is that it often sends the body into a negative downward spiral of worsening sleep schedules, diet and social relations. I know that there were times when I was severely depressed and would eat frozen vegetables, not bothering to cook them, because I was too lethargic, along with uncooked rice or cereal. Drugs can sometimes break this cycle, but sleep medications, cannabis, alcohol, antipsychotics all have long term damaging effects and I would not recommend this route to anyone.

What would I recommend? A diet with a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, organic and local if possible with a good multivitamin, a good amount of sleep and an hour or exercise a day, too. But really, whatever works for you. Everyone seems to vary on the way their bodies metabolize sugar and the amount of sleep they need, but I think the above are some general good places to start(that everyone already knows). If you want to read up a bit more on supplements and things like that, I suggest checking out my friend Gianna's blog here. Thank you and good luck.

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