Do me a favor -- drink some water.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more on mental health, find out which exercises are best for your mind and how to calm your anxiety at night.