By: Latisha W. Corpening, MA, Twitter: @lwcorpening“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”
Even Hippocrates, frequently referred to as the father of medicine realized early on that the key to great health was not found on a prescription pad but instead on our plates. Many of the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues including depression, and anxiety can be effectively managed with a change in diet and exercise. Increased exercise can reduce feelings of anxiety, stabilize mood, and help manage feelings of stress. Endorphins, which are a natural hormone created in the body that illicit a feeling of euphoria is released during exercise. This release is frequently referred to as “runners high”, as many report feelings similar to those one would experience if taking a drug. Exercise has also been shown to, improve self-esteem, as well as sleep habits both of which may lead to a reduction in feelings of depression and anxiety.
Diet is commonly overlooked as a means of improving our mental health; however food has been shown to have a direct relationship to our emotions. For example fried foods and others that we commonly refer to as “comfort foods” are more likely to intensify feelings of sadness and depression or make you feel lethargic. While foods high in sugar may temporarily lead to feelings of euphoria and happiness these feelings are typically short lived and the result of a spike in blood sugar. Some things to remember when making food choices include eating a minimum of three meals per day. Skipping meals, leads to low blood sugar and this causes decreased mood, irritability and fatigue, all of which may trigger underlying mental health issues. If you feel hungry between meals include a healthy snack such as fruit or nuts which are nutritious and will not cause such spikes in blood sugar. Diet and exercise are less restrictive, more cost effective, and easier to implement then experimental drugs which typically come with a long list of potential side effects, costly doctor bills and pricey refills. Always remember, healthy feels better than any meal will ever taste.
Latisha Corpening holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Counseling and has worked in the health and human services field for nearly 10 years. With experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist (LCAS) her current focus is on increasing clients overall wellness by focusing on simultaneously developing their spiritual, mental, and physical health while helping clients achieve measurable outcomes based on their individual needs and goals. Hobbies include exercising and reading.