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Fueling Your Mind and Body: The Key to Achieving Mental Wellness

Last Updated on March 5, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Fueling Your Mind and Body

No matter where you are on your mental wellness journey, you likely know by now that there are many moving parts necessary to keep everything in balance. A key reason for this is that mental wellness is inextricably linked to physical wellness.

That means that in order to fuel your mind, you must also take the time necessary to fuel your body. This can look like many different things for different people, but chief among them are regular exercise, proper nutrition, and attention to self-care.

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Nutrition and Mental Wellness

Nutrition and Mental Wellness

People seeking overall wellness frequently overlook how attention to diet and nutrition can actually help improve mental health. After all, food is fuel for all cells of the body, including the brain. Without proper nutrition, both the body and the mind can be negatively affected.

When all the different aspects of your being are working together in harmony, you can experience your greatest sense of wellness. Let’s examine how physical and mental health are interrelated.

It is difficult to overstate how important it is to fuel your brain well to improve your mental health. Unfortunately, while many fad diets have risen and fallen from grace over the years, suggesting that this or that kind of food or diet is best, not many of these come with research — especially not research regarding their impact on mental health. The research shows that there are definitely foods to avoid and others that should be a major part of your diet if you’re focused on improving your mental health.

Focus on These Nutrients

For example, if you’re interested in addressing your mental health, you may want to focus on Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are frequently found in fish, seeds, nuts, oils, and specially fortified foods. Consuming the recommended amount of Omega-3s for your gender and age could help combat symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.1

B12 deficiency appears to be more common in people with Major Depressive Disorder than in those without. This may be because vitamin B12 is necessary to keep nerves and blood cells healthy and to create DNA in the body.2 Additionally, folate (vitamin B9) deficiencies seem to be prevalent in those with depressive disorders and some with substance use disorders. A diet focused on getting enough B12 and folate may help promote better mental wellness.3 Vitamin K is also linked to the reduction of symptoms of depression.4

Nutrition and Physical Wellness

Nutrition and physical well-being are more obviously linked. Without enough of the right vitamins and nutrients in your diet, deficiencies can arise.

Think of your body like a car — without fuel at all, it cannot function, but it will function optimally with higher-grade fuels. Making sure to get adequate amounts of the needed nutrients in different categories and reducing consumption of processed foods and refined sugars means you’re giving your body more high-quality fuel. If your body is getting the nutrients it needs, it has the opportunity to operate more effectively.

Exercise and Your Physical Health

There are many different ways people prefer to recharge a weary mind and restore a stressed body, but exercise can be one of the most important.

While weight loss can certainly help improve your physical health and your self-image, exercise has many other benefits. Other aspects of your physical health that can be improved by exercise include blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and more. Exercise can also improve your muscle tone, boost your metabolism, and help you prevent injury.5

Exercise and Mental Wellness

Exercise and Mental Wellness

While the physical advantages of exercise are clear, there are also several ways exercise can aid mental wellness.

Releasing Endorphins

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, hormones that help combat stress, reduce pain, and boost pleasure. This natural release of endorphins can help to combat mood disorders on a chemical level.5,6,12 In addition, natural sources of endorphin releases, like exercise, are far healthier than the drugs or alcohol many people use in an attempt to experience pleasure.

Distraction from Stress

Exercise can also provide a much-needed distraction from the things in life that weigh you down. Having something to focus on rather than the worry that is plaguing a stressed or anxious mind can give you a productive outlet for your energy. In fact, this healthy distraction is productive in a way that other distractions or coping mechanisms are not; substance use disorder can frequently develop when people attempt to distract themselves from emotions or stress using substances.8

Potential for Meditation

In addition, some forms of exercise can be incredibly meditative because they utilize repetitive or purposeful actions that can center the mind. Exercises like jogging, lifting weights, and especially yoga involve intentional movements that can be repeated, combining various forms of well-being practices. Meditation and yoga can help quiet an overactive mind and diffuse intense emotions according to clinical research.11

Possible Social Outlet

The social aspect of exercise can be incredibly helpful for those experiencing mental health symptoms. Exercises that encourage group interaction help provide a positive social outlet for those who may be struggling or feeling isolated. By engaging in sports for exercise, or other positive social interactions, a person can gain a community and a support system they may not have had previously.13

