Mental Health Awareness Month
On this second week of Mental Health Awareness month, we would like to draw your attention to a lesser-known contributor to mental wellness: hydration.
Did you know that dehydration, or the absence of water/fluids, can quickly affect how you feel and think? Dehydration can manifest in the form of headaches, mood swings or other mental processing challenges.
Every system and organ in your body, including your brain, relies on water to function. In fact, your brain makeup is about 75% water. Your mental health is primarily influenced by your brain’s activity and functioning. A 2012 study from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory showed that a 1.5% loss in water volume in your body can significantly alter your energy level, ability to think clearly, and mood.
When your body and its systems don’t have enough water, they can’t function properly. Below are three common ways dehydration can impact your mental well-being:
1. Dehydration directly affects energy: If you are dehydrated, the energy generation in your brain is impeded, severely affecting your thinking and brain functioning, sometimes even shutting down brain functioning completely.
2. Dehydration can obstruct your brain’s serotonin production. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter in your brain frequently called “the happy chemical” because it increases feelings of well-being and happiness. The process of creating serotonin requires a great deal of water to complete, and if you aren’t properly hydrated, you may encounter mental health challenges. Dehydration also depletes the levels of other amino acids in your brain, leading to feelings of anxiety, dejection, irritability, and inadequacy.
3. When you don’t drink enough water, your body begins a self-perpetuating cycle of stress and dehydration. Stress is perhaps the best-known contributing factor to depression. When you are stressed, your adrenal glands produce excess cortisol, the stress hormone. However, under chronic stress, your adrenal glands become exhausted and can’t function efficiently. Your adrenal glands also produce aldosterone, a hormone that regulates fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. A decrease in the production of aldosterone leads to dehydration. Drinking enough water can help you lower stress levels which, in turn, alleviates depression symptoms.
Drinking water regularly throughout the day is an effective step to take to care for your mental health. Try starting with a glass of water first thing in the morning and drink two or three glasses between meals. Maybe try carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go — and don’t forget to pause throughout the day to take a drink.
What’s your daily water plan?
Staying hydrated is just one aspect of maintaining good physical, emotional, and mental health. We are not one-dimensional, so a healthy approach to mental health is personalized and multi-faceted.
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