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Surprising Factors That Can Impact Mental Health for Better or Worse

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Mental health is not something to take lightly or ignore at any point in life. Despite the many advancements in technology and research in the last few decades, the extent to which brain health affects the rest of the body is staggering but is still largely a mystery. 

So much of brain and body health is dependent on the emotional health of the individual and vice versa. Sadly, many people have never been properly educated on the important link between these parts of the body and thus live in a state of ignorance. 

That’s why seemingly unrelated environmental factors, like watching too much depressing news or becoming overly concerned about reports of electoral integrity can become a mental health issue.  While there are plenty of factors in human health that have become common knowledge because of the consistency with which those messages have been preached – eating healthy, exercising, getting plenty of quality sleep, etc. – most people are still in the dark as to the many factors that can affect mental health.

Here are some surprising factors that can have an impact on mental health – for better or worse. 

The downside of sweet stuff

People love sugar. Unfortunately, while the body does need sugars to survive, the processed sugars that are typical of a SAD (standard American Diet), sometimes in egregious measurements, means that people all over the world are very often ingesting far too much sugar than is good for their bodies. Coffee drinks, sodas, fast food meals, even health food bars, and on-the-go “healthy snacks”, are filled with extra sugars. Why? Because it tastes good, and the body craves more.

The downsides to this ingredient are numerous, but one surprising factor that most people do not know is that sugar can contribute to mental health issues. There is research that has linked excess sugar consumption to intensified symptoms of fear, panic, worry, and anxiety. Just one more reason not to have another latte or energy drink. 

Fruits and veggies

A research article published in the British Medical Journal, sought to consider the link between greater consumption of fruits and vegetables and mental health. Of the more than 60,000 participants studied, findings showed that people who consumed an average of 3–4 vegetables per day marked a 12% lower risk factor for common stress than people who did not; Those who ate 5-7 servings of fruit per day had a higher effect at around 14%. In summary: your parents were right. Again. Eat more fruits and veggies.

Home decor

Mental health is impacted by far more than just a stressful job with lazy coworkers or an angry boss; everything in the environment can affect our mental health. A surprising example of this has to do with the decorative elements in a home, office, or bedroom space. The type and colour (wavelength) of the light bulbs used can create more strain on the body and mind, especially depending on the time of day.

Fluorescent bulbs, though popular in most major convenience stores and even hospitals, have been linked to physical and mental effects like dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, and even increased levels of anxiety. This information is quite ironic when considering the mental health of nurses, doctors, and their patients.

It’s not just lighting, though. The type of material used in the sheets for one’s bed has a direct effect on the quality of sleep and, as has been touted frequently, the quality of sleep someone gets has a big list of positive and negative effects related to the body and mental health.

All of that can exacerbate anxiety, depression, nervousness, worry, fear, and panic attacks. Switching to natural materials like cotton or linen is well worth the investment.

Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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