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Food, food, food.

It can consume our life as much as we consume it.

Anyone who has ever smoked, drank tea or coffee or eaten chocolate knows that such products can improve one’s mood, at least a little and temporarily. However, the side effects on our physical health isn’t always noticeable straight away.

Recently, there’s been an interest by many into nutrition and it being a component of mental health care, as good food and balanced physical exercise can be a medicine. It’s not all about bulking up them muscles when we should also train our minds to be in a good condition.

Evidence suggests that the impact on feelings of mood and general wellbeing demonstrates its contribution to the development, prevention and management of specific mental health problems.

Therefore, a holistic approach should be taken when considering our mental and physical health. Sometimes talking it out isn’t enough and action/s must be taken, this can be in the form of managing a healthier lifestyle i.e. eating better.

Most importantly perhaps, it gives the individuals a sense of ownership towards their treatment by becoming more aware of the association between their diet and their mental health; enabling them to incorporate dietary changes alongside their range of other healthcare options.

In fact, we know that dietary interventions may be a door to the solution of a number of mental health challenges our society is facing, for example in treating depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Although our understanding of our brains may not be as advanced as the knowledge and research into our bodies, we know that food affects how we feel, think and behave. Just like the heart and our stomachs, the brain is an organ that is acutely sensitive to what we eat and drink. To remain healthy, it needs different amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and water.

We know that food can have short-term as well as long-term effects on our physical and mental health, but what are the ways that we can use it to help ourselves?

For many, cooking and baking can become a creative cure for stress or feeling down, but there may be scientific reasoning behind why this may make people feel better.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, it suggests that people who frequently take a turn at small, creative projects report feeling more relaxed and happier in their everyday lives. The researchers followed 658 people for about two weeks, and found that doing small, everyday things like cooking and baking made the group feel more enthusiastic about their pursuits the next day.
It may not be the ultimate answer to treating mental illness, but there is no harm in lifting your spirits through food. Not only is food a means of connecting with yourself, but can also connect others through it. Whether this is preparing a meal for yourself or others and making it look aesthetic, or using food in drawing/drawing with foods to be arty or decorating your baked goods.

It can give a moment of clarity and feeling of therapy focusing on something other than your own thoughts by concentrating on food, without realising that maybe you are helping your thoughts after all.

Our relationship to food is important, and may we develop and maintain a beneficial relationship with it Ameen.

“O you who believe, eat from the good (lawful) things which We have provided for you and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship.”
Qur’an 2:172

Hamida Moulvi

Hamida has a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree, having studied modules concerning Emotions and Mental Health. She is passionate about giving back to the community as it is important to benefit others - every little helps, in inspiring changes and raising awareness, especially within Muslim communities where many cultures can believe mental health isn't a real problem. She has a love for the way Islam guides, inspires and heals (HasbunAllahu w ni'mal wakeel) and is also interested in languages, being multilingual. She believes words have a powerful impact whether that be in written or spoken form, and that we are all here to learn, implement and share so helping write articles would achieve this also.

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