Today is World Mental Health Day. So, a good time to ask, how are you doing? Honestly?
Since it started in 1992, there has been a central theme each year, and for 2022 it is Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority. Why are we writing about it? Because it feels really apt at the moment. There is a collective energy of feeling as though we are in tough times. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, with the war in Europe, disruptions in power structures and cost of living stresses, there are frankly a lot of external circumstances that are affecting people's levels of stress, anxiety and mental wellbeing.
We also know how intricately linked all of our parts of life are. As a family and business who operate in the wellbeing space, we are deeply passionate about helping as many people as possible live fulfilling and healthy lives. This is not confined to gut health; we understand the importance of a holistic approach to wellbeing. Mental health, physical wellbeing, your social life, your relationships, work satisfaction - it's all deeply interconnected.
Have you heard of the gut being described as the second brain? Well in many cultures it's actually recognised as the first brain, and given appropriate priority. Hippocrates himself said that 'all disease begins in the gut.' Rather than thinking of the two brains fighting for attention as opponents however, think of them more as a team. Your team!
The gut-brain connection describes the profound link between the two, and how they both affect all of the systems of your body. There is a super highway between your brain and gut (aka digestive system) along the vagus nerve. Plainly: Improving the condition of one area will influence the other. Around 90 percent of the signals that pass along the vagus nerve come from the enteric nervous system, a huge complex of neurons which inhabit and control the entire gut. Your enteric nervous system independently and automatically takes care of your nutrition, a huge job in anyone's book.
The brain receives most information about the state of your body through the gut. The interconnected cycle of how your mental and physical health work together can cycle either way. On the up, if you're feeling well mentally, satisfied, positive and joyful you're naturally more inclined to eat well, socialise, work-out and make good decisions. Unfortunately most people have experienced to some degree the negative spin as well, where you feel low, don't eat so well, stop moving as much, don't feel like seeing people. Whether you start with mental health or physical and gut health - if you find your way to break your downward cycle, it will affect the whole spectrum of wellbeing.
Ways to look after your gut that will affect your brain / mental health:
- Eat well: whole foods, varied diet of plenty of seasonal plants
- Take a probiotic to boost the variety of gut bacteria
- De-stress: whatever works for you
- Socialise and look after your relationships
- Get plenty of sleep and restÂ