When it comes to health, it’s important to take everything in your body into consideration. Overall health isn’t just the absence of disease or sickness; it’s about making sure that your entire body (from head to toe) is healthy and thriving. This also includes your mental state, since there is a strong link between mental and physical health. As the WHO states, “there is no health without mental health.” Mental health can be affected by fatigue, your work environment, and external stressors, while physical health can be affected by your diet, level of physical activity, and lifestyle choices. But how are they connected? We’re talking about seven ways your physical health is connected to mental health, so read on to learn more!
7 Ways Your Physical Health is Connected to Mental Health
1. Exercise. There is no doubt that physical activity makes you feel good! Not only does it keep your body feeling energized, but it also has a positive impact on mental health as it helps improve brain function, increase endorphins, and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Physical activity can be any movement that uses your muscles and expends energy, so anything from cycling to yoga to gardening counts. If you can, try to aim for 20 minutes of exercise for five days a week.
2. Nutrition. Have you ever heard the term “you are what you eat”? This is certainly true when it comes to mental health. Compare how you feel after you eat a leafy green salad to when you have just finished a double-double hamburger combo; chances are you feel more alert and less sluggish when you consume the green salad! If you’re consuming a healthful diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, you’ll be getting a plethora of vitamins and minerals and it will do wonders on both your physical and mental health. Not only will you have more energy, but you’ll feel better overall knowing that your diet is keeping your brain and body healthy.
3. Smoking. Smoking negatively impacts both your mental and physical health. Thanks to the nicotine found in cigarettes, your brain chemicals start to alter. Nicotine interferes with dopamine (the natural chemical that influences positive feelings) and temporarily increases those levels, all while switching off your brain’s natural ability to make it. This affects mental health because the more your body’s natural abilities are suppressed, the more you feel you need to smoke to repeat those positive sensations. Plus, smoking wreaks havoc on your respiratory system and increases your risk for cancer.
4. Sleep. Have you ever been short on sleep and then feel irritable, hungry, and exhausted the next day? Whether it’s chronic sleep deprivation or a night of bad sleep, that nightly shut eye is crucial to both mental and physical health. Scientists have found that lack of sleep affects levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones, while impairing your thoughts and emotions. In addition, lack of sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, weight gain, and heart disease. The recommended amount of sleep is between 7-9 hours so, if you can, try to work that into your nighttime routine for optimal physical and mental health!
5. Socialization. When you spend time with people who are important to you, you’re sure to see an uptick in mental health! But you don’t have to just hang out with people in person to notice a positive difference—you can still get these benefits from phone calls or video chats! Studies have shown that people with strong social ties are happier and live longer than people who distance themselves. It also reduces the risk of cancer, depression, and cardiovascular disease. All the more reason to hang out with your friends (either in person or virtually)!
6. Immune System. Did you know that your mental state can impact the immune system? Research has found that if you feel depressed, then your body can suppress its’ response to viruses and bacteria, which makes it easier to get (and stay) sick. Having a weak immune system can also lead to more severe allergies or asthma!
7. Anxiety. Being anxious every so often is a natural feeling. After all, who hasn’t been anxious about one thing or another over time? Anxiety is usually brought on by stress or external sources, so if you’re chronically anxious, it has been known to lead to heart disease, other physical ailments, and mental health conditions. You can help reduce anxiety by limiting stress, taking time off, exercising, or meditating.
What are some ways that you boost your mental and physical health? Let us know in the comments!
For other health and wellness content, check out these other blogs: