The Tonic Approach to Mental Health
by Mark J Kaylor
My assignment, write about mental health in 600 words, hmmm, how about in four, “don’t worry, be happy,” like the song says. Not sweating the small stuff can go a long way, easier said than done I know, but well worth the effort. Just by smiling, even faking it, you can improve your mood and brain chemistry, so maybe there is something to the saying, “laughter is the best medicine.”
Clearly mental health is a multi-faceted, complicated and many-layered imbalance. The operative word here is “imbalance.” The basis for a happy and healthy mental state lies with bringing the body back into balance. To accomplish this, I suggest a very different approach from the method taken by most of medicine.
For encouraging balance in the body, the remedies of choice are tonics. Traditionally, tonics are herbs that support, balance, nourish and strengthen. For this discussion we will consider nutrients and lifestyle choices that act in a similar manner.
Ancient Remedy, Modern Medicine
While not thought of as a mental health remedy, Cordyceps, is uniquely suited to help re-establish this needed balance. Long thought of as an herb for athletes, Cordyceps is more about restoring and uplifting energy, rather than stimulating it. It regulates blood sugar, promotes restful sleep, increases oxygen uptake, improves memory and mood, and strengthens the liver (the energetic seat of anger, irritability and depression in the body); all helpful elements in maintaining our mental health.
Cordyceps is also one of the few natural remedies that has been clinically tested as a sexual tonic; increasing libido, sexual frequency and satisfaction. Not that we really need this confirmation but science confirms the importance of a healthy sex life for maintaining our well being, possibly lengthening our lifespan.
Mental Health Appetizers
A corrective nutritional tonic that acts on several systems is affectionately referred to as SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine). SAMe acts as a methyl donor since methyl deficiency is associated with depression. It increases the actions of several neurotransmitters and improves cell membrane function thereby helping to maintain memory and brain health.
SAMe has a short half life in the body so it is important to take it 2-3 times a day and is best utilized if kept in individually sealed packets and enteric coated.
Food and Mental Health
The #1 mental health dietary tip is to know what to avoid, refined carbohydrates and sugar, which create an emotional and physiological roller coaster as blood sugar and insulin spike, followed by the inevitable plunge. For those of us who are stress or emotional eaters there is a two-herb blend called Relora. This reduces stress related eating, and research showed it lowered cortisol levels, helped with irritability, restlessness and poor sleep.
Take a Breath
One of the most powerful tools we have to lower stress levels, focus and center our bodies, as well as energize our cells and brain is deep diaphragmatic breathing. This is breathing as we did when we were infants, inhaling deeply with the stomach moving out, and then exhaling smoothly as our stomachs contract.
While there is no one magic bullet that can guarantee our mental health the above suggestions can act as powerful starting points as you explore your healing path to health and happiness. My experience tells me that mental, as well as physical, well being can best be encouraged and tended by supporting the wholeness of mind/body/spirit.
Mental health lies not in focusing exclusively on the mind but by nurturing and balancing the whole. And please, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help or even a big hug.