Mental Health Awareness
Mental health and illness are as old as human culture itself. In 1949, just four years after the end of World War II, an awareness organization named Mental Health America has been promoting the observance of Mental Health Month, taking place in May. The organization points out that mental health is part of the well-being of the whole body. For 2018, the theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body. The mental health awareness challenge covers the following areas:
Diet and Nutrition. Poor diet is a part of mental illness; good diet is part of mental health. Poor diet is the leading cause of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It can even lead to several forms of cancer. According to an article in Lancet, a leading medical journal, nearly 20 percent of deaths around the world are linked to unhealthy eating habits. The same study cites mental illness as being the leading cause of disability, depression alone being one of the top five sources of disability. A healthy diet, on the other hand can reduce depression and other mental illnesses sharply. Eat a varied and balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables (especially legumes), fish (high in Omega 3 fatty acids), and whole grains. In addition, avoid highly processed foods (like most foods sold in a box) and those that are fried or contain large amounts of sugar.
Gut-brain connection. Gastrointestinal health (i.e., all organs involved in digesting food or processing it for waste) is closely tied with brain health, and vice versa. Again, the guidelines for healthy diet apply here. Take antibiotics only if a physician says doing so is absolutely necessary; it’s okay to question!
Exercise. Sure, exercise is a great way to control weight. Equally important, physical activity improves bodily and, by extension, mental health. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week – 150 minutes – or 75 minutes of more intensive exercise per week for adults, either combined with muscle-strengthening activities. This exercise can be spread out in 10-minute intervals.
Sleep. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night; teens and younger children require more. Poor sleep and depression are interlinked. Tips include: limit caffeine in the morning and do not drink alcohol or smoke right before going to bed. The blue light from computer screens, likewise, affect sleep.
Stress. Everyone experiences stress. The key, however, is to take steps to limit it. Exercise, meditation, hobbies all reduce stress. Hobbies and not being overly critical to others or oneself are also important.
All that said, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) points out that there is a “social virus” out there: stigma. “It’s not a disease, but it is toxic.” Stigma means feeling ashamed of oneself for feeling depressed or having another mental illness. And it harms 1 in 5 Americans, preventing them from seeking the help they need.
On the Light Side: Laughter Yoga
In an effort to foster mental health awareness and recovery, Beverly Burns, Director of Prevention Education, set up a booth at the Freehold Raceway Mall to aid in the effort and inform the public of the Roads2Recovery program available through our Prevention Education efforts.
In addition, Beverly performed demonstrations of Laughter Yoga. “It’s a unique exercise, which combines unconditional laughter with yoga breathing,” says Beverly. By “unconditional,” Beverly means that everyone in the group engages in spontaneous laughter, combined with traditional yoga exercises of deep breathing. The benefits from this activity are similar to those of getting adequate exercise, as explained above. At first, participants may not be sure they wish to engage in the exercise; in the end, however, they often find themselves participating. Indeed, laughter is contagious.
Mental Health Awareness Month