When it comes to living a healthful lifestyle, the first thing that springs to mind is dietary choices or getting the right amount of sleep and exercise.
But complete healthful living does not stop there.
Mental health is just as important as physical health.
We spend so much time taking care of our bodies (which is definitely a good thing!), but we do not always devote as much time to our minds and spirit.
Which is why I am writing you today.
To honor the topic of mental health.
And to celebrate World Mental Health Day, a day set aside specifically for raising awareness around common mental health issues.
What Is World Mental Health Day?
A worldwide, annual event celebrated on October 10th, World Mental Health Day began in 1992 with the mission of shedding light on the issue of mental health.
Supported by the United Nations and hosted by the World Federation of Mental Health, the purpose is to encourage an open and non-judgmental discussion about mental health problems with the hope that the conversation can continue throughout the rest of the year.
Why Is Mental Health Such an Important Topic?
Contrary to popular belief, mental health issues are very common. For example, approximately 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression – one of the most frequently occurring mental health disorders.
Many of us, at some point in our lives, will be touched by some kind of mental health problem. Whether it is in the aftermath of a world tragedy or a personal loss like divorce or death, mental health challenges are an inevitable reality of life.
Given its prevalence, it is surprising that the subject of mental health so often remains taboo, leaving millions to suffer in silence.
World Health Day is here to remind us that it does not need to be that way.
Instead, we must open up the dialogue so we can all help each other surmount life’s challenges.
The Healthful Food Connection
It is important to underline the fact that mental health and physical health intersect.
And eating healthful foods is an excellent step in the right direction when it comes to promoting mental health.
A whole food, plant-based diet, bursting with vitamins, nutrients, and phytochemicals, is one of the best ways to ensure our brains and bodies are in harmony.
There seems to be evidence that eliminating animal foods can improve your mood in just 2 weeks.
While increased consumption of fruits and vegetables seems to independently improve your well-being.
A study in Great Britain with 80,000 participants showed a clear link between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and life satisfaction; the people who ate 7 or 8 servings of fruit and veggies reported the highest levels of happiness.
Another study in Australia reported similar findings. For an increase of 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, levels of happiness and life satisfaction equaled the psychological gain of moving from unemeployment to employement. And according to the researchers, well-being improvements from more fruits and vegetables in your diet may be close to immediate.
Why would this be?
Several theories exist, but micronutrients and phytochemicals may play an important role. For example, Vitamin C present in fruit and vegetables, is a vital antioxidant molecule in the brain, protecting it from oxidative stress, among other functions.
And a tomato-rich diet seems independently related to less depressive symptoms in elderly men and women. This is possibly due to the high levels of lycopene (the most powerful antioxidant among carotenoids).
What we eat plays a large role in how we feel–physically, mentally and emotionally.
How to Celebrate World Mental Health Day
While World Mental Health Day is a serious holiday, there are still ways to celebrate the occasion:
- Help to Spread the Word: One of the best ways to get involved is simply by spreading the word to all of your friends and family. You never know who might be suffering with a mental health condition.
- Create an Open Dialogue: Again, mental health problems are often ‘silent’. So open up a dialogue. Bring up the subject with friends and family. Encourage others to share their challenges in confidence and with unconditional support so they can receive proper care.
- Share a Meal: Sharing a meal is always a great way to spark conversation, so how about cooking a healthful meal together in honor of World Mental Health Day? You will be nourishing body and spirit as well as recognizing the importance of nutrition to mental health.
If you need some inspiration, give our Sweet and Savory Corn Soufflé recipe a try! Wholesome, delicious and comforting, this nutrient-packed dish is always a crowd-pleaser.
In closing, mental health does not have to be a ‘forbidden’ subject. If you are touched by it, there is no reason to feel either ashamed or alone.
Let’s open up the dialogue together so we can show each other the compassion and support we all deserve.
And there is no better time to begin that process than on October 10th, World Mental Health Day.