Your mental health is not just shaped by your thoughts and emotions but also by your environment. The physical spaces you call home, the people you interact with, and the natural world around you – all have a profound impact.
In this article, we’re peeling back the layers to explain how the air we breathe, the soil beneath our feet, and even the spaces where we work and rest can influence our minds and mood.
Your Natural Environment
Let’s explore the (often overlooked) environmental factors that gradually influence our mental well-being over time.
Soil isn’t just good for plants – we need it too. Think of it as a nutritional bank, storing and cycling nutrients to plants that eventually make their way onto our plates. Soil is rich in microbes that support serotonin production, the brain’s “feel-good” chemical. So, when our bodies absorb these beneficial microbes, it provides a natural mood boost. But as soil quality declines due to erosion and overuse, our access to these benefits also decreases.
Depleted soil and fast plant food growth produce crops that lack the vitamins and minerals we need for optimal health. Unfortunately, soil degradation (the loss of soil quality and fertility) is becoming a common issue due to unsustainable agricultural practices and deforestation. When soil loses its nutrients and structure, it affects the plants that grow in it, and these consequences extend to the air we breathe and the food we eat.
Modern Farming Practices
That juicy tomato might look delicious, but it probably doesn’t pack the same nutrient punch as it did decades ago. In the past, fruits and veggies overflowed with vital nutrients. But fast forward to today, and something’s changed. Although pesticides and synthetic fertilizers might help increase crop yields, they carry significant downsides. These farming methods, new technology advancements, and long transportation times have all chipped away at the nutritional value of our produce.
Our brain functions thrive on essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for peak performance. So, when these elements are lacking in the diet, our mental well-being could bear the brunt. Nutrient deficiencies are often a silent culprit behind mood swings, anxiety, and even depression.
From exhaust fumes from vehicles to industrial waste dumped by companies, pollution is a widespread issue that affects us on multiple levels. Fine particulate matter, commonly found in polluted air, can make its way to our brains and trigger inflammation and respiratory problems. This can set the stage for cognitive decline and an increased risk of mental health issues.
Your Home Environment
We all love a clean and fresh-smelling home, but have you ever considered the chemicals lurking in your everyday products? Many conventional cleaners include harsh ingredients like ammonia, which releases fumes that irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. This also extends to plastic products around the home, such as water bottles and food containers that contain BPA (Bisphenol A) and other chemicals that can leach into our food and drinks. Studies have shown that BPA exposure can interfere with neurotransmitters in the brain.
You might unknowingly expose yourself to toxic substances even just going through your morning routine. Some personal care products, including shampoos, lotions, and fragrances, contain harmful chemicals like phthalates and parabens that disrupt your endocrine system. And when hormones go haywire, it results in mood swings, increased stress, and even depression.
Your Social Environment
They say you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. We’re hard-wired for social interactions; it’s in our DNA. Your brain is an intricate network of neurons that light up in response to social interactions. When you connect with others, the brain releases serotonin and oxytocin. These hormones help to dial down stress and improve mood. Oxytocin, often called the “bonding hormone,” surges during positive connections, fostering trust and emotional resilience.
On the other hand, a toxic social circle can lead to a mental storm. The “social stress” theory explains how chronic negative interactions can increase cortisol production, triggering a chain reaction that messes with our mental health.
Your Work Environment
Many of us spend a significant portion of our time in the workplace. The constant pressure to meet deadlines and increasing workload can contribute to work-related stress, which, if left unchecked, results in burnout and other mental health issues.
6 Ways to Adapt and Create a Healthy Environment
Every element plays a key role, from the air we breathe to the soil beneath our feet. The good thing is we can take steps to create a healthier, more nurturing environment.
Evaluate Your Eating Habits:
Many unknowingly consume products that rob the body of key nutrients. Among these, the most harmful include high fructose corn syrup, hidden refined sugars, and refined flour items like white bread, cookies, cakes, biscuits, and refined rice and pasta. Also, stress combined with the use of common stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can further exacerbate nutritional deficiencies and contribute to mental health challenges.
- Improve your nutritional intake by loading up on various fruits and vegetables.
- Take a soil-based probiotic to support healthy gut bacteria and provide an environment for nutrient absorption. This also ensures that your body reaps the full benefits of your improved dietary choices.
- Rather than giving in to unhealthy cravings, explore creative food swaps. For example, trade refined flour products for their whole-grain counterparts—whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, and brown rice.
Take a Daily Liquid Mineral Supplement:
With the world around us undergoing rapid changes, maintaining our health requires a proactive approach. Our bodies need essential minerals to thrive, and these nutrients are closely tied to the environment. From depleted soil to pollution, our diets may fall short of providing what we need for optimal health.
That’s where supplements step in. Liquid mineral formulas include vital nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and selenium, which are pivotal in supporting our brain function and protecting the body against environmental changes. Other beneficial nutrients to consider adding to your rotation include:
- Vitamin D
- B-Vitamin Complex
- Soil-Based Probiotics
The journey from farm to plate impacts nutrient retention. Local, organic produce is often harvested at peak ripeness and doesn’t travel far, which means it spends less time in transit and more time soaking up all those vitamins and minerals.
On the other hand, commercially produced food mostly travels long distances, spending additional time in transit and, sometimes, cold storage, resulting in nutrient loss. Plus, chemical residues in these products may also interfere with nutrient absorption.
- Select products labeled “organic” or “chemical-free” to reduce exposure to harmful compounds linked to mood disturbances.
Choose Clean Products (or make your own!):
Clean, eco-friendly products reduce our carbon footprint and the toxic load on our bodies. Consider making your own cleaning supplies and personal care products using simple, natural ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.
- Harmful chemicals in conventional products are linked to anxiety, irritability, and sleep problems. Make eco-conscious choices by selecting those labeled “organic” or “chemical-free”. Opt for products stored in glass or BPA-free containers.
- Choose skincare with natural ingredients and minerals only. These products have gentle and non-irritating formulations, ensuring your skin gets a healthy glow without feeling weighed down or greasy.
Connect with Nature:
Connecting with nature is a direct path to boosting your mood and overall mental wellness. Natural elements like sunlight, plants, and open spaces trigger the release of endorphins, promoting feelings of calmness and relaxation. Spend time in nature, whether walking in the park, on a small hike, or just barefoot in your backyard. This will provide a mental break and expose you to those beneficial soil microbes we discussed earlier.
Rearrange Your Space:
A cluttered environment isn’t just visually overwhelming – it can actually increase stress and anxiety levels. Researchers have found that excess clutter can lead to a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, making it harder for you to relax and unwind after a long day.
Take a moment to reflect on your space. The colors on your walls, the way you’ve decorated, the texture of your bedspread – all these seemingly minor things can significantly impact your mental health.
Small Steps, Big Impact
Just as we strive to maintain a balanced diet and exercise routine for our physical health, we should also prioritize the health of our environment. How does your environment affect your mood and mental health? This self-awareness is the first step towards creating a healthier space. By being mindful of the products you use, the food you eat, and the activities you engage in, you contribute to your well-being and those around you.