Mental health is an essential component of a person’s overall well-being and can be improved through proper nutrition and regular exercise. In this blog, we explore the role diet and exercise play in a person’s life, the benefits of a holistic approach to care, and how telehealth can open up access to mental health care in your community.
The role of a healthy diet on mental health
Nutrition plays an essential part in mental health. In fact, a study published in BMC Medicine revealed that diets centered around fresh and whole foods that are rich in nutrients, have the potential to improve depressive symptoms. This data, by BMC Medicine, was found after participants with depression received nutrition counseling and adhered to a healthy diet for a duration of 12 weeks.
While the role nutrition plays in our mental health is significant, not everyone has the same access to healthy food. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 34 million people, including 9 million children, in the U.S. are food insecure, which is recognized as a social determinant of health due to its association with poor health outcomes. When access to nutritious food is limited, it directly impacts the well-being of individuals and can exacerbate health disparities. It also increases the risk of developing mental health conditions and other chronic diseases.
For organizations who see patients dealing with food insecurity, finding ways to connect your patients with resources in their community can be a game changer. For example, community resources like food banks can serve as a great tool for patients struggling to find healthy food sources. Additionally, having a team of mental health professionals can also be a benefit to your patients.
For example , licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) can serve as an essential resource for those facing food insecurity. With their expertise in mental health and social welfare, they can address and offer tailored care to meet the needs of each patient. By guiding patients through the application process for government or community aid, referring them to pantries and local soup kitchens in the community, and providing ongoing emotional support to address any stress and anxiety related to food insecurity, LCSWs can provide quality care to your patients.
While healthy diets are helpful in maintaining wellness, physical health matters too. Let’s take a look at how exercise can help with overall wellbeing.
How exercise affects mental health
Regular exercise has been shown to have numerous benefits for mental health. According to a study from The Lancet Psychiatry, a person has 3.4 poor mental health days per month. Researchers found that on average, among those who exercise, the number of poor mental health days dropped by more than 40%.
Engaging in physical activity can serve as a powerful coping mechanism and stress management tool. It provides an outlet for emotional release, improves self-esteem and body image, and promotes a sense of accomplishment. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, participating in physical activities, whether it’s walking, jogging, or practicing yoga, can help individuals combat negative thoughts, reduce rumination, and enhance their overall mental resilience.
By connecting your community with behavioral health specialists, your patients can access expertise and assistance with adopting regular exercise into their daily lives.
Benefits of holistic care
A holistic approach to care looks at the person’s mental health and physical health. Integrating a holistic approach into your organization can be a game-changer for your patients and providers. Your patients get holistic care that looks at the full picture of their health, and your providers benefit from the expertise of a behavioral health specialist.
For organizations without access to behavioral health professionals locally, telehealth can open up access to a wide range of provider types, including MDs, PMHNPs, and LCSWs. These providers can work with your on-site team to provide holistic care to your patients. For example, If there’s a provider on-site who is working with the patient on their physical health, a virtual provider can help them on the behavioral health side to make the biggest impact for that patient. Integrated care teams like these that promote a collaborative approach improve patient outcomes overall.
If you’d like to learn more about how Iris Telehealth can help increase access to behavioral health care in your community, contact us today.