It’s now been eight months since I started doing regular freelance work for rscpp.co.uk, and a lot of that time has been spent in building up the core mental health resources for the website – pieces explaining the causes of, and treatments for, all the various mental health conditions and issues that RSCPP therapists work with. Now that a lot of that groundwork has been laid, I’m working on a few more general interest features around lifestyle and mental wellbeing.
There’s plenty of research suggesting that eating well and getting regular exercise can have a really positive, mood-boosting effect, and most of us know that our minds feel better when our bodies are at their healthiest, but it’s a lot easier to say than to put into practice – particularly if you’re living with depression. I spoke to RSCPP therapists about the complex relationships between food, exercise and mood, and asked for their practical advice on how you can work towards a healthier body and mind – even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing!
You’re probably already aware that there’s a complicated relationship between your mental health and what you eat. Many of us are prone to reaching for the crisps, cakes and chocolate bars for comfort during difficult days, and eating better when we’re feeling good about ourselves. What you may not realise is that this works both ways: eating well can actually boost your mood and improve your mental health, while a poor diet can contribute to low mood and start a vicious cycle of comfort eating food that you know isn’t very nutritious. We asked RSCPP therapists to explain this complex relationship between food and mood, and how you can eat yourself happier.
“It is widely acknowledged that the mind and body are inextricably connected, so it stands to reason that what you put in your body may have an effect on your mind,” Registered Psychotherapist Shelagh Wright explains. “This relationship is complicated by the impact your thoughts and feelings have on your eating behaviour. In essence, you need to feel ok to be able to eat ok, and you need to eat ok to be able to feel ok.”
Ahead of this year’s London Marathon, we’re thinking about the impact exercise can have on your mental health and wellbeing. Of course, most of us are never going to become marathon runners or elite athletes, but research does show that regular exercise can give your mental wellbeing a real boost. We asked five RSCPP therapists to explain the power of getting fit and active.
“We’re all aware of how regular exercise can improve our physical health and wellbeing, helping us sustain a healthy lifestyle and fitness levels. But exercise also promotes a healthy state of mind; off-setting the build-up of adrenalin, anxiety, and the slump of depression,” explains Registered Psychotherapist Gregori Savva.
“It allows you to remain in the present moment and improves the quality of your lived experience. During exercise, an elevated heart rate and focused breathing enlivens the body’s sensations with oxygen, supplies energy to our muscles, and releases endorphins and serotonin to the brain,” he says.