Mental wellness is integral to overall health. Life is challenging and it’s very normal to experience changes to mental wellness throughout one’s life as a result of a variety of factors, including environmental stressors, genetics, and lifestyle, among others.
These changes, or imbalances or illnesses, as they are often referred to, are normal and a part of the human experience. It is of the utmost importance to learn to support ourselves and those around us who may be going through mental health challenges. Bell Let’s Talk has been a wonderful campaign that is helping to bring awareness to the stigma around mental illness and turning attention to providing support for those struggling with these challenges.
Naturopathic Medicine functions on the philosophy that humans are meant to be happy, healthy, and peaceful beings; this is how we are meant to be in our natural state. When we are not, we ask why isn’t the body healing itself so that this state of happiness, health, and peace is restored and maintained.
The following are naturopathic recommendations suited for most individuals to assist in promoting mental health:
Plants contain a variety of nutrients that support health, specifically our mental state. Consuming at least eight servings of vegetables per day (one serving is equivalent to the size of your clenched fist) is recommended to maintain health. Eat a variety daily, including as many colours as possible. Ensure you are including leafy greens like spinach, collards, kale, and chard each day.
Movement and regular exercise promote healthy circulation and are immediate mood boosters. Consistent exercise is integral to overall health, disease prevention, and maintaining excellent mental health.
Decrease screen time, increase time in nature:
Spending too much time in front of a screen overstimulates the system and activates the body’s stress response. Minimize screen time, particularly in the first hour after waking and the last hour prior to bedtime in order to promote a calm mind. To mitigate the effects of being on a screen, spend time in nature daily — take a 20 minute walk in fresh air, exercise outdoors when weather permits, or plan vacations that include access to nature.
Avoid junk in your diet:
Minimize your intake of sugar, alcohol, and processed food-like ingredients. These disrupt the system and aggravate mental health challenges.
Institute regular practices weekly that reinvigorate you. Examples would be carving out time for a meditation practice, or a weekly candlelit bath – whatever best contributes to your self-care.
Proper supplementation maintains nutrient status which keeps mental health balanced. Adequate vitamin D during our Canadian winters and probiotics are two relevant supplements in supporting mental-emotional wellbeing. Specific nutrients and uplifting herbs may also be beneficial when prescribed by your naturopathic doctor to meet your individual needs.
One aspect of mindfulness is gratitude. Practice gratitude daily; research shows that spending a few brief minutes before bed or upon waking to write out 5-10 things you are grateful for leads to improved sleep, greater likelihood to prioritize exercise and other health promoting habits, and better mood.
If you are having concerns around mood or mental health, be kind to yourself. Mental health changes or illness are not bad things per se. What is harmful is not getting the help one needs. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health challenges, do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help or ask how that someone is doing, and offer help in finding support if they are not.
Please note that it is critical to seek the help of a registered healthcare provider if you or someone you know is dealing with a mental health challenge, whether minor, moderate, or severe. One of the key tenets to wellness is support, and building a support system that includes the appropriate providers is of the utmost importance to ensuring proper care is given.
Dr. Melissa Cugliari, Naturopath ND, Sport Medicine Clinic