Why keeping hydrated is important for mental wellbeing
We all know the ‘8 glasses a day’ rule, but in our busy, stressful lives of rushing around, it is easy to suddenly realise we haven’t had any water for a few hours. It’s a rule for a reason; research indicates that our body is made up of 50-75% water, with our brains around 75%! So naturally, it makes sense that we need to keep our system replenished (as we obviously lose water continuously and so the concentration of the minerals in our bodies becomes more potent and out of balance)
Water is vital for our physical health in a multitude of ways, but it also crucial for our mental performance and health.
Some studies have shown that dehydration can actually affect our short-term memory. We might have difficulty concentrating, feel tense and fatigued. Once study on dehydration in runners (Passe et al, 2007) found that the runners in their research actually underestimated the amount of rehydration they required following a run and were vulnerable to sustained dehydration.
Another study by Armstrong et al (2012) suggests that even in healthy females in their early 20’s, dehydration can cause degraded mood, lower concentration, headache symptoms and the perception that a task is much more difficult than when the same task was measured before being dehydrated. This particular study also used exercise as a method to induce the dehydration with these females. Again, the conclusion was a strong emphasis on ensuring proper hydration following exercise.
So, if dehydration can affect our cognitive performance and mood, then imagine the knock-on effects of this. If you have a busy day with lots on the to-do list already, only to be thwarted even more by lack of hydration, your stress levels are likely to rise. A rise in stress levels under these circumstances is going to cause frustration, anxiety or a sense of “arrrrrrgggghhh, that’s it, I give up”
Even though it seems such a small thing to ensure you drink enough water, it is actually really important and, the fact that we are privileged to have easy access to water, means that we can take advantage of this being a small thing that we can incorporate into our daily lives.
Ok, it won’t cure anxiety or depression, but it can prevent us from feeling worse and spiralling. Being runners can make you more vulnerable to dehydration so try to ensure you replenish! Remember warmer days will also require this and even on those days where there has been a sleepless night and the extra coffee comes out… this will also be dehydrating so be mindful of what you might need.
Ways to avoid ‘voluntary dehydration’ (i.e. when we forget about/don’t realise/underestimate our hydration level)
You could create some anchors parts of your daily routine that you do without fail. For example: as soon as you get out of bed, before you brush your teeth, after you have a shower, before your first hot drink of the day. Maybe making sure you have a glass of water before each meal and each time you snack. It could be anchored to anything that is regular for you and will soon become associated in your subconscious so that it becomes automatic
Set a timer/alarm
Setting an alarm or timer on your phone would alert you when you need to take in some water
Use an APP!
There are lots of Apps available for precisely this reason! If Apps are something which helps you to keep on track, this could be a great way of making your you are rehydrating yourself regularly
This really is something simple that can make a significant difference to keeping you well-oiled and fuelled both physically and mentally so why not make it part of your self-care routine. X
This article was written by Dr Joanna Astill, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Owner of Breakthrough Psychology Services and Co-owner of Stressed Out to Feeling Fabulous
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