Although we no longer believe that the mind and the body are two opposite sides of the spectrum, few of us are likely aware of how interconnected they are regarding our health and welfare. However, there is growing proof that physical and mental health significantly impact one another.
These days, when we talk about health, we don’t only mean physical wellness. According to the World Health Organization, health is “a complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” It’s crucial to understand how your physical wellness and fitness affect your mental health and why your mental state is essential for your physical welfare if you want to live a happy, fulfilled life.
The Link Between Mental Health and Physical Health
Immune System and Depression
Depression is the most prevalent mental illness in the US, affecting more than simply motivation and mood. According to some research, it might go the other way around, and the immune system might be the root of depression. Persistent stress causes the brain to mount an immunological response. This inflammatory response could be what makes depression so prevalent.
While good physical health is strengthened by a strong immune system, persistent stress can also increase the chances of depression. The immune system may become even more compromised by sadness, creating a depressing loop.
Fatigue and Mental Illness
Feelings of fatigue and exhaustion might persist due to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Some people insensitively assert that “it’s all in your head.” However, science refutes this because physical fatigue follows mental fatigue.
Fatigue and mental illness are intimately related, and ongoing exhaustion can quickly deteriorate physical health. People who are anxious or depressed all the time are less inclined to exercise. But when they do, they tend to stop sooner. A person with a mental illness may find it challenging to maintain adequate hygiene, which increases their susceptibility to sickness.
Depression and several chronic conditions are correlated. It includes diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and asthma. Schizophrenia is also another mental health condition that raises the risk of chronic or respiratory disease.
A person’s physical health may suffer because of their inability to manage chronic diseases effectively due to mental health issues.
Two hours after experiencing anxiety, the chance of having a heart attack increases by 9.5 times. While heart attacks are not a concern for young people, impulse control disorders that entail anger and anxiety can harm their developing hearts.
Sleep and mental health are also connected. It may be more challenging for certain people to acquire the recommended amount of sleep, vital for optimum functioning throughout the day, due to conditions including persistent depression and stress.
Additionally, many mental health issues might make it more challenging to get or remain asleep due to the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Physical and mental health are intertwined because one can affect the other. Sleep is no exception. Untreated sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia can hurt one’s mental health.
Since a person’s mental health can influence their physical health in various ways — and the contrary is also true — it also affects how long they live. Untreated mental health issues might reduce life expectancy because they weaken your immune system or exacerbate pre-existing medical illnesses.
6 Ways to Improve Mental Health
Practice Self Care
Any action you take to enhance your mental health is considered self-care. The two objectives of self-care activities are establishing healthy boundaries and increasing one’s ability to handle life’s ups and downs.
Solidify a Sleep Schedule
Sleep deprivation can make mental health issues worse. People with a history of insomnia are four times more likely to experience depression, claims Harvard Medical School.
For children, sleep schedules are crucial. Children who don’t get enough sleep may have reduced immune systems, issues with their behavior and academic performance, and generally worsened mental health.
One of the best first steps in enhancing the mental health of yourself or a kid in your care is to establish a plan and habit that prioritizes getting enough sleep. A specific bedtime, limiting or eliminating screen time an hour before bed, and ending the night with a cup of warm milk or your favorite herbal tea can all help you establish a sleep regimen.
Many kids and teenagers don’t spend enough time outside, and adults are more likely to struggle with this issue. The desire and motivation to leave the house decreases with depression, although leaving the house and walking has been proven that spending time outside lessens depression symptoms.
Spend at least two hours outside each week, even just for a stroll around the block or a 20-minute trip to the park. Making time for exercise a habit helps you better care for your mental health and sets a positive example for the children under your care. You can also plan for a trip to new environments.
Allocate Time for Activities
A tried-and-true method to lessen the effects of depression and enhance mental wellness is manual labor. Because your hands take up half of your brain’s cortex, engaging in a hands-on hobby exercises your brain.
It’s not necessary to major in mechanical engineering to gain hands-on experience. Both culinary and art classes will have the same results. Any activity that involves the use of both the hands and the intellect will aid in the development and maintenance of mental health in children because children’s brain growth demands a balanced amount of cognitive and physical activity.
Develop Your Support System
While speaking with a licensed therapist or mental health counselor may benefit you or your child, you should also create a support system for loved ones. Talking things through with loved ones, close friends, or responsible adults can make you feel better, lighten the load on your shoulders, and inspire you to find solutions.
You may increase your sense of belonging and self-confidence by having a strong support system. Positive experiences can also be shared, which might provide you with fresh insight. Giving help to others and receiving it in return can be very good for your mental and emotional health.
To promote social connections, spend time with friends and family, eat lunch with someone, and visit distant relatives.
Seek Appropriate Treatment
While self-care is crucial for sustaining mental health, some conditions need the help of qualified specialists. Counseling and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) assist individuals in learning coping mechanisms for mental illness that interferes with their daily lives. Self-care can be helpful, but only when combined with treatment strategies that go after the root causes of your or your illness.
Recognizing the mind-body connection and paying close attention to your mental and physical health is crucial if you have these conditions. Whether mental or physical, discuss your symptoms with your therapist and doctor. It will guarantee you receive the support you require on a whole-person basis.