How the HASA strategy can improve your mental health
Are you a person who enjoys or dreads the mandatory vitals check at the doctor’s office? For many people, stepping on a scale, having a blood pressure cuff squeeze their arm, and checking their temperature before a doctor’s appointment can feel like another hurdle. However, these steps are vital. Medical professionals routinely check vitals because they provide insight into the body’s most basic functions. It is the key to help medical professionals unlock what is happening inside of the body.
Health psychologists use the HASA (hydration, activation, sleep, and appetite) vitals to link the connection between the body’s basic functions and your mental health. For example, have you noticed your mood change when you are hangry? Or do you feel low energy and lightheaded when you have not been drinking enough water? Well, these are examples of how your mood can change based on how your body feels.
The clinicians at Orange County Health Psychologists, Inc. specialize in the mind-body connection and can educate clients on strategies to help improve mental health and wellbeing. “When I see clients, I always ask about the HASA vitals. We can usually identify at least one vital that needs attention because it is impacting their mental health,” shares Health Psychologist, Dr. Sharline Shah.
“Checking in with your own HASA vitals may seem simple, but I can promise you that there will be positive changes in your mood and mental health if you focus on these 4 elements,” shares Dr. Shah.
Breaking down the HASA vitals
HASA is an acronym that stands for Hydration, Activation, Sleep, and Appetite. These 4 elements are critical in keeping your body regulated. Changes in any of these 4 elements can directly impact brain activity, attitude, energy, sexual desire, and overall mood. So, let’s dive into each one:
Hydration: Water is what keeps the brain running smoothly. Our brains are made up of 75-80% water, and research shows even a little change in water levels in the brain can trigger headaches, fatigue, memory changes, mood swings, digestive issues, and decreased concentration. These physical symptoms of dehydration sound like mental health symptoms, right? Dehydration can cause the body to be stressed and enter survival mode, which increases stress hormones, anxiety and depression. In order to curb these symptoms, be sure to stick to the 8×8 rule, which is 8oz of water at least 8 times a day.
Activation: Keeping the body physically activated throughout the day is very important to mental health. When a body remains sedentary for long periods of time, research reveals that there is less blood flow to organs and muscles, muscles become less flexible, chronic pain can increase, and brain activity decreases. Activation does not only mean exercise, but includes hobbies, social connections, and enjoyable tasks that will energize your mind and body. When in activation mode, there is a higher rate of happy hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin) leading to positive moods. The goal here is to choose one pleasurable activity a day, during a window of time (even 5 minutes) where you can activate your body with happy hormones.
Sleep: The benefits of a good night’s sleep can be life changing. It is important to note that sleep and mental health have a two-way relationship: someone experiencing mental health issues may be more likely to have sleep issues; while on the other hand, improving sleep can positively impact mental health issues. Common symptoms reported in therapy are fatigue, sleep problems, low motivation, impulsivity, or moodiness with loved ones or at work–which can be a consequence of poor sleep. During sleep, the brain rejuvenates your memory, metabolism, mood, and muscles. An adult requires 6-8 hours of sleep per night. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, a mental health clinician can offer treatment options.
Appetite: Appetite is defined as the desire for food and is triggered by hunger signals and social and environmental cues. Health psychologists ask about appetite because it can impact coping skills, body image, mood changes, hormone imbalance, culture, and more. For some people, a reduced appetite can be signs of anxiety, depression, grief, disordered eating, or stress. Therefore, take a moment to check your appetite and write down eating habits to help gain more insight into the connection between food and mood.
Ultimately, the HASA vitals for mental health is a quick strategy to better understand the direct connection between the mind and body. In order to improve your wellbeing, complete a daily HASA check so you can take control of your habits and improve your mental health.
Written by Dr. Sharline Shah for Orange County Health Psychologists
About Sharline Shah, Psy.D.
Dr. Sharline Shah is a licensed clinical psychologist with specialized training in health psychology and extensive experience treating patients within Primary Care, Internal Medicine, Women’s Health and Specialty departments. She believes deeply in the connection between mind, body, and spirit, and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing. Dr. Shah currently accepts Medicare and welcomes new patients for telehealth appointments.