BBC mental health documentary reveals how to boost mood

BBC documentary The Truth About…Improving Your Mental Health has suggested some weird and wonderful ways to boost your mood.

Alex Scott hosts the documentary alongside Professor Tanya Byron, with the former footballer opening up about her own experience with depression, after she suffered vile online abuse.

In the new documentary, she goes on a journey to discover how to improve your mental health, chatting to experts about their research.

Tuning into your heart rate

In the episode, Alex is seen tuning into her heart rate, attempting to count her heartbeats.

At first, she’s shown to be way off, before working at it and getting better at counting the exact number of heartbeats in a given amount of time.

Putting her efforts in practice, Alex is taken to the top of a high building to attempt to combat her fear of heights.

While her heart rate triples, she’s advised to count her heartbeats as a way to calm down.

Probiotic supplements

New areas of research have revealed a link between gut health and mental health, due to the physical links between the gut and the brain.

Professor Byron explains: ‘There’s a new field of research called psychobiotics and what it’s revealing is food that we know is associated with good gut health might also show significant benefits for our mental health.’

Oxford’s Professor Phil Burnet adds: ‘There’s the hardwired connection between the gut and the brain and that’s via a nerve called the vagus nerve and that runs from the brain stem at the bottom of your brain directly to your gut.

‘But it’s a two-way communication so anything that stimulates the vagus nerve in the gut feeds back to the brain and the brain feeds back to the gut.’

In his experiment, participants who took probiotic supplements saw a 50% improvement in their mood compared to the placebo group.

Doing mental tasks while exercising

It’s no secret that exercise is key to improving your mental health, with the activity releasing endorphins.

However, the documentary also showed the research into whether mental and visual stimulation while exercising can have a big impact on your mood.

Alex was asked to cycle while undertaking a mental exericise – and the results were impressive.

She was shown to have an increased blood flow of six per cent to the front of her brain, and 29 per cent to the back.

Using social media actively

Social media is often spoken of negatively when it comes to mental health – but that might not always be the case.

A study undertaken in the documentary compared the passive use of social media (just scrolling) to active use (posting, liking and commenting).

The active group in the experiment were shown to have a boost to their mood, and increased confidence.

Social prescribing

The documentary also showed the new practice of ‘social prescribing’, which is aimed to combat loneliness.

Local agencies refer people to a link worker, who can connect them to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support.

Research shows that it’s the quality, not quantity of relationships that can help improve mental health.

The Truth About…Improving Your Mental Health airs tonight at 9pm on BBC One.

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