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How Diet and Exercise Support Mental Health

When a person needs help managing their mental illness, the first type of help that comes to mind usually relates to talk therapy and residential or outpatient programs. While those approaches are important, many people overlook the fact that a good diet and exercise support mental health in multiple ways. When a person develops regular healthy eating and exercise habits, they usually find that this helps contribute to better mental health. Learning to adopt a healthy approach to diet and exercise can take place in many types of treatment settings and last for the rest of a person’s life.

The Benefits of Exercise for Mental Health

Incorporating regular exercise into a person’s routine provides many benefits. People who do so often feel energized, sleep better, maintain a healthy heart, and control their weight. Exercise can provide multiple positive effects for those who struggle with mental health conditions. Whether someone deals with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental illnesses, making time for exercise provides them with a reliable source for managing their mental health. It doesn’t require a person to be in great shape or a gym rat when they start; benefits happen for everyone, regardless of their physical shape.

Some of the benefits that exercise provides for mental health include:

Reduces Symptoms of Depression

People suffering from depression often find their symptoms improve when they engage in regular exercise. The act of exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain responsible for making a person feel pleasure. It can also provide a scheduled amount of time for someone to set aside their problems and focus on physical activity. 

A study showed that people who exercise are 26% less likely to develop depression. Many physicians recommend exercising for half an hour or more three to five days a week, but even doing something like running for fifteen minutes or walking briskly for an hour can provide great results. 

Helps Control Feelings of Anxiety

Exercise relieves stress and tension, allowing people who normally fight feelings of anxiety a way to naturally relieve those symptoms. The endorphins released during exercise help reduce the anxiety a person feels. Getting involved in exercise can mean being among other people. A person who struggles with social anxiety and related conditions that limit their social interactions often finds that joining a gym or taking a class provides an unexpected bonus. It allows them to focus on the activity while enjoying being around like-minded individuals. 

Promotes Mindfulness

When a person spirals through feelings of anxiety, depression, or memories of traumatic events, they often cannot concentrate on the here and now. Exercise promotes mindfulness and the art of staying in the moment. The act of exercising requires the person to pay attention to things like how they are moving, their breathing patterns, counting repetitions, or the feel of the sun or wind, if they are outside. This keeps them grounded in what’s happening at the moment, making it difficult to spiral down into things like panic attacks or flashbacks. 

The Benefits of Diet for Mental Health

Many who understand that diet and exercise support mental health may have an easier time adding exercise to their routines. While hundreds of diet plans promote themselves as a one-size-fits-all answer, doing some investigating can save a person from making the wrong choice. Seeing a nutritionist or dietician can help a person find a healthy pattern of eating that suits their individual needs. 

Some of the benefits that a healthy diet provides for mental health include:

Healthier Brain Functioning

Harvard Medical School reports that diets high in refined sugars impair a person’s brain function, including causing symptoms of mood disorders like depression to become worse. These types of diets can also cause an increase in feelings of stress. Eating a low-sugar diet can contribute to a person managing their feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress better.

A Gut Feeling Reaches All the Way to the Head

Serotonin isn’t just produced by the brain but also in the gastrointestinal tract. When the digestive system regularly processes unhealthy foods, such as those high in fat, sugar, and processed refined ingredients, it affects more than just a person’s intestinal functions. A healthy diet allows a person to absorb nutrients better, which directly impacts the neural pathways between the gut and the brain. 

Controls Blood Sugar

When someone experiences constant dips and rises in their blood sugar, it can directly impact their moods. Changes in blood sugar can make a person feel stressed out, depressed, anxious, and moody. Eating a diet that helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels contributes to reducing common symptoms of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

Treatment Programs Understand That Diet and Exercise Support Mental Health

People who deal with mental illness and any accompanying substance use disorders often have let a healthy diet and exercise fall out of practice. Treatment programs often provide a curriculum that includes an understanding that diet and exercise support mental health. Along with traditional therapies, they may include teaching how to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise as part of their treatment plans. Falling under the heading of holistic therapies, both of these plans help provide a well-rounded approach to managing a person’s mental health through natural approaches. 

Treatment for Mental Health and Addiction in Los Angeles

If you are a young person in need of help learning to manage your mental health, our program can help you. We treat young adults who face challenges related to mental illness, as well as those dealing with a substance use disorder. Our sober living houses offer a safe space that bridges the gap between formal treatment and returning home. Contact Riviera Recovery in Los Angeles now and find out how our unique therapy programs can set you up for a lifetime of recovery. 

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