October is Mental Health Awareness Month and I think now more than ever this is such an important topic.
We should look after our mental health and wellbeing like we look after our physical health.
The World Health Organisation defines Mental health (or Mental Well Being) as "a state of wellness rather than the absence of illness. "
Today I want to offer some natural solutions to improving mental wellbeing.
Firstly, get a good night’s sleep
I think sleep is so important.
You can feel anxious, flat, lack concentration, and crave the wrong foods such as sugar and carbs after a bad night’s sleep.
Some sleep tips include:
Going to bed around the same time each night,
Aim for 7-8 hours,
Dim your lights in the evening,
Allow 2-3 hours between your last meal and bed,
Avoid your screens for half an hour before bed.
2. Reduce stress
Stress is a natural part of life but when stress is constant it can impact all aspects of our health from
Increasing blood pressure,
Increasing blood sugar levels,
Slowing digestion and
Weakening the immune system.
One simple technique to help manage stress is diaphragmatic breathing. This is something you can do anytime and anywhere. Slow abdominal breathing helps reduce the ‘fight or flight’ response of the sympathetic nervous system.
“Slowly fill your belly for a count of 6 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale slowly for a count of 6 and then hold for 4 again. You may need to work up to this.”
3. Mood Foods
Diet and your neurotransmitters
It is believed that an imbalance of neurotransmitters and their function can is related to low mood and depression (1).
Serotonin is our feel-good neurotransmitter.
Low levels are associated with:
anxiety and depression,
Certain diet and lifestyle factors can either increase or decrease serotonin.
Factors that can lower serotonin levels are.
Too much alcohol
A high sugar diet
Too much protein
Blood sugar disturbances
While a health-promoting lifestyle and diet can go a long way in restoring optimum serotonin levels and relieving depression.
Eat a whole food diet that is as close to nature as possible.
I love the traditional Mediterranean diet. This contains lots of vegetables, healthy fats such as fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds plus smaller amounts of protein.
4. Exercise or move more
Move your body to maintain the mood. Find something you enjoy doing and you’re likely to keep doing it.
Restorative exercises such as yoga and Pilates help activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
Try including some restorative exercise in your exercise routine.
5. Let nature nurture you.
Try going for a walk in nature and leave your phone at home. Listen to the waves crashing, birds chirping and be in the moment.
6. Nutritional deficiencies
Depression can be a common side effect of nutritional deficiencies including:
Magnesium, B vitamins, Vitamin D, Zinc, Calcium and Omega fatty acids (1).
Magnesium is probably my favourite mineral.
A recent Australian Health Survey found that 40% of the population has insufficient magnesium intake.
When we are stressed, our body dumps magnesium.
When we exercise and sweat, we lose magnesium.
Magnesium in turn improves our resistance to stressors.
To boost your magnesium intake from foods, think green leafy vegetables, almonds, cashews, see, wholegrains, cacao, legumes, and beans.
If you are wanting to take a supplement, there are many different forms of magnesium and it can be confusing.
Here are some different ones to look out for:
Magnesium chloride, citrate and glycinate are both easily absorbed forms of magnesium and citrate is gentle on the digestive system,
Or take a bath with Epson salts (Magnesium sulfate) with a few drops of lavender essential oil. This can help soak away your worries.
7. Herbal medicine
Herbal medicine is a great option to help with stress, mood and sleep.
Herbal formulas that can help improve mood include St Johns Wort and Saffron.
Adaptogens are a group of herbs that can help you adapt to daily stressors.
Some of these include Licorice, Schisandra, Rhodiola, Withania and Siberian ginseng.
Sedative herbs such as California Poppy, Kava and Lavender can help with insomnia, as well as Passionflower and Ziziphus.
Let’s start thinking about our mental health and wellbeing as we think of our physical health.
For any more information on what was discussed, please get in contact.
Casuarina Holistic Health
1. Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical naturopathic medicine (1st ed.). Sydney: Elsevier.
2. Mental health: strengthening our response. (2020). Retrieved 21 October 2020, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response#:~:text=The%20WHO%20constitution%20states%3A%20%22Health,of%20mental%20disorders%20or%20disabilities.