Mental health involves our ability to cope with pressure, stress, and difficult situations. One component of our mental health is our emotional health. Emotional health is all about our relationship with our emotions. How do we handle ourselves when feeling overwhelmed? Stressed? Unsure? Worried? What positive coping skills do we have to deal with and transform these emotions? If we let our mental and emotional health go haywire for too long, we may develop symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Anxiety and depression are serious ailments. They’re debilitating and very, very real. Yet they’re also examples of mental and emotional ailments that have been stimulated by our modern industrialized world.
The earliest mentions of psychiatric disorders come from Babylon in the 2nd millennium BC. Then, they were conceived of and treated much differently. They were thought of as reversible spiritual afflictions.
Today, the terms “anxiety” and “depression” as a diagnoses are relatively new. Clinicians started using them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which comes as no surprise when acknowledging the steady rise of poor mental and emotional health.
Poor mental and emotional health can form unhealthy cycles. For example, a lack of sleep is common, which can feed mental turmoil the next day. The mental turmoil can then make it hard to sleep at night once again.
Studying the history of human activity and development can give us direct insight into why so many of us carry mental and emotional health afflictions. We can then begin to implement good mental health habits based upon the activities of our ancestors. So what are these habits?
Spending time in nature
Most people know that early humans were close to the elements. People spent their time outside migrating, gathering, swimming, hunting, and embracing communal fires. That reality was much different than the one most of us are engulfed by today—realities of overwhelming stimuli, social media, office jobs and an overabundance of other stressors.
The world as we know it developed extremely fast and our genetics haven’t had much time to catch up. As a result, people are suffering at extremely high rates from poor mental and emotional health.
Luckily, there are ways we can harness nature’s healing powers, and they’re all in accordance with how earlier humans lived.
Earthing (going barefoot)
Earthing or “grounding” is simply the practice of walking barefoot outside, preferably on grass, soil, dirt, or sand. In 2015, the Journal of Inflammation Research found that earthing is effective in reducing inflammation, increasing wound healing, and reversing autoimmunity. This is important when considering the correlation between high inflammation levels and depression.
Practicing earthing is as easy as visiting a park, beach, or your own front lawn.
Swimming in the ocean
All life can be traced back to the beautiful seas of this world. Should it surprise us, then, that spending time in the ocean can benefit our mental and emotional health?
Many people are chronically deficient in minerals. Fortunately, the ocean contains every mineral the human body needs. The uptake of minerals such as magnesium, iodine, and selenium from the ocean can promote calmness, positivity, and joy associated with proficient mental and emotional health.
Embracing the cold
Stress is very prevalent in our modern world. Most people are walking around with stress in one form or another. The key to understanding stress comes down to understanding a couple of things about our nervous system.
We have a “sympathetic” nervous system responsible for movement, action, and our “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic system is necessary, yet many people get stuck in it (aka chronic stress). To get out, we need to learn to tap into our “parasympathetic” nervous system. The parasympathetic system is responsible for rest, calmness, and repair.
The best way to get cold exposure is by going into the ocean or one of the Great Lakes. If you don’t have a cold body of water within reach, cold showers are also an excellent way to stimulate the vagus nerve and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Our ancestors spent plenty of time in the cold, and cold ocean dips and even cold showers can mimic this activity.
Cold water activates a cold shock response (CSR) which usually manifests as a sudden, deep gasp for air. Being calm during cold-water therapy and avoiding CSR can tremendously help us adapt to general stress.
All three of these outdoor tips emphasize things our ancestors did in order to adapt, thrive, and survive. Here are some other general ways to improve mental and emotional health via ancestral wisdom.
Eating what our ancestors ate
What if many of us are suffering from poor mental and emotional health due to an improper way of eating? After all, the research on gut health as connected to mental health is promising, and so is the research concerning nutritional deficiencies.
Ancestral eating is an idea that sprung up partly due to the pioneering of the paleo diet. While it may be beneficial to many, the paleo diet is not a bio-individualized approach. No single dieting lifestyle is “the best” for everyone, whether it’s veganism, paleo, or a ketogenic approach. People have genetic variations that determine which dietary approaches will benefit or hinder their bodies.
When looking at what foods we should be eating, we need to ask ourselves two things: “is it nutrient-dense?” and “Is it digestible?” There is now reliable genetic testing available that can help people determine what foods they can efficiently digest and absorb.
Meditation: returning the mind to its natural state
Meditation, as pertaining to our mental health, cannot be overlooked. The research is in. It is now known that meditation can heal anxiety and depression.
Our current world contains copious amounts of stressors. It’s a much different world than we are genetically designed for. Early humans needed the stress response, that “fight or flight” to run from predators and to hunt for food. Today, we’re succumbing to the pressure of modern demands and becoming chronically stressed although we’re not being chased by sabertooth tigers.
Our minds are pulsing with thoughts, worries, and stressors unnecessarily. Through meditation, we can tap back into the present moment and reclaim the mind as a useful tool rather than an imprisoner of our consciousness.
Try some of these tips yourself and experience the benefits to your mental and emotional health. Hungry for more? Visit the TelMD Upstream Blog.
Let’s Make Wellness Contagious!™
June 05, 2019
Health-boosting connections with ourselves and our environment are limitless
October 29, 2019
Through exercise, we gain a greater sense of mental strength and stamina while benefiting our brains on a cellular level.
September 19, 2019
There’s no better time than now to harness our optimal mental greatness (OMG). Imagine if tasks that once seemed difficult or tedious were to become effortless and even enjoyable.