Water: A Mental Health Intervention

In our culture it can be so easy to start the day off with a cup of coffee (or a few), have a sugary drink at lunch, and just forget to drink anything else throughout the day until the next drink of choice at dinner. Our culture’s lack of water consumption has led to many people being chronically dehydrated. Although we often think of dehydration as a physical issue, it also has a big impact on our emotional health. 

While it might seem surprising, drinking more water can actually be a very simple yet effective mental health intervention. 

Here’s why… 

Our brains are about 75% water, therefore our brain relies heavily on water in order to function. When we are dehydrated and our brains do not get enough water, it impacts the health and functioning capacity of our brain. Here are some facts about how dehydration effects mental health: 

  • Dehydration leads to decreased cognitive functioning and mental performance. Decreased brain function and dysfunction is linked to various mood disorders including depression.
  • Dehydration leads to feelings of fatigue and decreased energy, exacerbating negative moods. 
  • Dehydration effects your brain’s ability to make serotonin, which can impact your mood, anxiety, and irritability. 
  • Dehydration increases stress in the body leading your body to produce increased cortisol, which is often linked to feelings of anxiety. 
  • Dehydration can lead to increased heart rate, headaches, muscle fatigue and weakness, and feeling faint which all can trigger panic attacks. 

So how much water is the right amount of water?

If you simply only drink water when you feel thirsty, this probably means that you are already dehydrated. While there are many schools of thought around how much water is the appropriate amount, one simple and effective strategy is to use the 2/3 rule. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. Take your weight. 
  2. Multiply it by 2/3 or .67
  3. Drink that number of ounces per day

For example: Say someone weights 150 lbs. Take 150 and multiply it by .67 (150x.67). The result is 100.5. That means that a person who is 150 lbs can strive for about 100 ounces of water each day. 

Although it may seem too simple, I challenge you to try it and just notice any changes in your mood. I have a feeling you might be surprised by how much it impacts your mental health. 

For more ways to happier, healthier new year, check out this blog on 10 ways to decrease stress and anxiety.

References:

Impaired cognitive function and mental performance in mild dehydration.

Dehydration and cognitive performance.

Water, depression and anxiety.

***The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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