Unhealthy brain = Unhealthy body?!

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I am now one of the UK mental health statistics, statistics which year on year are rising. Mental health throughout history has been a taboo subject, a term freely used without the knowledge of what it means. Mental health can effect people in so many different ways; Eating disorders, depression, low self esteem, OCD, panic attacks, the list goes on.

With so many people in our society suffering with mental health issues, do you think it highlights a fundamental problem with our way of living?! I know – its a pretty big question and not one that can be answered easily.

Its proven that if your mind is unhealthy, your body will ultimately suffer for it too! The mind and body are a long-term partnership bonded together through life experiences, hard times, good times, all of which ultimately effect how they work together. My mental illness ultimately effects both my mind and body, my mind being the first to be afflicted only to convince my body to join in and take part!

Like most illnesses treatment is the first step towards recovery. I have tried and tested many options for my eating disorder (not sure if this is a good or bad thing) and found most have not been suitable for me! With a vast array of treatment options for mental illness, finding one can be exhausting, demotivating & expensive all at the same time.

Upon bravely facing my first Drs appointment for Anorexia, I was encouraged to take anxiety medication, all I could think was your readily giving me medication ‘seriously you just met me’! I personally do not believe in taking medication for my mental illness so for me swallowing pills to deal with my eating disorder was not a viable option. I do not judge people that follow the medication path, I know many many people this works for and there is nothing to be ashamed of in taking medication!

Having spent time researching the wonders of our brains and why some of us are more susceptible to mental health issues than others, I am still hopeful there is a path I can find that will help me and even you! Keeping our minds healthy should be as important as our bodies, there are so many simple things we can do everyday to maintain a healthy brain and NO it does not involve a Dr or a couch!

Here are my very simple things to try in my quest to not only occupy my mind but ultimately cure or at least manage my mental illness. These may not work for you, but whats the harm in trying. After all the first step to recovery is acknowledging you need help and I am all up for helping myself in anyway I can.

1. Dancing. I have to admit I was sceptical about this one, but after bravely joining a local dance class, I was hooked. The class made me laugh, learning new dance moves kept my brain active and its a great way to keep fit. Studies have now proved dancing is the best exercise you can do for both brain and body, especially as we get older. It certainly lifted my mood and made me forget my worries for an hour!

2. Learn a new language. The last time my brain computed another language was at school and upon a recent visit to France, I realised that I would really love to learn a language again. When I carried out online research I found that learning a new language is extremely good for keeping your brain young and healthy. Your brain has to use the perfect quantity of electrons to learn a language, all of which bond together to keep your brain ticking in the right way. I am in the early stages of learning French again and loving it.

3. Mindfulness. I know this is a big buzz word at the moment so forgive me, but folk have been practising this for thousands of years and I believe there is some truth in this hype – for a change. Taking time each day to sit and relax and just breath reduces stress levels, puts the drama of the day into perspective and ultimately forces you to be still and quiet. Our hectic lives have a lot to answer for in the rising figures of mental health issues.

4. Fresh Air. Step outside, open a window and take a big deep breath of fresh air. Obvious statement of the day BUT we all need air to breath yet at some points in the day, I do not know about you, but I feel like I have been holding mine for way to long. Deep breaths are know to calm us, we fill our bodies with much needed oxygen, our cells and organs can only function with this FREE medicine yet we constantly forget just to BREATH. The brain absorbs over 20% of oxygen we inhale, our brains need oxygen to function effectively and keep blood flowing. The better condition your brain is in the better each daily function will seem to be, we feel we can cope better, deal with stress better and make better decisions throughout the day.

5. Sleep. Do you ever feel sleep gets in the way of your busy life? Many of us treat sleep as an indulgent treat or as an enemy standing in the way of life! As someone who suffers with insomnia, I am forever envious of people who can sleep yet don’t choose too! When we sleep our brains keep working, many parts working better and more efficiently. Sleep is like a restoration project for our minds and bodies. Imagine lots of mini workers starting the night shift in your brain. Storing memories, filing away something you have learnt in the day, it has been proven that if you learn a new task in the day and do not sleep properly, you will take much longer to learn the task over the long term. I personally know my anxieties and ability to recover from my eating disorder is hampered greatly by lack of sleep and tiredness, the difference in my coping strategies throughout the day when I have had a good nights sleep is extraordinary. Sleep people – your brain will thank you for it. Check out this TED talk on sleep by Dr Foster – Very interesting.

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Its reassuring to know there are ways we can help ourselves to maintain a healthy brain, but there is no shame in needing help, realising you need it is your first step to recovery! If you do feel you could be suffering with a mental illness, please please do seek help either from a friend or family member or the many confidential services available out there – do no suffer in silence.

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