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Why Mental Health Is Brain Health And How To Protect It

The brain is our most critical organ. Made up of billions of neurons, the brain controls all parts of the human body including how we learn, understand information, and process emotions, experiences and decisions.[1]

Everything the brain is responsible for – both physical and mental – is part of brain health. While often spoken about separately, mental health is a central part of brain health. Understanding this connection can help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, while raising awareness for mental health conditions that affect 1 in 5 of us.[2]

When it comes to brain health, there are many factors that can make a real difference and help protect our cognitive functioning and psychological well-being.

March is Brain Health Awareness Month. Here are ways you can maintain your brain health and promote positive mental health.

  1. Learn more about mental health and mental illness
    There are many misconceptions about mental health and mental illness. Challenging the stigma associated with mental illness takes understanding, education and a closer look at our own attitudes toward health.[3] By educating ourselves and having open conversations about brain health, we can combat mental health stigma and promote a more compassionate society. To learn more about mental health and illness, visit
  2. Pick up a new hobby
    Learning new skills and having a hobby is vital to keeping our brain healthy and active. It’s also a great way to relax and reduce stress. Whether it’s arts and crafts, gardening, volunteering, or participating in clubs, engaging in leisurely activities that involve creativity, sensory engagement, self-expression, relaxation, and cognitive stimulation, are all linked to promoting good mental health[4] and lowering levels of depression.[5] 
  3. Engage in meaningful connections
    Social connection is a basic human need. In fact, research shows us that a lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.[6] Connecting with others can lower anxiety and depression, lead to higher self-esteem, and create a sense of belonging, while supporting our overall health and happiness.
  4. Improve your sleep
    Sleep and brain health are deeply intertwined. When we don’t get enough sleep, the brain can’t function properly and can even impact our mental health causing low mood, anxiety, irritability and forgetfulness.[7] This can affect our ability to concentrate, think clearly, and regulate our emotions. Setting a sleep routine, getting between 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and practicing good sleep hygiene, are key steps towards improving sleep quality and maintaining brain health.
  5. Get support
    Stress, anxiety and occasional low mood are common to everyone, but sometimes it gets difficult to manage and affects daily life. If you or someone you know is having trouble, it may be time to seek help. BounceBack is a free Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) coaching program from the Canadian Mental Health Association. While working with workbooks and a trained coach, you’ll learn how to build a toolbox of skills to improve your mental health and make positive life changes.

If you or someone you know is struggling, visit

[1] Brain Injury Canada. (2020, October 19). How the brain works. Brain Injury Canada.
[2] Levitt, Dr. A. (2022, October 6). Why Mental Health is Brain Health. Your Health Matters.
[3] CAMH. (n.d.). Addressing Stigma. CAMH. Retrieved February 27, 2024, from
[4] Mak, H. W., Noguchi, T., Bone, J. K., Wels, J., Gao, Q., Kondo, K., Saito, T., & Fancourt, D. (2023, September 11). Hobby engagement and mental wellbeing among people aged 65 years and older in 16 countries. Nature News.
[5] Fancourt, D., Opher, S., & de Oliveira, C. (2020, March 10). Fixed-effects analyses of time-varying associations between hobbies and depression in a longitudinal cohort study: Support for Social Prescribing?. Karger Publishers.
[6] D;, H. J. K. (n.d.). Social Relationships and health. Science (New York, N.Y.).
[7] Colten, H. R. (1970, January 1). Extent and health consequences of chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem.,as%20described%20in%20Chapter%204.

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