Diet, exercise, and sleep are sometimes referred to as the “three pillars of mental health.” There has been a lot of research on how each of these factors affects mental health, but until recently, no study had focused on all three at once.
However, a study published in Frontiers in Psychology looked at all three factors and how they affect mental health. The study’s findings are very intriguing.
For starters, it shows that sleep quality has the greatest impact on mental wellbeing. Yes, you read that correctly. Until now, the primary focus has been on quantity, or how many hours you sleep at night. This study demonstrated that the quality of sleep is far more important.
The second most significant impact was exercise, and the last but not least was diet. On the diet front, it’s worth noting that eating raw fruits and vegetables has a better impact on mental health than eating them cooked.
To emphasize how important sleep is, according to another study, just one sleepless night can cause a 30% increase in anxiety levels.
Now that we’ve established the significance of all three factors on our mental health, let’s look at how we can improve each and help ourselves.
How to Improve Your Sleep Quality
Naturally, the amount of sleep you get each night is still incredibly important. According to the National Sleep Foundation, you need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. It can also have an effect on your memory, focus, and general cognitive functioning.
Some things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene include:
- Have a sleeping schedule: This entails going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Yes, weekends are included. This will help you maintain a steady circadian rhythm and fall asleep more easily.
- Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible: First and foremost, keep the noise out of your bedroom. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try using a white-noise machine. The next step is to keep it as dark as possible. Last but not least, there’s your mattress. Find the ideal mattress for you so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
- Get all the electronics out of the bedroom: Avoid using electronics for at least an hour before going to bed. Their screens emit blue light, which disrupts the production of melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone. You will have difficulty falling asleep if your melatonin levels are low.
- Don’t consume caffeine after 2 pm: Caffeine is a stimulant that can have an effect on your body six to eight hours after consumption. So, if you had your last coffee at 2 pm, its effect will be gone by 10 pm. Of course, you can drink coffee later and still fall asleep at 10 pm, but the quality of your sleep will definitely suffer.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime: The majority of people drink alcohol before going to bed because it makes them sleepy. However, alcohol prevents you from entering deeper stages of sleep, negatively impacting your sleep quality.
- Eat light food for dinner: Eat a light meal at least four hours before going to bed. Your rest will be much poorer if you are still digesting your dinner while sleeping.
How to Improve Your Exercise Routine
Exercise is essential for good health because it benefits nearly every process in the body. Many of the advantages are apparent right away, such as decreased anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep.
Exercise on a regular basis provides even more long-term benefits, such as better weight management, stronger bones, and a lower risk of chronic diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should engage in at least 150 minutes of any activity that causes your heart to beat faster each week.
Begin by riding your bike instead of driving whenever you can. If you use public transport, get off one stop earlier so that you can get some extra steps to your destination. And, of course, try climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
Later on, you can try yoga, light jogging, or hiking. Experiment with various activities to see what works best for you. Who knows, you might end up going to the gym six times a week!
How to Improve Your Diet
Diet affects our wellbeing and mental health. Our brains require nutrients to function; the food we eat influences cognition (learning, reasoning, memory, etc.), hormones, and mood.
You can try the following diet-improvement tips:
- Select whole-grain bread instead of white bread: A study found that the body digests food faster by eating whole grains. The researchers served cheese sandwiches on white and whole-grain bread. The participants who ate processed foods had a 46.8% lower digestive rate than those who ate whole grains.
- Eat home-cooked meals: The surest way to be certain of what’s in your meal is if you prepare it yourself. You can make sure to use only fresh ingredients and thus avoid all of the unhealthy ingredients that are added to pre-packaged foods.
- Limit your sugary drinks: Replace sugary drinks with healthier alternatives. You can substitute homemade tea or coffee for soda, which will provide additional health benefits without the added sugar. You could also try sparkling water, which allows you to enjoy a carbonated beverage while consuming fewer calories.
- Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables (as well as grains) are high in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Most are low in fat and cholesterol. They also have fiber, which aids digestion and prevents constipation.
Mental health is critical to living a normal life, and we should do everything we can to improve it. If you’ve made progress in all three areas but still don’t feel better, consult your doctor. They may be able to assist you or refer you to someone who can.
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