Supporting a Healthy Mind Through Diet & Exercise

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Diet, sleep, and exercise have been referred to by some as the pillars of mental health. Sleeping well, moving regularly, and eating healthily can improve overall well-being—and can also lead to better lifelong habits.

Some mental health conditions may be improved by diet, exercise, and sleep. Not regularly practicing a healthy lifestyle may also increase the risk of some conditions. So, how do you know what’s a good balance for your well-being? And how can we start incorporating healthier habits into our day-to-day lives?

Audience Questions

Marni Chanoff, MD, discusses the impact of diet and exercise on our minds, shares ways to be healthier without feeling overwhelmed by new habits, and answers questions about methods to get everyone in the family on board with a healthy lifestyle.

  • What are the benefits of having healthy dietary habits and exercise, not just our mental health, but our overall health?
  • Is there any evidence to specific foods or nutrients lessening the symptoms of some mental health conditions?
  • Why are diets so hard for us to mentally adhere to?
  • If what we eat can affect our mental health, how can we encourage picky eaters to try new things or be more open-minded about what they’re eating?
  • Can exercise actually improve our mood? How does it do that chemically?
  • How do you suggest we start incorporating exercise into our daily lives? It’s easy for folks to be overwhelmed or feel lousy when they start—which makes it easier to give up than “power through.”
  • Is there a suggested time of day for working out? Should we focus on doing so in the morning or is it better to do so later in the day, or perhaps in the evening?
  • What are your thoughts on making exercise screen-less or phone-less time?
  • Are you familiar with any impacts of acupuncture on mental health conditions?
  • What are the mental health benefits of meditation?
  • How can I get started on a meditation journey? I can’t get my mind to quiet down.
  • My child exercises daily and practices meditation, but dreads going to bed due to a mind that races. Do you have any recommendations for an anxious teen who struggles to sleep due to racing negative thoughts at night?
  • What do you suggest for trying to get off a phone before I go to bed?
  • What does disrupted sleep do to our mental health, and how can we improve our sleeping habits?
  • I’m a provider who works with many patients who regularly use caffeine and alcohol, both of which affect their moods and their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Any suggestions for helping them understand the roles these substances play in their wellness?
  • What does drinking water do for our health? I always feel better after drinking water, but I’m only thirsty if I’ve been exercising.
  • What are your foolproof ways to get more ounces of water in during the day?
  • Is there any benefit to having our kids eat well and exercise regularly?
  • The Mediterranean diet can be hard trying to make these items appeal to kids. Do we follow this diet and mix in less healthy foods now and then, or is there another way we can approach this to get our kids to eat healthy without the constant struggle of them often not enjoying these healthier meals?
  • My clinically depressed tween got 30 min of moderate exercise/day for a week, which is a big accomplishment for her. Now she’s sore and tired. How do we keep her motivated?
  • How can I enroll my disengaged family member in a journey to better overall health?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Chanoff

Marni Chanoff, MD, is an integrative psychiatrist combining Western psychiatry practices, Eastern approaches, nutritional psychiatry, and culinary and lifestyle medicine. In addition, she has a clinical and consulting private practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and writes and lectures nationally on integrative mental health.

Dr. Chanoff founded and co-leads the integrative wellness group at McLean OnTrack, where she is also a clinical associate.

Learn more about Dr. Chanoff.

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Originally aired on January 10, 2022