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Here's Why Drinking Water Is the Key to Good Mental Health

Do me a favor -- drink some water.

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Sociology Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
3 min read
Young woman smiling with a glass of water in her hand while sitting in front of her computer.
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Dehydration likely doesn't seem like a big deal to the 75% of Americans who don't drink enough water. So what, I'll just drink some later to catch up? But here's the thing, our mental health is tied to how much water we drink. If you don't drink enough, your mental health will suffer. 

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But before you start chugging water to get ahead, I should warn you that's not how it works. It's dehydration that negatively affects mental health. Ensuring your water intake meets the recommended daily amount will secure your brain function and mental well-being. The adequate daily water intake is around 11.5 cups for women and 15.5 for men. 

If you're looking for ways to better your mind, use these seven habits to be happier and learn how to boost your mental health without therapy.  

Higher brain function

The brain needs water to function, and when there isn't enough, your cognitive abilities are compromised. Studies have found that dehydration is linked to impaired cognitive function and memory. Essentially, it makes it harder to concentrate, remember things and fight off brain fog.

In the case of cognitive tasks, drinking water doesn't just put you at the baseline; studies suggest that staying consistently hydrated can improve your functioning. It also boosts your judgment and helps you make better decisions

Boosts serotonin production 

Not drinking enough water can negatively affect your mood. Without water, the brain can't get enough of the amino acid tryptophan needed to create serotonin, also known as the "feel good" chemical. That's a big problem because serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Increasing your water intake will promote happiness, allowing your brain to continue making serotonin.  

The correct amount of serotonin in the brain keeps us happy, emotionally level and stable. And to have enough serotonin in the brain, we must ensure we stay hydrated.

Decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety 

Studies have found that people who regularly drink less water have an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety. The combination of dehydration, zapping the brain's energy and cutting down serotonin production can increase depression symptoms

The same is true for anxiety. When dehydrated, the body is stressed, which causes the adrenal glands to kick into overdrive and releases excess cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone our body uses to fight perceived danger. An increase in cortisol will result in physical responses of higher heart rate, muscle tension and a general feeling of uneasiness. 

Drinking enough water doesn't magically cure anxiety and depression. However, it nourishes the brain and helps combat the symptoms you may experience. 

Man sitting in front of an open notebook, pinching nose bridge from stress.
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Lowers risk of dementia 

Dementia is a term for a group of age-related neurovascular conditions characterized by compromised brain functioning -- the most common being memory. Dementia and dehydration have a unique relationship, as those who don't drink enough water can increase the risk of developing dementia, and those with the condition have difficulty staying hydrated. 

Easy tips to stay hydrated

Everyone knows how important drinking water is, but sometimes life gets in the way, and we don't drink enough. It happens to everyone. Use these simple tips to change your mindset and become intentional about staying hydrated.

  • Listen to your body: When you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrated. If your body is telling you to drink something, choose water. 
  • Drink a glass of water in the morning: After you wake up, it's best to drink a glass of water straight away to get your metabolism going. 
  • Get a travel water bottle: If you're often on the go, it's sometimes hard to keep hydrating. Investing in a travel water bottle can make it a lot easier. 
  • Set alarms on your phone: Alarms are a simple way to remind yourself to stop what you're doing and drink water. You can set as many or as few as you like. 
  • Try flavor packets: For some, water can be boring. I get it; sometimes, you want something else and reach for something sweet like a soda. Flavor packets or droplets can give you the kick you crave while drinking water. 
  • Tie it to a habit: Associating drinking water with a habit you already have is an easy way to intake more water. It can be anything, drinking water before you eat a meal after you brush your teeth or every time you get up to use the bathroom. 

For more on mental health, find out which exercises are best for your mind and how to calm your anxiety at night.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.