How hydration affects mood and cognition
Given that about 55–60 percent of the human body is comprised of water, it makes sense that drinking enough H2O is a key part of overall health and wellness. Being adequately hydrated is necessary for the body to perform important functions, like flushing out waste through peeing and pooping, regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and protecting sensitive tissues like the spinal cord. Research has shown that even mild dehydration can negatively affect mood and the ability to think clearly.
Water makes up 75 percent of the brain’s mass, so being hydrated enough is important to help it carry out all its functions, and that includes the faculties you need to engage in conversation, like thinking clearly. Dehydration causes a host of negative effects, such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. “Any processes in the brain need water, so essentially nothing will function without having appropriate hydration levels, and so dehydration in general has a wide array of negative impacts,” says Margaret Morrissey, PhD, president of the National Heat Safety Coalition at the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut. Being dehydrated can also elevate your cortisol, the hormone associated with stress—not the ideal state to be in for an important conversation.
A 2018 review of 33 studies published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that dehydration impairs cognitive performance, especially for tasks that require attention, motor coordination, and executive functioning. As you go about your day, you lose water through a host of activities, says Dr. Morrissey—sweating, peeing, crying, even breathing. If you don't replenish those lost fluids by drinking enough water each day, you run the risk of dehydration. Feeling thirsty is one way to tell you need to drink more water, but there's a more precise measurement: Dehydration is measured by comparing body mass loss (BML) to someone's baseline weight, says Dr. Morrissey; mild dehydration is about one percent away from someone's standard body weight, while two percent or more is "when we start to see more wide-ranging differences in performance and other metrics," she says.
It's for all these reasons that it's a really good idea to stay adequately hydrated before going into an important conversation.
Why it’s a good idea to drink water before an important conversation
Given the effect hydration has on cognition and mood, it makes sense that drinking a glass of water before an important conversation that requires you to process your own emotions, plus that of another person, is a good idea.
Hydrating pre convo can help put you in the best mental state possible for the talk. “I always tell people it’s important to ‘do your own work,’ and what I mean is getting yourself in the right mental and physical state so you have the ability to hear and process what the other person is saying,” says relationship therapist Kimberly Panganiban, LMFT. This includes picking a time to talk when you’re not stressed or distracted, tired, hungry—or thirsty.
Sipping water during the conversation isn’t a bad idea, either; Panganiban says taking a beat during a conversation gives you some time to process and gather your thoughts, and can be a useful tool to de-escalate if things are getting a little emotional or intense. Bottoms up!
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