Humans only need three things to survive: water, food and shelter. However, water might be the most crucial. You can’t survive more than three days without it, so it only makes sense that Earth’s most essential element would benefit your entire body.
From sanitation to hydration, water is a vital part of life. It can even affect the way you perceive things. Every day, your mood, concentration and energy levels all rely on water. Without it, your mental health would suffer.
So, what are the benefits of water? The effects of dehydration are a good place to start.
The Effects of Dehydration
More than 75% of American workers don’t drink enough water at work. Many of them cite a lack of thirst and a lack of time to get water as the main barriers to proper hydration. Yet, even mild dehydration can negatively affect employees’ productivity, energy, mental clarity and memory. Just a couple of hours without water will significantly affect concentration, problem-solving skills, coordination and attention spans.
Failing to drink enough water can also negatively affect your mood and increase your chances of experiencing anxiety and depression. One study determined that drinking less than two glasses compared to five or more can double your risk for developing these mental illnesses. Researchers have also found that decreasing water intake can affect your mood and cause discontentment, tension and unhappiness.
Therefore, it’s important to drink water frequently throughout the day and keep an eye out for physical symptoms of dehydration. These signs may include dark urine, fatigue, headaches, dry mouth, cracked skin and rapid heart rate. However, if you drink water every time you feel thirsty, you probably won’t develop these symptoms.
Your Mind on Water
When you do drink enough water, your brain and entire body function better. In fact, proper hydration is essential for good psychological health. The human brain is about 73% water, with the liquid acting as a shock absorber to protect you from injury. The water in and around your brain also helps you maintain proper cognitive function so you don’t experience fatigue, memory loss or a lack of concentration.
As you consume more water, blood flow to the brain also increases, promoting good cerebral circulation. This influx of blood delivers the oxygen and glucose your mind needs to function correctly. Thus, when you hydrate your body and mind, you’ll likely enjoy clearer thinking, higher productivity levels and a more optimistic outlook on life. Plus, you’ll minimize your risk of developing depression and anxiety.
Therapy and Mental Health
Hydration isn’t the only way water can improve your mood and mental health. Simply immersing yourself in the deep blue can provide a host of psychological benefits. For instance, those who have post-traumatic stress disorder may find relief from stress and tension by engaging in water therapy. Since buoyancy lowers the effects of gravity on muscles and joints, patients with PTSD may finally be able to relax their muscles and decompress physically and mentally.
Interestingly enough, mood can also impact your relationship with water. In a study on 638 rural Malawi households, researchers found that people must feel motivated to practice water collection, sanitation and hygiene behaviors. However, those with depression and anxiety had little motivation to engage with the water, leaving them dirty, dehydrated and often ill. Thus, mental health and a strong relationship with water is — and always will be — a two-way street.
Reconnecting With Water
If you want to improve your mental health or simply maintain a stronger workflow, reconnecting with water is key. As a general rule of thumb, you should consume between 91 and 125 ounces of water each day through food, water and other sources. However, your health, physical activity level and individual needs may require you to drink more or less. Regardless, you should try to make hydration part of your day.
You might also benefit from spending more time in or around swimming pools, lakes, oceans, rivers and ponds. Take a hike along the river, have a picnic on the beach or put on your swim trunks and take the plunge. However, you enjoy water, it’s bound to make your mental health and overall quality of life exponentially better.