What Your Mental Health Says About Your Gut
May 06, 2021 POSTED BY: Stefan Weitz
Do you believe it’s May? That can only mean one thing: Mental Health Awareness Month. Ahhhhh we bet you thought we were going to say Mother’s Day… in which case, Forbes has already decided we’re the gift of choice.
You already know what I’m about to say: your gut health is inextricably connected to your brain (and your mental health). Remember the feeling of getting butterflies in your stomach when you first saw the love of your life? Or the time you remembered you didn’t shut off the iron while sitting in a quarterly review meeting and thought “well, that house was past its prime anyway,” all while your stomach did somersaults? Wait, was that just me?
There are more neurotransmitters in your gut than in your brain
No, I’m not alone. Physiologically, there’s this thing called the ‘vagus’ nerve. And it runs directly from your gut to your brain. Vagus in latin literally means “wandering,” and this nerve is named as such because it controls a broad range of target tissues and is partially responsible for the way your gut and brain work together.
BUT WAIT, there’s more! Quite literally, there are more neurotransmitters in your gut than in your brain – which is why the gut is often called your “second brain.” Your two brains work together in mysterious ways, but one thing we know for sure is if they stop communicating well with one another your mental health can suffer. How do they stop communicating, you ask? When the neurotransmitters in your gut exist in a hostile environment (ie: an unhealthy gut), they can’t communicate properly. Just imagine a ton of tiny gut neurotransmitters throwing their hands in the air and shouting, “you want us to work? In these conditions???!”
For Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re giving you 30% off your first three months of any Jetson subscription with code 30FOR3. See why Mood is a customer favorite for mental health benefits, or try any of our other formulations.
But beyond making sure Jetson is part of your routine to keep your mental health 💯(remember Mood? Yeah, it’s still awesome), there are a number of things that you can do to center yourself in this time of “time has lost all meaning:”
- Find your flow: When you can’t control much, it’s important to focus on what you CAN control. To that end, making progress on what you want to get done is paramount, which means limiting distractions and “finding your flow”. Getting into flow-state enables you to check things off your list and create that feeling of forward movement – which when we’re all stuck in a limbo state, has profound psychological effects.
- 2 minutes every 2 hours: According to a meta-study published this month in Transitional Sports Medicine, just doing two minutes of aerobic exercise has dramatic effects on attention, concentration, learning and memory functions for up to two hours! Jump rope for 120 seconds – get a brain boost for 120 minutes!
- Build meaningful connections: Our favorite studies from Harvard and Tufts demonstrate that human social connection is a key factor in combating depression and isolation. No, casual work talk doesn’t count. Take the time to re-engage with someone with whom you are both joyful and vulnerable. Find a supportive online community (can we recommend Jetson’s!) where you can engage in real dialogue, not silly 280 character missives. Learn something about yourself by engaging with others in authentic ways: Niki and Kristina from Jetson’s Community have found common ground over their Hashimoto’s.
- Create spaces for different types of work: When possible, try and segment your work by physical location. Not everyone has a house or multi-room apartment, but as much as possible, psychologists say defining “no-work” zones in your abode is key to mental survival right now. Just like your devices, you should not be taking work into bed (bed is for snuggles, sleep and sex... not Slack). You should also try not to work where you eat. If you can’t create physical spaces, create time-bound spaces – so it’s so it’s work from 7-4 at the dining room table, but then it’s poker night.
- Shift the schedule on your days off: Focus on creating a routine for your work times, but a vastly different routine for those times you aren’t working. For those with weekends, ensure the first thing you do on Saturday is NOT CHECK MAIL. Instead, get up, get outside, listen to a podcast, call a friend, walk the dog – whatever. The point is, according to psychologists, breaking the work week habits makes it clear that you’re not just working for the 49th day in a row. So many arts organizations are shifting to online shows. I personally love streaming the Met Opera, but I also took a briefcase to school at age 7, so... to each their own.
- Reduce your news consumption: We can’t stress this one enough even though we are terrible at it. A UCDavis study years ago demonstrated that reducing your intake of news tends to predispose you to less negative thoughts in general. Remember, the news is designed to get your attention – no one reads that “nothing out of the ordinary happened today” or “your daughter, again, went to school and learned something today.” The news HAS to report things that grab you, which generally means things OUT of the ordinary (like a bridge collapse) which then, because we’re messy creatures, causes us to over-index on thinking negative events are happening everywhere. Which just isn’t true. So put down Twitter, Apple News, and IG. Trust me, if something really big happens, you won’t miss it.
Stefan Weitz, Jetson Founder