“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” — Hippocrates
We have all been considering food as a way of maintaining physical health, but what if I told you that the food we eat can also equally help us maintain and improve our mental health?
You might ask how?
Imagine you are feeling low or in a bad mood and you eat something that you really love. Wouldn’t that make you feel happy instantly? The food we eat can result in instant changes in our mood and in the long term improve our overall well-being.
Research conducted in Western Australia indicated that consumption of high-quality breakfast resulted in improved mental health in adolescence (Sullivan et.al, 2009). Similar research done by Smith has shed light on the association between eating breakfast and improved mental health in adults and younger adults.
While there is food that can improve our mental health there are also food items that can have negative effects on our mental wellbeing. Such as caffeine, saturated fats, chocolate, sugar, processed foods and others. A study conducted on high school students found that low self-esteem was related to unhealthy eating behaviour (Martyn-Nemeth et.al, 2008).
Food as a negative coping mechanism –
Many of us tend to use food as a way of alleviating stress or anxiety. Using food as a negative coping mechanism such as binge eating, consuming unhealthy food or starving. These coping mechanisms can result in various mental health issues — eating disorders, depression, low self-esteem and others. What are some steps to not use food as an escape?
- Avoid eating food in the state of stress, boredom or anxiety unless hungry.
- Monitor what are the triggering factors.
- Stop keeping unhealthy food items near you.
- Replacing unhealthy food items with healthier items.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” — Virginia Woolf.
There are various other interesting ways too to improve our mental health such as yoga, art practices, mindfulness, music therapy and others. You can connect with various wellness experts at ManoShala.
Muskan Gupta, Psychologist, ManoShala