We feel what we eat?

This article [here] describes a relationship between depression and the organisms that live in the gut. Currently, it is uncertain whether depression influences these microbes or the microbes influence depression. Should further research establish that the latter is the case, this may pave the way for some diet-/gut-based treatments. 

Dogs and depression

Winston Churchill referred to his depression as a 'black dog' [see here]. However this article [here] describes a study that found that dog ownership can be helpful to those suffering with depression. This other article [here] describes how having a dog might be helpful (for depression and other conditions), for example by decreasing loneliness and increasing levels of activity through dog walking. 

Recovering from OCD

This article [here] provides a description of the condition called obsessive-compulsive disorder. It describes the intrusive thoughts that are sometimes experienced as part of this. Finally, it outlines a standard treatment for OCD which is called 'exposure and response prevention'. The character the person in the article has created appears to have produced some distance between herself and the disorder (which is embodied in the character), allowing her to view matters more objectively. 

Swimming into good mental health

The benefits of activity on mental health have been mentioned in many other blog articles on this site. This news article [here] talks about the benefits of swimming. It lifts mood, motivates people and makes them feel that they are better able to cope. Of course, one advantage of swimming is that the buoyancy from the water means that it is more inclusive than some other forms of activity, allowing everyone to take part at a pace that suits them. 

Cold water swimming as a treatment for depression

This news article [here] describes a case report investigating this form of treatment (which will not be appealing to all!). The rationale behind this treatment is that the repeated experience of cold water immersion allows the body to become used to a stress response. This increase in resilience helps individuals cope with a different form of stress response which has been linked to the development of depression and anxiety.

Mobile phone apps and mental health

Apps on mobile phones have potential advantages as treatment aids. For example, as these devices tend to be with us throughout the day, they can be more helpful for real-time symptom and intervention monitoring than PCs. Also their increased portability and flexibility of use may enhance adherence to treatment. However, research into their effectiveness is limited at this point. However, this article [here] lists some examples of apps which might be helpful for a variety of issues.

Diet and depression

Whilst research remains at an early stage, there is some preliminary evidence that indicates that there is a link between mental health and diet. A BBC article [here] indicates that a Mediterranean diet which includes lots of fruit, fish, vegetables, nuts and cereals, may prevent depression and goes on to suggest some reasons why. Another news article [here] also indicates that junk food which contains a lot of fat or sugar, has the reverse effect and increases the risk of experiencing depression.

Getting the best 'bang for your buck' from exercise

Exercise has long been found to have a positive effect upon mental health. This article [here] attempts to pinpoint the most helpful amount and types of exercise in this regard. It states that exercising around 30-60 minutes between three and five times a week is most helpful. Exercising for more than 23 times a month or for longer than 90 minute sessions is associated with poorer mental health outcomes. Within these limits, all forms of exercise are helpful but team sports, cycling, aerobics and going to the gym appear to be the best. 

Sugar and mental health

There has been a growing body of work on the role of our microbiome (the microorganisms in our gut). Many people consume sugar as a form of mood relief (comfort food). This article [here] makes a link between the gut and mental health and makes the point that those who consume a lot of sugar can experience greater fluctuations in mood. It suggests that limiting sugar consumption has a beneficial effect upon anxiety in particular.