Mediterranean Lifestyle Challenge 2023 – Day 6

Welcome to Day 6

Mental health is an important component of living a long and happy life.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” The CDC describes it as including “emotional, psychological, and social well-being”. In other words, it is not just about the absence of mental disorders, or just about having connection or having a fulfilling job, it is about all those things.

These are all characteristics of people who live long lives. Researchers had noted these characteristics in the Mediterranean back in the 50’s and 60’s. The longevity noted in those populations was not only due to diet and exercise but also their mental health.

How is your mental health?

There are many tools that can help you assess your mental health and many places to get help as well.

Here are some resources and tests:

From the NHS (National Health Service UK)- Depression and anxiety self-assessment quiz:
https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/depression-anxiety-self-assessment-quiz/

From the nonprofit: Mental Health America- Caring for Your Mental Health:
https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/

From the National Institute of Mental Health:
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health

Improving your Mental Health

We all have issues that we would like to improve when it comes to our mental health.

There are many ways one can improve their mental health. Some you may already be doing such as eating well and exercising.

Good Mood Diet

Did you know that research has shown that the Mediterranean diet appears to reduce the risk of depression and is associated with a positive mood? The eating pattern but also certain nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, and probiotics are associated with better mood. What we eat can also affect our mood negatively; highly processed foods such white bread, cookies, crackers, cereal bars, candy bars, processed meats, seed and vegetable oils can cause oxidative stress and cause damage to our brain, which in turn can increase the risk of developing depressive symptoms. Growing evidence, is pointing to the Mediterranean diet as a tool for improving our mood.

See these articles below for tips and suggestions on foods that can help our mood:

Connecting

Loneliness can often make someone sad. Seeking out connections can provide a sense of belonging. Some ideas include calling a friend, inviting someone for a coffee, small talk with the neighbor or an employee at a shop, volunteering.

Nature

Spending time in nature and with animals can make us feel calmer and reduce stress. Ideas to try: take a walk in a nearby park, having a garden or plants, getting a pet.

Creativity

Try an activity that brings out some creativity, it can also provide peace but also a feeling of accomplishment.

Sleep

Make sure you are getting enough sleep (Go to Challenge #1 for more info). New research shows that when we don’t get enough sleep, we tend to have more negative thoughts.

**More serious mental disorders do require professional help, and should be dealt with immediately.

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