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Three pillars to support your mental health

If you were drawn here by the headline, fair warning, I’m not about to tell you something you don’t already know. When it comes to maintaining our mental health, it is all about the basics.

We’re talking diet, exercise, and quality sleep.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

We already know that exercise is important to staying physically healthy. We know how important nutrition is and how what we eat affects us physically. And we’re learning how much we need good quality sleep to do more than keep us mentally alert, but to also keep us healthy.

Now, it turns out, these activities are equally important to maintaining our mental health.

In his comments on a recent Wellness Wednesday show, Dr. Paul Hammerness, the new chair of psychiatric services for Southcoast Health, called sleep, nutrition, and exercise the fundamentals of good mental health and suggested they’re the pillars on which we stay mentally healthy.

“You have to have a good sleep routine,” he said. “You have to eat healthy or just eat three meals a day. And you’ve got to get out and take a walk.”

“You have to do the basics,” said Dr. Hammerness. “It’s the fundamentals, and no one likes the fundamentals. Everyone wants idea or maybe the new medicine or the new therapy.”

And, as with physical health, these activities need to be done regularly to be effective, even when we’re feeling down.

It can be difficult to go to sleep at the same time each night, to get those 30 minutes of exercise in every day, or to make sure each meal includes the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. But when you begin to think of these activities as the supports that help you respond with more resilience to stress and adversity, it’s easier to see the long-term benefits of putting the time in.

As Dr. Hammerness said, “You have to push yourself to do it. You can’t wait to feel better to do it. You’ve got to do it in order, in part, to feel better.”

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