Your brain will thank you: Mental health benefits of drinking water

Denzhel Huilar drinks water.
(Illustration by: Ron Cabacungan)
Denzhel Huilar drinks water. (Illustration by: Ron Cabacungan)

Written by: Kiana Oliver

Editor’s note: The following article is written in partnership with Counseling Services and the Southern Accent.

Water. Water. Water. No matter how much we’re bombarded by reminders to drink those recommended two liters a day, water doesn’t sound very exciting. Sure, we carry our multicolor Hydro Flasks around campus, but let’s be honest: drinking water can feel like a chore. But what if I told you that drinking that boring glass of H2O has mental health benefits? Wait, really? According to researchers, the answer is, yes; so let’s dive into it (pun intended).

You probably already know that about 75% of your brain is water, so it’s important to stay hydrated. But what you might not know about is the correlation between drinking water and a decreased risk of depression and anxiety. 

A 2018 Iranian study by Fahimeh Haghighatdoost and others compared a group with the lowest level of daily water drinking (less than two glasses) to a reference group (five or more glasses). The researchers found the lowest level of water drinking doubled the participants’ risk of depression and anxiety. In other words, water might play a hidden but important role in your mental health. 

So what else happens to your brain when you’re dehydrated? Although it’s tempting to say that your brain will shrivel up into a giant raisin, the truth is that dehydration impairs our cognitive functions. 

According to a 2017 article by Nathalie Pross, an experiment showed that mild dehydration does not impact the performance in healthy young adults. However, the participants’ moods were widely impaired after only a few hours of fluid deprivation. The effects included increased sleepiness and fatigue and decreased vigor and alertness. The participants were also more confused, less calm and less happy during this fluid deprivation. 

The researchers also studied the effects of rehydration, and they found most of the mood impairments were reversed. However, there were no reported improvements in the participants’ fatigue, vigor and calmness after the water intake. The researchers concluded that a 24-hour fluid deprivation may have longer effects on a person’s emotional state. So the next time you’re feeling moody, you might want to reach for your water bottle instead of a sugary snack. Your brain will thank you.

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