DRINKING lots of water improves your physical health in all sorts of ways.
A steady supply of water keeps your circulation flowing smoothly, assists with digestion and weight loss, eases joint movement, and helps your body absorb the nutrients in your food. These are just a few of the benefits.
Research has also shown that water is important for maintaining your mental health. Dehydration may increase your risk of anxiety and depression, among other unhealthy mental states. It is a key to all good health that we keep our bodies properly hydrated.
Dehydration and anxiety
Multiple studies point to a link between dehydration and a higher risk of anxiety. In most of these studies, the effect of dehydration on anxiety levels was mild but significant.
Constant research is needed and ongoing to better understand the effects of hydration on mood, mental health, and thinking abilities.
In one 2018 study of over 3,000 adults, those who drank more water had a lower risk of anxiety and depression than those who drank less water. Though the connection between dehydration and depression was stronger, researchers found that anxiety was higher in those who didn’t drink enough water.
In a smaller 2014 study researchers explored how increasing or decreasing water intake affected mood in people with different water-drinking habits.
They found that people who usually drink lots of water felt less calm, less content and more tense when their water intake dropped.
When researchers increased the participants’ water intake, people in the study felt more happiness, no matter how much water they normally drank.
Researchers in a 2015 study tracked mood and total water intake among 120 healthy women. They found that lower water intake was associated with greater tension, depression and confusion. Research four years earlier found a similar connection between increased tension and dehydration in otherwise healthy men.
If dehydration is affecting your mood, should you opt for plain water or water enhanced with electrolytes to regain a sense of calm? This was looked at three years ago when researchers measured the effects of different drink combinations on anxiety and agreeableness.
The results showed that water with electrolytes may prevent anxiety at best, but researchers noted that the placebo effect may explain this connection.
Are there other connections between hydration and mood? The answer is affirmative. The amount of water you drink can influence other aspects of your mood besides anxiety. Multiple studies have found a link between drinking water and mental health states such as depression, confusion and fatigue.
It’s also possible that your water intake could influence your sleep. Research on this subject is mixed, but at least one study involving adults shows that dehydration is associated with less sleep. Poor sleep can lead to more anxiety during your waking hours, a well-known fact.
A 2019 review found that multiple studies confirmed a link between being well-hydrated and increases in your visual attention during cognitive tasks. Researchers have noted that water has the same positive visual attention effect on children.
Signs of dehydration
Increased anxiety is one of many indications you’re not getting enough water. There are a number of physical signs that tell if you’re dehydrated, and these can include thirst, a dry mouth, skin changes such as dryness, redness or loss of turgor, dark yellow urine, constipation, higher blood pressure, fast heart rate, sleepiness or fatigue, and headache or nausea.
When it comes to children, there are a few indications that dehydration may be severe. If you notice these symptoms in a child in your care, seek medical attention right away. These are fussiness, lethargy, dry nappies and crying without tears.
Volume of water
How do you know how much water to drink? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has suggested that women should drink around nine cups of water daily and men around 12 and a half cups a day. Two and a half cups equates to a pint.
These amounts vary depending on your age, your activity levels, and how much water you normally take in through foods like fruits and vegetables.
What can you do to boost your water intake every day? Firstly, keep water close. Taking your own water bottle with you to work, to the gym or on errands is a steady reminder to drink up.
Set alarms to remind you to drink. Using apps and alarms to remind yourself is an easy way to keep up with daily intake, especially if you’re working to develop the habit.
Monitor your intake. At key points throughout the day, maybe just before mealtimes, check your hydration benchmarks. Waiting until the end of the day to evaluate your intake may not leave enough time to correct a water imbalance.
Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables. Up to 20% of your daily water consumption could come through the foods you eat, so including fruits and vegetables that are high in water content could help keep you hydrated.
Popular examples of these include melons (watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe), strawberries, pineapple, peaches, oranges, broccoli, celery, cucumbers and lettuce
Aim to finish early. To avoid bathroom trips during the night, make sure you’ve met your water goals well before it’s time to turn in.
Keeping yourself hydrated may be one simple way to reduce anxiety in your life. To make sure you’re hydrated enough to prevent a decline in your mood, calculate how much water you should be drinking and keep track of how much you actually drink.
You can take water with you as you move through your day to make it easier to build that hydration habit.
Drinking plenty of water will help keep you in good physical and mental shape, which is why it’s important to make hydration part of your overall self-care commitment.