Purpose and Routine

Finally, exercise can provide a person with a sense of purpose or even simply a routine to fall back on when times get rough. Predictable, sturdy, and comforting, healthy routines may help some people deal with depression and stress. In addition, exercise classes and team sports can also help people develop accountability to stick to planned events. Following orderly routines not only for exercise, but for personal hygiene, chores, meals, work & study, has been shown to have positive effects on mental wellness, trauma recovery, and quality of life, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychological Assessment in 2019.14

How Sleep Affects Wellness

Sleep is an extremely important aspect of overall wellness that affects both physical and mental wellness. It’s easy to see how if you simply think about how you feel when you don’t get a good night’s sleep. Inadequate sleep can leave you feeling irritable, foggy, and unmotivated, which can potentially have a negative effect on your mental well-being. You may also feel the physical effects of inadequate sleep, like exhaustion, body aches, and lethargy. These symptoms cause severe physical and mental health consequences.15

Sleep and Physical Wellness

Sleep deficiency puts the body at a greater risk of developing illnesses and diseases. Immune function is restored during sleeping hours, and certain immune processes occur during times when the body is at rest. Shortened or poor-quality sleep can cause immune dysfunction, which means the body may fall victim to additional illnesses. Antioxidant function is also restored during sleep, benefiting both the liver and the heart.7 That’s why extensive periods of sleep deficiency can lead to stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and obesity.8

Cancer may be the ultimate physical effect of sleep deprivation. Recent studies have suggested that a lack of sleep is linked to three prevalent cancers. Breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer have all been associated with a lack of sleep.7

Sleep and Mental Wellness

Sleep deficiency has a well-documented link to undesirable effects on mood, including increased aggression, anger, and depression. These issues often present as lowered inhibitions, poor decisions, inappropriate social actions, and more. In this way, sleep deprivation can be a double-edged sword that can lead to other negative behaviors that further contribute to decreased mental wellness. By contrast, getting adequate amounts of high-quality sleep can reduce feelings of anger, help mitigate mood changes, and prevent outbursts, aggression, and poor decisions. Fortunately, if one improves one’s quality of sleep, one is also improving one’s mental wellness.9,15

The Link Between Physical and Mental Wellness

While adequate sleep, physical exercise, and attention to nutrition all affect physical and mental health, it’s important to understand just how the two types of wellness are linked. Studies show that people with mental health symptoms are at a much higher risk for developing physical health conditions, to the point that they have greater mortality rates. The reverse is true as well — people with physical health conditions, especially severe issues like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, are at a greater risk of developing mental health issues. When physical and mental illnesses co-occur, these individuals have a higher morbidity rate.

Interestingly enough, many mental health conditions also come with a variety of physical symptoms. Things like a lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, muscle soreness, difficulty focusing, sweating, and increased heart rate may present as symptoms of certain mental health issues. The persistence of mental health issues means that these physical symptoms can get worse over time and eventually decrease the human lifespan.10

In addition, mental health issues can contribute to physical health issues in a more concrete yet cyclical way. Mental health symptoms and substance use disorder, for example, can cause people to lose interest in healthier and more meaningful life choices. The loss of nutrients, physical activity, and sleep deprivation may result in physical ailments. Then, these physical ailments can exacerbate mental health issues. In this way, physical and mental health problems can create a troublesome cycle that is difficult to escape until they are addressed with proper exercise, nutrition, sleep, and hydration.

Beginning Your Healing Journey

Beginning Your Healing Journey

If you are experiencing physical health problems, mental health symptoms, or conditions that worsen both types of wellness, like substance use disorder and medication toxicity, it can be difficult to know how or where to begin to find the path to healing. The world and all the problems it comes with can bog you down, placing you under undue stress and strain that can have a negative effect on your overall well-being. What you’re left with is feeling run down and at risk for more serious issues down the road, including worsening illnesses, mental health conditions, and more. To avoid these effects, it can be tempting to rely on substances or even prescription medications. Unfortunately, both of these can leave you with worsening physical and mental health conditions.

