Mental health Awareness Week
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, a week dedicated to helping break the stigma surrounding mental health. This year the theme is nature - nature holds such powerful benefits when it comes to our mental health, helping to calm our feelings, increase our creativity and encourage an escape from the busyness of our minds. For most of human history, we have lived as part of nature. However, over the last 5 generations, there has been a change in this, showing that many of us are living and working in a context that is very much separated from nature.
To celebrate this theme and help normalise the conversation surrounding mental health, we want to take a more detailed look at the brain-gut connection (of course, because we love to talk about this stuff) and how nature can help benefit our health and our guts.
The Digital Age
One thing is clear, we are living in a fast-paced world and it’s becoming more and more common for people to lose the connection with their bodies. Now if you’re an avid Naked Biotics follower, you will know how much we talk about the incredible role our gut plays in supporting our health in so many different ways (you can read more on the gut-brain connection here.) Especially now where we are living in a mad digital world, there are so many ways both our gut and minds are being impacted. Alissia Zenhausern, a naturopathic physician at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale explains that “the artificial light from our phones affects our sleep, but our brain is deeply connected to our nervous system and gut, specifically the vagus nerve [which] connects a network of important nerves in the gut to different regions of the brain — this means that there is a 24/7 communication between our gut and our brain.” Alissia explains that gut issues and excess stress/anxiety, can really throw off our gut balance. We need our brain and gut connection to work in harmony, because if one of them is off, so is the other.
It’s also important to note that the combined stress of social media is known to have a direct effect on our moods. This change in mood and spike in cortisol (the stress hormone) is what then wreaks havoc in our guts. As you can see, everything is interlinked. Our gut and brain share signalling pathways which allow them to communicate, which is why trying to minimise stress and anxious feelings is so important.
The Power of Nature
So we’ve established the important link between our brain and our gut, but where does nature come into this?
- Firstly, being outside boosts your immunity. Our immune systems help to keep harmful bacteria from doing damage to our guts, instead allowing the good gut bugs to flourish and bloom. So basically, when you spend time in nature, you support your immune system, and your immune system supports your gut — and then your gut supports your immune system back. It’s very much a win-win situation.
- Going outside encourages you to move. Even if you’re just gently stretching or taking a brief walk. The slightest addition of physical activity to your day can provide really positive benefits to your mind and gut.
- When you go outdoors, you expose yourself to millions of microbes. Which sounds creepy, but it’s doing great things for your body and microbiome. Scientists have even come out to say that exposing children to dirt and germs early on in their lives can help to strengthen their immune systems. Like we said in point one, strong immune systems, mean happy guts and happy guts mean happier minds.
How does it all link?
Let’s take a look at everything we’ve established - how going outside can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; boost your immune system; encourage you to exercise; and increase your microbial diversity. All of those things relate back to your gut, which relates back to your heart. Notice how all the different parts of your body work together to best serve you when you give it the right conditions.
We understand how overwhelming it can be when you’re surrounded by tips, trends and advice on how to improve your health and often, it can be easy to forget to strip it all back, go back to basics and spending more time outdoors to help nurture and support our mental health and guts is about as basic as healthcare ‘advice’ gets,
Remember to take things at your pace, that we’re all individual and we all have different needs. If you want to up your game even more, why not combine some simple movement outside with a shot of our gut-healthy Naked biotics? You’re giving yourself all the good stuff on the inside and the outside... sounds like a win-win to us!