Journaling for stress relief - Super Synbiotics
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Journaling for stress relief

How is our gut health connected to our mental health and how can we recognise the warning signs of mental illness by identifying stress patterns? In this article, we highlight the benefits of journaling as a way to combat stress and take care of your health.

 

fact box about stress and journaling

What is mental health? 

According to the WHO , mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables us to cope with the stresses of life, learn new things, realise our abilities and contribute to our full potential. Mental health is an integral part of our overall health and is vital to our ability to make decisions and build relationships. A common misconception is that good mental health means not having mental illnesses, but actually it is a spectrum that can include anything from states of anxiety to severe mental illnesses. In the same way that we work on improving our physical health, we can also work on improving our mental health.

 

Our gut flora is the key to our intestinal health

Our gut is home to billions of bacteria which together make up our gut flora. These bacteria have a variety of different functions in the body and we need to make sure we have a balanced gut flora and “feed” the bacteria the right things in order to create a good environment in our gut. A varied anti-inflammatory diet is important. But it is also vital that we manage stress and exercise regularly. Our gut flora don’t like diets low in nutrients and fibre, or alcohol and sugar so we should avoid these in order to take care of our gut health and keep our gut flora in balance. You can read more here. 

 

The brain and the gut communicate

So how is our intestinal health connected to our mental health? We actually have a physical connection between our gut and our brain, known as the gut-brain axis. Researchers have been looking into this connection more and more in recent years and many believe that being aware of this connection may have an impact on how we treat health problems such as IBS, anxiety and depression. There are four main channels of communication between the gut and the brain. Below is a shorter run-down of all of them, if you are interested in learning more about the gut-brain axis, you can read our article here.

 

How the brain and gut communicate

1. The nervous system – is a system made up of cells which are found in both the brain and the central nervous system which gives our bodies instructions on how to behave. The most important nerve is the vagus nerve which runs from the stem of the brain down to the intestinal tract, sending signals in both directions. Studies have shown that stress is a factor that can lead to intestinal issues because signals sent via the vagus nerve don’t reach the brain and gut.

2. Short-chain fatty acids – When bacteria in our gut consume fibre, the intestine creates different types of chemicals as waste products. These chemicals can in turn affect our brain function. One group is called short-chain fatty acids. These are very useful and contribute to activities such as stimulating the vagus nerve.

3. Neurotransmitters – Our brain and our gut are also connected via neurotransmitters which can carry nerve signals throughout the body. These are produced in the brain, with a large number also produced in the gut. The bacteria in our gut produce a large portion of the serotonin in our bodies (the hormone that regulates sleep and appetite e.g.). Our gut also produces GABA which is important for our memory. When these substances are produced in our gut, they can affect which signals are sent to our brain via the vagus nerve.

4. The HPA axis, or stress axis, is a hormonal system originating in the brain and adrenal glands. These organs produce hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which are activated when we are exposed to stress. This means that the HPA axis controls how we react in stressful situations. Too much stress over an extended period of time can have a negative effect on our bodies and specifically our gut, with stress hormones promoting issues such as inflammation.

 

Stress and mental health 

Stress has become one of the great public health concerns of our time. However, stress is actually a good thing. It is a natural reaction that has contributed to our survival for thousands of years. The boost that stress gives us has enabled us to mobilise energy quickly in a dangerous fight-or-flight situation. We are rarely exposed to real dangers these days and so there is a risk of stress becoming a long-term state in the body. And it is only when we are stressed for extended periods of time that stress can be harmful. 

Mindfulness and meditation are both frequently cited as stress-reducing methods. Research shows that these can reduce both the physical and psychological effects of stress. We can also identify different stress patterns and prevent stress by writing a journal. Journaling has proven benefits when it comes to stress relief and managing our mental health. Reading about your patterns allows you to act differently in situations that create stress. Which can lead to fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, for example.  

 

Journaling for stress relief

One way to deal with stress is to take control of it. Journaling or writing a diary means writing down how you feel and how you are doing, your thoughts and feelings. It may seem like a daunting task at first. But it doesn’t have to be any more difficult than writing a few lines each day in a notebook. 

Research shows that writing down our thoughts and feelings can improve our mental well-being. It helps you take control of your emotions by identifying anxieties. Also, it helps you recognise what triggers your stress. Seeing your thoughts and behaviours written down can also make it easier to think about yourself in positive terms and help you deal with stressful situations in the future. 

 

How to get started

  • Set a time: start with 2 minutes in the morning or before you go to bed and make it a new habit. Maybe you need to schedule it as an event in your calendar? 
  • Find a style of writing that works for you: you can buy yourself a nice book or maybe you prefer taking notes on your phone? Finding a style of writing that suits you will make it easier to keep it up 
  • Don’t set yourself rules. You don’t have to follow a fixed structure, you can just write when you feel like it. There is a risk that you won’t keep it up if you set yourself rules, so make it a calming experience with no expectations
  • Either keep it to yourself or share it with someone. It can help to share your notes with a friend, partner or family member. Sometimes it’s easier to write what we feel than to say it out loud to someone else 

 

In conclusion

Your mental health plays a big role in gut health and your overall health. Stress and anxiety can have very negative effects on your gut health and if you already have a physical condition, stress can make it worse. Journaling for stress relief is one way of taking care of your well-being. Exercising, getting enough sleep and eating a good diet are also important. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to get all the nutrients we need to feel good through diet alone, in which case you may very well need to turn to dietary supplements. Our Synbiotic Gut-Brain product, for example, contains Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 and is a dietary supplement for your gut which also contributes to normal psychological function. Read more about Synbiotic Gut-Brain. 

Please contact your local health service if you are experiencing serious stress issues. There are also helplines available offering advice and support. 

 

Sources

https://en.supersynbiotics.se/maghalsa/gut-flora/gut-brain-this-is-how-the-gut-and-the-brain-communicate/ 

https://psychcentral.com/stress/how-to-begin-journaling-for-stress-relief

https://en.supersynbiotics.se/maghalsa/lifestyle/how-to-reduce-unhealthy-stress/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10615806.2019.1596672

 

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