photography by PHUONG NYUGEN
Just like eating right, exercising, and sleep, taking care of your mental health is something you need to start prioritizing—in fact, one out of five people in the US struggles with a mental illness, according to the World Health Organization.
Here's some good news, though—there are tons of ways you can heal your mind, be it meditation, exercising, or even adding vitamins to your diet. Sah D’Simone— a transformational coach and meditation teacher, who is also a certified mental health expert—agrees vitamins can impact your mood and behavior. “We could all use a little extra nourishment, especially as we deepen our knowledge of mind-body medicine,” says D’Simone.
We’re not saying these supplements are the cure to all your mental health problems (please check with your doctor first!), but adding them as part of a routine could help your mind and body feel a little better. Here’s how:
You may have side-eyed holy basil at your local health food store without realizing it, but D’Simone insists that taking it daily can help those who are having sleep troubles. "Holy basil’s adaptogenic properties help reduce the effects of stress, which also could decipher how well you sleep," says D’Simone. Less stress, more sleep? Now that's a win.
According to D’Simone, two-fifths of the population have this vitamin deficiency—and that deficiency could be linked to anxiety. "Taking vitamin B-12 daily could help reduce these anxieties because it interrupts your body’s natural desire to go into fight or flight mode when an issue arises," says D’Simone. It can ease some of these hypnotic thought patterns of survival, helping you become less reactive to trivial matters—like if someone accidentally pushes you on the subway, or spills coffee on you.
Vitamin D has always been linked to reducing depression, but how it works may surprise you: According to D’Simone, it’s your gut that can make or break your mood. “When the gut gets inflamed, it’s a reflection of the mind, and you experience these neurotic and psychotic behaviors,” says D’Simone. “When you have a balanced level of vitamin D, the probiotic is killing off the bad bacteria. So, when there’s good flora in the gut, your mind is not foggy.”
"Commonly found in green tea, theanine can help calm nerves and anxiety," says D’Simone. “It’s achieved through increased production of GABA, also known as the 'calm' neurochemical.” When you take theanine, your GABA levels are increased, which brings down your stress and cortisol levels.
Dubbed the “brain herb,” this supplement not only eases anxiety and depression, but it also reduces your risk for diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's. “By increasing the flow of blood to the brain, [the supplement’s properties] help carry oxygen to the brain cells—thus enhancing their performance,” says D’Simone.
Passion flower is an herb found in South America, and it works very much like theanine. "Taking this supplement can treat anxiety by naturally increasing the levels of GABA," explains D’Simone.
Native to India, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, ashwagandha can play an active role in your mental health. "This supplement helps ward off depression and anxiety by lowering levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)," says D’Simone.