Instead, it’s critical to focus on fueling your body and your mind. A holistic journey to wellness free of pharmaceuticals and harmful substances is beneficial for so many reasons. A holistic approach addresses the whole person, not just the symptoms that you may be presenting with. This can mean paying attention to your diet and exercise routine, evaluating your sleep, and addressing the levels of natural hormones and outside toxins affecting your brain and body.

At Alternative to Meds Center, this holistic journey to wellness is our specialty, so we offer treatments that consider physical and mental health. Here, you’ll experience extensive lab testing and nutrition consultation right away. We use this information to develop a personalized wellness plan that incorporates healthy meals, carefully chosen supplements, gentle exercise, meditation and mindfulness practices, holistic detoxification, spa services, orthomolecular medicine, and more as we work to understand the why so that you can address every component of your wellness. We’ll work with you from day one to navigate the path to a healthier, happier life free from damaging medications and dangerous substances.

To learn more about how you can find total wellness by addressing your body and your mind, contact us for a consultation today.


1. Liao, Y., Xie, B., Zhang, H. et al. (2019). Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis. Transl Psychiatry 9, 190.

2. Bodnar, L. M., & Wisner, K. L. (2005). Nutrition and depression: implications for improving mental health among childbearing-aged women. Biological psychiatry, 58(9), 679-685.

3. Coppen, A., Bolander-Gouaille C. (2005). Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. Journal of Psychopharmacology.19(1):59-65.

4. Zhang, Y., Tan, W., Xi, X., Yang, H., Zhang, K., Li, S., Chen, X., & Zuo, H. (2023). Association between vitamin K intake and depressive symptoms in US adults: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013-2018. Frontiers in nutrition, 10, 1102109.

5. Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Maturitas, 106, 48-56.

6. Chaudhry SR, Gossman W. Biochemistry, Endorphin. [Updated 2023 Apr 3]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

7. Luyster, F., Strollo, P., Zee, P., Walsh, S., (2012). Sleep: A Health Imperative, Sleep, 35:6, 727–734.

8. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2022, March 24). Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency – What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency? NHLBI. Retrieved January 14, 2024, from

9. Saghir, Z., Syeda, J. N., Muhammad, A. S., & Balla Abdalla, T. H. (2018). The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection?. Cureus, 10(7), e2912.

10. Doherty, A.M., Gaughran, F. The interface of physical and mental health. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 49, 673–682 (2014).

11. Krishnakumar D, Hamblin MR, Lakshmanan S. Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective. Anc Sci. 2015 Apr;2(1):13-19. doi: 10.14259/as.v2i1.171. PMID: 26929928; PMCID: PMC4769029. [cited 2024 Mar 5]

12. Schuch FB, Vancampfort D. Physical activity, exercise, and mental disorders: it is time to move on. Trends Psychiatry Psychother. 2021 Jul-Sep;43(3):177-184. doi: 10.47626/2237-6089-2021-0237. Epub 2021 Apr 21. PMID: 33890431; PMCID: PMC8638711. [cited 2024 Mar 5]

13. Wickramaratne PJ, Yangchen T, Lepow L, Patra BG, Glicksburg B, Talati A, Adekkanattu P, Ryu E, Biernacka JM, Charney A, Mann JJ, Pathak J, Olfson M, Weissman MM. Social connectedness as a determinant of mental health: A scoping review. PLoS One. 2022 Oct 13;17(10):e0275004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0275004. PMID: 36228007; PMCID: PMC9560615. [cited 2024 Mar 5]

14. Hou WK, Lai FTT, Hougen C, Hall BJ, Hobfoll SE. Measuring everyday processes and mechanisms of stress resilience: Development and initial validation of the Sustainability of Living Inventory (SOLI). Psychol Assess. 2019 Jun;31(6):715-729. doi: 10.1037/pas0000692. Epub 2019 Jan 10. PMID: 30628819. [cited 2024 Mar 5]

15. Scott AJ, Webb TL, Martyn-St James M, Rowse G, Weich S. Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Sleep Med Rev. 2021 Dec;60:101556. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2021.101556. Epub 2021 Sep 23. PMID: 34607184; PMCID: PMC8651630. [cited 2024 Mar 5]

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Fueling Your Mind and Body: The Key to Achieving Mental Wellness
Medical Disclaimer:
Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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