Brain Wellness is the First Step to Sustainable Wellness
Mental fitness should be the focus of our daily health routine. Protecting our cognitive and emotional intelligence is an investment to a vital and productive life as we age but more importantly has significant implications on maintaining and engaging in our present general wellbeing. Good mental health motivates us, enables our engagement, rationalizes our choices and is the critical primary intervention to our health routine. As the chronic care conditions and their associated co-morbidities in society continue to rise, a common theme of non-compliance with our doctor’s instructions surfaces as the failure to curtail the issue. Science is continuing to support the impact of diet, exercise and mindfulness to our mental health and is adding to the armamentarium of ways to boost it (as referenced in my prior HyperCognition article). The prescriptive intervention is simple and the exciting thing is adherence is self-fulfilling.
Nutritional psychiatry has been at the center of management of many complex pediatric conditions for a long time and various diet regimens have been studied in conditions such as epilepsy and attention deficit disorder, with positive effect. We now see, literally in functional MRI scans how serotonin, a key neurochemical that can affect our mood and self-esteem is impacted by what we eat. Newer research explains the gut-brain linkage of bacteria and their influence on our energy, mental agility and propensity to depression. Phytochemical superfoods are appearing and will continue to improve that are focused on enhancing our memory or at least offer metabolic neuroprotection.
Physical exercise is now accepted as essential to mental wellness and that a sedentary lifestyle exacerbates the chronic disease state that plagues our mental wellness. Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression as stated by Exercise for Mental Health, by Sharma MD et al.The positive impact that we realize from regular and strenuous exercise is on our mood and motivation but also the structural and functional integrity of the brain itself. To be able to think well we need to keep the brain template healthy. Research is uncovering ways that specific exercises can modify degenerative diseases such as dementia and even Parkinson’s to improve cognitive and motor function. Neurosciences is coming of age and allowing us insights into how we feel better and enable us to perfect the ability to design technologies and environments that improve it.
Health benefits from regular exercise, a healthy diet and regular programmed mindfulness result in improved sleep, healthy libido, mental endurance, reduced stress, improved mood, weight reduction, controlled blood pressure and more. Mental health service providers can now provide effective, evidence-based physical, dietary and mindfulness activity interventions for individuals that will improve our overall wellness and its success.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on December 3, 2016.