8 Dietary Habits You Can Change to Help your Mental Health

Exercising and sleeping consistently are also great ways to improve mental and physical health

Mental health has never been as important or as fragile as it is today. 

In the past, many people thought mental health to be less important than physical health; this damaging and incorrect assumption, fortunately, has changed over time.

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Awareness campaigns, more dedicated research, and an overall improved understanding of how our minds work have all worked to elevate mental health to the forefront of our minds.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to poor mental health. Excessive time spent on social media, for instance, has been consistently linked with adverse outcomes for mental health. 

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More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated many people, leading to worrying trends related to worsening mental health worldwide. 

Luckily, though, modern science and resources are available to help people work through difficult times and manage the symptoms of just about any mental illness.

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Caring for Your Mental Health

As mentioned, there are many different ways that one can work to improve their mental health. The most common and perhaps most effective way to do so is to see a therapist or counselor, which you can now do right from your own home. 

Online therapists and the services they offer are often more accessible than traditional options, but the quality of your treatment won’t suffer so long as you seek out licensed professionals. 

Therapists who operate partially or entirely online, so long as they are licensed, still have the training and expertise necessary to help you develop coping skills and other helpful techniques.

There are, of course, other ways to improve mental health. 

Practicing techniques like mindfulness, for instance, can be a fantastic way to work positive mental health habits into your everyday routine. Getting proper exercise and consistent sleep are also good ways to improve your mental health and physical health.

Dietary Habits and Mental Health

One way to improve mental health that doesn’t get talked about enough is improving your diet. 

Many people may think that diet and mental health are entirely independent, but that isn’t the case. Your diet can drastically affect your physiological indicators and lead to differences in your mental health. 

Focusing on improving your diet could lead to significant, positive changes in your mental health. 

Here are a few tips on how to improve your diet to consider:

  • Focus on whole foods. No, we don’t mean the grocery store! Focusing on whole foods means consuming foods that have been minimally processed. These types of foods are less likely to cause physical discomfort and more likely to make you feel energized. Look towards whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables to accomplish this goal.
  • Look for antioxidants. Antioxidants help fight inflammation and can improve your mental health indirectly. You can usually find antioxidants in food like fresh berries, dark, leafy green vegetables, fish, and nuts.
  • Try to avoid sugar. Despite how tasty a candy bar can be, those sugars aren’t only hurting your physical health, but likely your mental health as well. Sugars cause inflammation, which has been linked to negative mental health outcomes. Foods high in sugar might also cause fluctuating energy levels or make you feel more tired than others. Try healthier alternatives, like frozen fruit, low-sugar yogurt, or nuts.
  • Make sure to include healthy fats. Healthy fats found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, eggs, and fish are great for your body. They can directly improve brain function and, in turn, lead to better mental health overall.
  • Stay hydrated with water. Most people understand how valuable drinking enough water and staying hydrated is. It’s also important to know, though, that hydration is critical for your mental health and mood. Being dehydrated can lead to drastic mood swings or worsening of existing negative mental health symptoms. Water should be by far your most common beverage; aim for at least eight glasses a day.
  • Intermittent fasting may be a good option. While not for everybody, some people can genuinely benefit from intermittent fasting. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help some people experience better moods and a more stable headspace. Be sure to consult your doctor before implementing an intermittent fasting plan into your routine.
  • Be sure to eat breakfast. Breakfast allows your brain to start working for the day, and skipping breakfast can lead to foggy or slowed brain function. This reality, in turn, can hurt your mental health and wellbeing, so be sure that you’re getting a solid breakfast before starting the day, even if it’s something small.
  • Be sure to get enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential because it helps produce serotonin, a vital neurotransmitter in our brains. Serotonin is key if feeling good, productive, and stable is your goal. Vitamin D is produced in our body when we are exposed to sunlight but can also be found in foods like mushrooms, orange juice, or milk.

Takeaway: Make Thoughtful Changes Where Possible

Countless other diet tips not listed above might help you maintain positive mental health; it all depends on what makes you feel best.

Feel free to experiment with different types of diets to find out which one is most effective for you. 

No matter what, remember that your diet and what you eat are very influential on your mood and mindset. Mental health should never take a back seat, and neither should your diet.

Photocredit: Marie Miguel

Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.