Lifestyle changes help improve mental health
Chris Fox, cp24.com
Published Wednesday, February 8, 2012 12:25PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 7:23AM EDT
There is no easy cure for depression, but there are simple things you can do to put yourself on the path to better mental health.
Whether it's exercise, upping your Vitamin D intake or adding Zinc to your diet, there is a growing amount of research that suggests simple lifestyle changes can make a big impact on your personal happiness.
"The idea is to incorporate health into your daily routine and along with that comes the virtue of lifted mood," alternative health expert Bryce Wylde told CP24.com recently. "Simply put there is no separation between brain and body; in fact what I like to tout is that your psychology becomes your biology and vice-versa."
According to Wylde, better mental health begins with improving your sleep habits and your activity levels. From there you can start to think about simple changes to your diet like increasing your intake of foods featuring Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil, sardines, walnuts and eggs. Omega-3 fatty acids are like "brain juice" and help improve the communication between your nerve cells and the brain, Wylde says.
On top of Omega-3 fatty acids, Wylde also encourages his patients to eat foods heavy in Zinc, such as shellfish, fortified cereals, grains, beans and nuts and Vitamin D, such as eggs, sardines and dark green vegetables.
Intense light, particularly first thing in the morning, is also an important source of Vitamin D, Wylde notes.
He recommends investing in a bright blue light from you local hardware store to get you through the winter months.
"Lifestyle is not just the age old rhetoric of eat your veggies and go to the gym anymore; it's stress control and there are so many ways you can manage your stress levels better," Wylde said. "Getting to bed at a decent time, getting deep sleep, waking up in the morning and exposing yourself to that bright light while exercising and then insuring that your next snack is some fruit, an apple or some almonds rather than the drive-thru, all of these things help."
Steve Lurie, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto Branch, agrees with Wylde's tips and adds one of his own.
"There is increasing evidence that exercising regularly, getting a good nights sleep, eating a healthy diet and just doing something you love every day can be good for your mental health," Lurie told CP24.com.
Of course no supplement, urine test, dietary change or hobby can replace the biggest cure and that's talking.
"Don't cope," Wylde said. "That is just a way of saying that you are going to bottle it up. You need to talk."
"People don't think help will make a difference, but the research that has been done over the years runs counter to that," Lurie adds. "There was a study done years ago that showed the treatment for depression is more advantageous than the treatment for gastrointestinal disease. The average person would guess the opposite, but it's true. "
Two forms of therapy are the most commonly used to treat major depression, Lurie says.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on teaching patients behavioral skills they can use to address their depression while interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on uncovering the social triggers of depression.
In many cases, a variety of antidepressants can also be prescribed to effectively control mood disorders.
Talking with a healthcare professional is essential to determine which is the best step as each person will respond to treatment differently.
"While there has been some interest in various alternative/complementary treatments, none of them has achieved a strong enough evidence base to be included in current treatment guidelines," Dr. David Goldbloom, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, told CP24.
Sandy Milakovic, chief executive officer of the Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Branch, says it all boils down to fighting the stigma surrounding mental health.
"You have to talk because there is such a stigma surrounding mental health and if you don't have someone to talk to you will never be able to address that stigma," she told CP24.com. "You know it is not a physical disease. There are some physical treatments, but at the end of the day you need to talk through what you are thinking first and foremost."