The link between mental health and physical health is often poorly understood. Mental health and physical health are often seen as separate entities, but the two go hand in hand and are closely related – one often affects the other. Nikken actually defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
Poor physical health can lead to poor mental health, and poor mental health can precipitate or worsen physical problems, causing a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.
This perceived disconnect between “mind” and “body” creates the misconception that mental illness is not a physical illness. In reality, mental health has a direct impact on your physical health.
Many of us don’t know how common mental illness is. About one in five adults suffers from a mental illness in any given year. Mental illness is more than just depression. It covers a wide range of issues, from those that affect mood to those that affect thinking or behavior. Examples include:
– Anxiety disorders
– Eating disorders
– Bipolar depression
– Addictive behaviors
Relationship between physical and mental health
How does your physical health affect your mental health?
A chronic illness (defined as persistent or lasting in its effects) can wreak havoc on your mental health. It is always stressful to learn that you have a disease like cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure, and then you have to deal with the disease. There may also be problems such as pain, fatigue, or nausea (caused by the disease itself or by the treatments). All of this can affect the way you feel emotionally and your mental performance.
How does your mental health affect your physical health?
Poor mental health can affect your ability to make healthy decisions and fight chronic illnesses. Additionally, neglecting your mental health can lead to more serious health complications such as:
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Weakened immune system
• Gastronomic problems
• Premature death
Depression alone can cause chronic fatigue, insomnia, and increased sensitivity to aches and pains due to the abnormal functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Physical and mental health are much more connected than many people realize, and the body-mind connection is real. This means that taking care of your physical health can help improve your mental health.
What to do then to create a healthy body and mind?
Making simple lifestyle changes – like physical activity, diet, and sleep – can go a long way in improving how you feel inside and out. Here’s how it works – and a few tips to get you started:
Exercise can release beneficial brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that can relieve depression and anxiety. Choose a program or form of exercise that is right for you. It could be intense cardio interval training or a more conscious, intention-driven yoga practice or something in between. What is essential is that you stick to it.
Exercise benefits both physical and mental health. In some cases, exercise is used to supplement or even replace the use of medications to treat certain mental health problems.
What you eat can also help or harm your mental health. Your stomach and brain are linked by a nerve that lets you know when you are hungry. But this nerve also explains why major stress can make your stomach ache.
You should aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and unsaturated fats. Try swapping out your regular pasta and bread for whole-grain options, like 100% whole wheat bread or whole-grain spaghetti.
A healthier diet like this can improve your mental health by:
– Reducing stress and anxiety
– Controlling depression
– Giving you more energy
– Helping you sleep better
Sleep on a regular basis:
Sleep allows you to recharge your body including your brain and if you don’t properly recharge your mind and body it can lead to problems for your mental health. Lack of sleep has been linked to depression, anxiety, and stress. If you’re having trouble sleeping the recommended 7-8 hours, here are some tips that may help:
• Set a schedule and have a bedtime routine every night.
• Make your room an “electronic-free” zone.
• Exercise earlier in the day.
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol can put you to sleep, but it does not allow your body to go into a deep sleep.
• No smoking
Put an end to bad habits
Making changes to your physical health can also make it easier to break unhealthy habits, which in turn can improve your mental health.
Bad habits – like smoking – can seem like they are helping to calm the symptoms of your mental illness. However, your body becomes dependent on the chemicals in cigarettes – which can adversely affect your physical and mental health.
The path to optimal wellness begins with a commitment to improving your physical health. Taking care of your physical health is an important part of taking care of your mental health.