Over the years, researchers and doctors have consistently stated that mental health is vital for personal well-being, interpersonal and family relationships, and the ability to contribute to the community at large. And the gradual rise in suicide cases further shows how mental illness, especially depression, affects individuals significantly. That alone shows us the adverse consequences of poor mental health and the association between mental and physical health.
The primary goal in everyone’s life is to stay healthy. From a young age, we try to eat, sleep and live right to promote our health in every way possible. Although health advice can be easily available everywhere, most of it only focuses on the physical body and its well-being. As researchers investigate what influences and affect our health, we realize that our mental and physical health are more closely connected than we imagined. If any one of the components flies out of proportion, you will experience its adverse effects.
So, let us understand how it all works.
Interconnection Between Mental and Physical Health
The World Health Organization has defined health as the state of complete mental, physical, and social well-being that is not merely limited to the absence of infirmity or disease. However, when people think of health, they prioritize physical health more than mental health. It is important for individuals to cater to both physical and mental health in the same way. Individuals must aim to avoid diseases by acknowledging the fundamental factors that are responsible for them (1).
The association between mental and physical health can be explained in three simple points.
- The primary risk factor for physical conditions, especially chronic ones, is poor mental health.
- Individuals with severe mental disorders are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with chronic diseases.
- Individuals diagnosed with chronic diseases are at a greater risk of experiencing poor mental health.
For instance, mood disorders, anxiety, and depression are associated with fatigue. Persistent tiredness leads to an overall decline in physical health. Individuals who have been diagnosed with chronic health conditions like cancer, heart complications and likewise tend to experience stress, anger, depression, and anxiety.
Mental disorders are the major risk factors that account for the worldwide disease burden. Almost 15% of the existing global diseases are mental disorders. The current challenge of mental disorders is high in countries like the US, and the UK. The most common mental disorder is depression that currently affects over 300 million people across the globe. Due to its widespread and damaging nature, the World Health Organization has projected it to be the primary factor behind the worldwide disease burden.
How to take care of yourself?
Now that you have a fair idea about the link that your body and mind share, it is time for you to develop self-care strategies that would cater to both. Therefore to help you, here are some simple yet effective strategies that you can adopt to look after your health more holistically and live a positive life.
Minimize stress levels
Although stress can act as a personal motivator, persistent stress is harmful to both physical and mental health. However, most people are unaware of the negative impact of stress. It can affect the gastrointestinal, endocrine, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.
Various stress management methods improve both mental and physical health (2). These include,
- Getting adequate and quality sleep.
- Following an exercise routine regularly.
- Maintaining a healthy and positive social support network.
Focus on the diet
Doctors have already established the connection between your brain and your gut. Hence, the food that you eat is directly responsible for your mental and physical well-being. Studies have stated that more than almost 90% of the serotonin receptors responsible for your “good mood” or “happy state of mind” are present in the gut.
That is why food planning is of utmost importance to keep yourself healthy. Follow these simple tips while making a diet plan for yourself.
- Consume limited quantities of red meat.
- Cut down on your sugar consumption.
- Increase your daily fiber intake by consuming more legumes.
- Avoid frozen vegetables and fruits and opt for fresh ones always.
- Avoid processed foods and eat more whole foods.
Limit Screen Time
Technology is a vital and inseparable part of today’s life. However, it is also clear that screen time leads to a sedentary lifestyle (3). Spending a tremendous amount of time behind the screen can negatively affect your physical health. Furthermore, the quality of content can also affect your mental well-being. Hence, educate yourself on healthy screen time habits so that you can avoid potential triggers that can affect your psychological and physical well-being.
The connection between mental and physical well-being is complex. Sometimes you can be unsure of specific activities and how they might affect your health. However, always try to maintain a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally to enjoy a balanced and upbeat lifestyle.
Sophie is a health enthusiast and believes that natural cures are the best cures. She believes that mother nature has cures for almost all diseases and living life holistically is the way forward.
Along with being a writer, Kajal is a health and wellness coach. It is her life’s mission and passion to spread the message of natural and holistic health.