The Key to Boosting Mental Health: Healthy Habits for Social Connections, Sleep, and More

2023-09-19 15:46:19

A new study has found a strategy that may help boost mental health through healthy social and lifestyle habits, from good sleep to physical activity, to strong social connections.

The study, which was published in the journal “Mental health“People who maintain a wide range of healthy habits are less likely to suffer from depressive episodes.

The researchers used random distribution, using genetics, to study behavior and to confirm the existence of a causal relationship between lifestyle and depression. They found a reduced risk of depression, even among people who have genetic variants that make them more susceptible to it, if they follow a healthy lifestyle.

“The biggest surprise of the study is that a good lifestyle can reduce the risk of depression by 57%, which is actually a very large percentage,” says study author Barbara Sahakian, a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge.

The study included data for nearly 300,000 people from the UK Biobank database.

The researchers identified 7 healthy habits, and found that people who maintained most of them, five or more, reduced their risk of depression by 57%.

At the top of the list of habits is sleep, as seven or nine hours of sleep per night reduces the risk of depression by about 22%. Sleep plays a key role in maintaining the strength of the immune system.

The second habit is exercise, and there is a strong body of evidence linking physical activity to improved mood.

Based on data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys, people who exercise regularly report fewer days of bad mood.

While antidepressant medications tend to be quicker to treat a depressive episode, says Douglas Nordsey, MD, a physician at the Stanford Lifestyle Medicine Program, “physical exercise has more lasting effects than antidepressants.”

The list also includes good nutrition, as researchers found that people who maintained a healthy eating pattern were less likely to suffer from an attack of depression.

“I always recommend the Mediterranean diet,” Sahakian says. Multiple studies show that following a vegetarian diet filled with vegetables, berries, whole grains, lean proteins including beans, and healthy fats including nuts, can help reduce the risk of disease.

Researchers also advise reducing alcohol and smoking, as people who regularly consume a larger than recommended amount of alcohol have an increased risk of developing some types of cancer and an increased risk of depression.

The study indicates that humans are supposed to move more, so they should reduce sitting in front of television screens, as there is increasing evidence that this can harm our physical and mental health.

Nordisi says. Although smartphones and Internet-based technologies have made our lives more convenient, spending long periods of time in front of them puts us at risk of depression.

The study also confirms that developing friendships and social ties helps improve mood and reduces the risk of depression, and hobbies involve imagination, novelty, creativity, relaxation, and stimulation, according to what the researchers concluded.

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