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Be physically fit to be mentally happy

Neerja Birla
6th Mar 2018
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Good physical health can play a huge role in fostering mental well-being as well.

‘True wellness’ is the wellness of the body, mind and soul. And the wellness mantra for all of us should be a simple one. We must understand that good physical health can play a huge role in fostering mental well-being as well.

However, before we discuss the impact of physical health on mental well-being, let’s not forget that gender plays a critical role when it comes to mental health. Studies clearly indicate that women are different from men in their psychological make-up, and far more prone to depression, anxiety, stress, and other psychological disorders. From puberty to childbirth to menopause and their menstruation cycles in between, women have to deal with hormonal fluctuations and changes that impact their mental health greatly.

Not only that, women have been conditioned into believing that they are the weaker sex and that they must make sacrifices. Indian women tend to put on weight after marriage and often don’t find the time to get back into shape due to all the responsibilities that they have to bear. Working women, more often than not, have to multi-task and manage their homes and families as well.

Women are still the primary caregivers for children and the elderly. Even eating disorders are more common in women than men. All of this means that the first thing that women ignore is their physical health and, in turn, their mental well-being.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? That good physical health is primarily about three things only – eating right, exercising regularly and getting a good night’s sleep.

We all know that eating a well-balanced diet is extremely vital for good health. Whereas unhealthy eating habits and poor nutrition can lead to a host of physical ailments – ranging from heart disease to blood pressure issues and diabetes to obesity and anaemia. But there’s more to it. Poor nutrition can lead to a host of mental issues as well, ranging from depression to schizophrenia and ADHD to Alzheimer’s.

India is a country severely affected by malnutrition. And it is medically proven that the deficiency of Vitamin B12 can cause acute depression, paranoia and hallucinations. It is scary to even think about the number of undetected cases of mental concerns that are a direct result of malnutrition.

Even excessive consumption of sugar can affect mental health. Sugar gets absorbed by the blood rapidly, leading to a surge of energy. But it also results in the body increasing the production of insulin, which can lead to a sudden decline in energy levels and leave you feeling tired, low and even depressed.

So, replace your bag of chips with freshly cut fruit; opt for nuts and salads when you feel like binging; eat natural foods instead of ones laden with preservatives. Eating a balanced meal will make a big, big difference to your lives.

That brings us to the importance of physical exercise. Walk if you like, run if you enjoy it, hit the gym with a vengeance if that’s what you prefer – but think of exercise or any form of physical activity as your ‘daily dose of rejuvenation’. Exercise helps you get fitter, lose and maintain weight, and even boosts stamina. There are, however, other benefits as well.

Exercise results in the production of feel-good, mood-enhancing brain chemicals called endorphins that relieve stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, any kind of physical activity just thrice a week can reduce your chances of getting depressed by 20 percent. Exercising also makes one feel good about one’s body and physical appearance, which results in increased confidence and self-esteem.

Exercising has long-term benefits as well. It helps slow down cognitive decline, such as the degeneration of the hippocampus, which deals with memory and learning. This helps in controlling the progression of serious diseases like Alzheimer’s. Studies also show that cardiovascular exercises help with neurogenesis (creating new brain cells), which boosts brain power and sharpens one’s memory.

In a nutshell, a balanced diet and regular exercise are as important to your physical health as they are to your mental well-being. And so, allow healthy eating habits and a daily exercise routine to become an ‘addiction’.

I strongly believe that this is an addiction that must be encouraged.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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