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Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from the 13th聽to 19th聽May. Whilst the public's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, has grown over the last 20 years,...

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from the 13th to 19th May. Whilst the public's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, has grown over the last 20 years, there is less understanding of severe mental illness like schizophrenia, OCD and bipolar disorder. Sadly, people with mental health problems tend to have poorer physical health and a shorter life expectancy.

This year鈥檚 Mental Health Awareness Week is focussing on helping people to find moments for movement in their daily lives. Physical activity is known to improve many aspects of mental health. However, there are often barriers to those with mental health problems from engaging in physical activity. There鈥檚 no one size fits all approach. But hopefully most people can find a way of moving that works for them (1).


In this blog we鈥檒l look at the benefits of physical activity, how to factor different types of activity into your daily life and some diet, lifestyle and supplement tips to improve mental health.聽

Benefits of Physical Activity for Mental and Physical Health:

  • increases the release of feel good hormones called endorphins
  • improves concentration
  • improves sleep
  • increases self esteem, confidence and motivation
  • improves mood and relieves symptoms of stress
  • reduces levels of anxiety
  • alleviates the symptoms of depression
  • reduces cognitive decline
  • benefits the immune system
  • increases fitness and stamina
  • helps maintain a healthy weight
  • helps to build strength and muscle
  • keeps joints supple

Physical activity also reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer. Even a short bout of exercise has been shown to enhance wellbeing. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week.

If you live with a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, it can often feel like a huge hurdle to take regular exercise, especially if you have not been active for a while. Also, some medications for mental health have side effects such as tiredness, dizziness, lack of energy and lack of motivation.

Overcoming Barriers to Exercise

Buddy up 鈥 having a personal trainer or an exercise buddy can help as you are then accountable to each other.

Set realistic goals 鈥 this can help you stay on track and helps with monitoring progress.

Exercise little and often 鈥 aim for a couple of 10 minute bouts of activity a day.

Have a routine 鈥 get your exercise plan in your diary and stick to it. Routines can turn into habits. 聽

Ideas for Activities

  • Walking
  • Dancing
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Fitness classes
  • Team sports
  • Gym workouts
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi or qi gong
  • Housework
  • Gardening

Do not overdo exercise as this can create stress in the body. It is best not to exercise in the evening as the body needs time to wind down in order to get a relaxing night鈥檚 sleep.

Exercise for those with physical health conditions or disability

If you have a physical health condition or disability it might be harder for you to find a physical activity that you can do so do seek advice if needed. Canal towpaths are usually flatter and more accessible than other footpaths. The NHS have fitness advice for wheelchair users here.

Dietary Tips for Mental and Physical Health

There is growing evidence for the relationship between nutritional deficiencies, diet quality and mental health.

Dietary Advice

  • Feed your microbiome - the health of our microbiome affects every aspect of our health including mood and behaviour. To increase the diversity of organisms in the gut eat a wide range of plant foods and include small amounts of fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tamari, kimchi and kombucha.
  • Eat a diet high in colourful fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices. These are rich in polyphenols which help support the immune system and protect the body and brain.
  • Cook from scratch when possible and include whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds.
  • Have protein and fibre with each meal to avoid the blood sugar roller-coaster which can affect mood.
  • Drink herbal teas, water, ginger tea and freshly pressed vegetable
  • Eat in a relaxed
  • Avoid foods and drinks that create stress in the These include stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, energy drinks and colas.
  • Avoid foods that upset blood sugar levels including sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.
  • Avoid any foods to which you are intolerant; wheat and dairy products are common

Lifestyle Tips for Mental Health

  • Stress management techniques such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and mindfulness can all help to bring the body back into a state of balance as well as changing your perspective on what is Talking to friends and family is also therapeutic.
  • Breathe 鈥 When we are under stress breathing becomes shallow. The quickest way to tell your body that everything is OK is to breathe into the abdomen and to exhale fully. Do this a few times and notice the change in how you feel.
  • Reset your circadian rhythm 鈥 getting to bed by 11pm and getting up at the same time each day can help to reset your daily rhythms. Spending time outside in daylight is also recommended.
  • Switch off the gadgets 鈥 especially in the evening a couple of hours before you go to bed. The light emitted by gadgets suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Plus social media often has a negative effect on mental health.
  • Get outside 鈥 being in nature helps with many aspects of mental health. Aim to spend time in a park, a wood, a garden or by water a few times a week.
  • Spend time with other people 鈥 we are social creatures and we need each other. Seek out friends and family or volunteer with a local community group.
  • Light therapy - using a full spectrum light may help with Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Supplements for Mental Health

The Tom Oliver Nutrition range has several nutrients that may be beneficial. These include:

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Men鈥檚 and Women鈥檚 Multivitamins and Minerals - designed to meet the needs of men and women at all stages of life. A good way to get a baseline level of nutrition.

Tom Oliver鈥檚 B Complex 鈥 needed to make brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Vitamin D3 + K2 鈥 evidence suggests an association between vitamin D deficiency and depression and anxiety (2).

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Curcumin 鈥 may help with anxiety and depression (3,4).

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Omega 3 Oils - the omega 3 oils are vital for the endocrine system (hormones), brain function, and have anti-inflammatory effects.

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Probiotics - the gut microbiota help to regulate brain function through the gut-brain axis. Research suggests that mental disorders could be treated by regulating the gut microbiome (5).

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Protein Powders 鈥 protein helps to keep blood sugar levels stable which in turn stabilises mood and energy.

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Zinc 鈥 has a beneficial effect on neurotransmitters involved in depression. Also needed for hormone balance.

References

  1. https://www.rethink.org/.
  2. Curr Nutr Rep. 2022 Dec;11(4):675-681. Epub 2022 Sep 13. Is Vitamin D Important in Anxiety or Depression? What Is the Truth? Akpinar S et al.
  3. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2020;60(15):2643-2653 Epub 2019 Aug 19. Curcumin for depression: a meta-analysis. Fusar-Poli et al.
  4. Front Psychiatry. 2020 Nov 27:11:572533. Curcumin in Depression: Potential Mechanisms of Action and Current Evidence-A Narrative Review. Ramaholimihasoi T et al.
  5. General Psychiatry, 2019; 32: e100056. Effects of regulating intestinal microbiota on anxiety symptoms: A systematic review. Yang B et al.

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