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. 

Sleep - A deep dive

Sleep is an important topic which is the focus of many other posts on this site. Joe Rogan is a very popular podcast host. In episode number 1109 [here] he interviews Matthew Walker who is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology. They discuss 'all things sleep' including why we sleep, what influences it, the effects of not getting enough of it and how we can improve our sleeping. (Be warned though, Joe is crude at times.) 

Financial anxiety

It has long been established that there are links between deprivation and poorer mental health. This article [here] details a tragic case where financial stress led to a suicide. It goes on to list indications that an individual is experiencing such stress and contains some links to organisations who may be able to offer support. 

Can psychedelic drugs help with depression?

This article [here] reports that a number of new medicines for depression (and anxiety) are being tested. These new treatments include drugs that have been available for a number of years, but have been previously used for other purposes. One such example is the illicit psychedelic drug LSD, which may remedy some of the negative changes to the brain that can occur in depression. Of course it is important not to take any such drugs unless under medical supervision. 

Disruption of body clock can result in mental health problems

We all have an internal body clock that can be disrupted through events such as mobile phone alerts that occur when we are due to go to sleep or during the night. These articles [here and here] report that individuals with disrupted body clocks are up to 10% more likely to experience a mood disorder. This has obvious implications for the benefit of regular sleep routines that suit our 'clocks' and also the avoiding of distractions in the bedroom.

Eat yourself happy

This article [here] reports a finding that those who tend to eat alone also tend to be less happy. It describes the meal table as being a 'place of conversation, storytelling and closeness'. The article goes on to describe the benefits of a good (real life) social network (as opposed to an online one). 

Postnatal depression

Having a baby is a massive life event that requires a huge adjustment. Some women develop symptoms of depression (and anxiety) following the birth. The article lists some tips which may be useful in helping new mothers to stay well. [here]. In England, increased resources are becoming available to help mothers in this situation [see here].