Lifestyle Factors That Have An Effect On Mental Health

In the United States, millions of adults are suffering from some kind of mental illness and every year, an increase in the number of diagnosed cases have been witnessed.

For all of us, physical, mental and social health are the strands of life. When we talk about mental health, it is crucial to maintaining the overall well being of an individual. In fact, mental health helps us realize our capabilities and also helps us cope up with other stresses of life. 

Mental disorders severely affect the quality of life of an individual and their loved ones. Furthermore, as per recent research, disorders like depression, anxiety, hallucinations, bipolar disorders, and memory problems are the most common mental health issues. Even though the prevalence of mental health issues is increasing but still a very few of us are aware of the factors that can have an effect on our mental health.

Some lifestyle factors that can have a direct effect on an individual’s mental health are as follows:

1. Healthy Diet

We all are aware that making healthy food choices is important to maintain health, but do we all know that it includes mental health as well???

There is considerable evidence to suggest that what we eat has an effect on mental health. Researchers are increasingly showing that food items having omega 3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin D can boost mental health. The action of omega 3 fatty acid on the brain is mainly a structural and functional component of membrane phospholipids in the brain.

Conversely, an excessive intake of sugar can have a detrimental effect on the brain. Numerous studies have found that consumption of sugar can change the brain neurochemistry and especially when it is consumed in an excessive quantity. Sugar consumption has been associated with various psychological issues such as stress, depression, distress and in some cases suicidal ideation.

Also, research has found that excessive consumption of high-fat food and sugar-sweetened beverages is highly associated with increased blood pressure which ultimately leads to the occurrence of hypertension. It will not be new to say that uncontrolled blood pressure is associated with various serious health problems including major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mental health conditions.

2. Physical activity

There is a positive and strong relationship between exercise and mental health. Physical activity is not only important for weight management and increasing energy levels but it is equally important for maintaining mental health as well. Physical activity is extremely beneficial for mental health and various researches suggest that people who are active and are involved in regular physical activity are less likely to develop mental problems like stress, depression, and anxiety.

Stress is the most common mental problem that we all experience in our daily life and it is also the common factor that triggers the symptoms of other mental problems. Most often, stress is characterized by sleeping problems, irritability, and loss of appetite. Physical activity can be very effective in reducing stress. It can act as a distraction from stressful events.

Also Read: Are You Aware Of Bipolar Disorder?

3. Healthy Sleep

Getting a good night sleep is vital for our overall well being. It recharges the brain and allows us to learn and make new memories. Sleep allows the brain to process information, consolidate memories and undergoes various maintenance processes that help us function during the daytime.

Disturbances in sleep have many adverse mental health effects. Sleep deprivation is often accompanied by changes in various neurobehavioral domains such as problems in learning and memory, feeling of tiredness, increased stress and tension.

Sleep and mental health are strongly related. Poor sleep can increase the risk of developing mental problems and on the other hand, mental problems can make it difficult for a person to sleep. Anxiety and depression are common mental health problems and are associated with sleep disorders.

4. Smoking

There are pieces of evidence that suggest that smoking causes various short term and long term effects on mental health. Tobacco use is associated with a variety of psychiatric disorders and smokers are more likely to develop conditions like mood disorders, depression, psychosis and anxiety disorders.

Nicotine which is said to be one of the most harmful chemical presents in cigarette smoke is easily absorbed by the alveoli of the lungs and within seconds an inhaled nicotine reaches the brain. Nicotine binds the brain tissues with high affinity and also activates the brain circuitry that regulates the feeling of pleasure. Chronic nicotine exposure can alter the functions of the brain.   

The development of the bipolar disorder and cigarette smoking can also be linked. Most often, people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are found to be smokers. It is more common in smokers as compared to non-smokers.

5. Alcohol

Everyone is familiar with the devastating effects of the consumption of excessive alcohol on the health of an individual. While alcohol can show a temporary positive effect on the mood of a person, in the long term it can cause various serious complications.

People who consume excessive alcohol are at an increased risk of developing mental disorders. The more you drink, the more your brain will start to be affected. The effects of alcohol on the mood are characterized by disturbed sleep, extreme tiredness, low mood, anxiety, and depression.  

Alcohol slows down the brain and impairs the memory. Drinking heavily over a long period of time can have a long term effect on the brain and can make it difficult for an individual to recall information, including information related to recent events.



Tags:  What is mental health, Social factors affecting mental health, Healthy lifestyle

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Jim Carson

Jim Carson is the writer for the mental health section of He is certified in clinical mental health counselling and has conducted cognitive behaviour therapy for war veterans struggling with PTSD. Professionally and personally, Jim is an astute observer of human behaviour that reflects well in his work.