For most people, mental and physical health are considered to be two completely separate systems within the body. However, dismissing this connection could not be further from the truth. Our bodies and minds are intrinsically linked, with each supporting and influencing the other. When you have good mental health it can positively affect your physical health and when you have good physical health, your mental health can improve. However, while we know this to be true, little is known about the scientific pathways between one and the other.
What happens when we neglect our health?
We often take our health for granted. When our bodies work the way they are supposed to be, or our mental health is providing a positive outlook on the world, we don’t question the process, but as soon as something goes wrong, it often has a ripple effect on our wellbeing.
Take for example when a person’s mental health starts to decline. Research has shown a clear link between depression and several chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, whereas schizophrenia has been linked to a higher risk of heart and respiratory diseases.
Whereas when someone’s body starts to decline physically through injury or disease, it is quite often difficult to maintain a positive outlook on life. And then it becomes a continuous circle of poor physical health feeding poor negative health and so on.
How can you improve your mental and physical health and live your optimum life?
If you’re feeling sluggish both mentally and physically, sometimes a quick fix can be cleaning up your diet. Reduce processed and overly fatty foods like junk foods and soft drinks and instead opt for whole grains, fresh fruit and veggies, and lean meats. Not only can this help to enhance your mood and general feeling of wellbeing, it can also help reduce diet-related diseases.
You don’t have to start by incorporating a hardcore exercise regime or even hitting the gym 5 times a week. If you’ve not previously been incorporating exercise into your life, start small. Walking around the block everyday is a great start to increasing your stamina and energy levels and with time you can increase your output. Being outside and within nature also brings additional benefits with studies having shown that spending time in green spaces can significantly reduce stress levels.
We all know that a poor night’s sleep leaves us feeling rough in the morning, but did you know that if you’re not getting enough sleep regularly, you can actually increase your chances of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It also isn’t just about the quantity of sleep, there are steps you can take to increase the quality of your sleep including removing distractions like television and computer screens. Keep your room dark, and reserve your bedroom as somewhere for sleep only. Avoid working or studying within your bedroom area to create a restful space.
Don’t abuse drugs & alcohol
If you’ve ever experienced a hangover or a come down from a night of overindulgence, you’ve probably got an understanding that alcohol and drugs aren’t the key to optimum physical health. It can impact your sleep and leave you feeling sluggish and off. What you may not realise is that alcohol and drug use is also associated with increased instances of mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and an increased negative outlook on life.
Mindfulness is a meditative practice inspired by Buddhist practices. Taking time to slow down and force yourself to be in the moment can actually lead you to become more in tune with your body and your surroundings which is thought to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as managing chronic pain.
See your healthcare provider
If you suspect that something isn’t right within your body, checking in with your doctor sooner rather than later is your best option. Your health can change and deteriorate rapidly so the earlier you investigate when something is wrong, the quicker you’re on the road to recovery and better health.
Talk to a therapist
You don’t have to be in a crisis to speak to or benefit from a therapist. But on the other hand, if you are struggling with your mental or physical health, you may need more support than just your doctor can give you. A therapist can help you to change the way you see, think and process things to help overcome problems and manage any mental health issues you may be experiencing.
So what is the take away?
Good health isn’t guaranteed, and misfortune is unavoidable, but there are conscious efforts and steps we can take to ensure our minds and bodies are functioning as well as possible. Take small steps and change habits slowly and you can’t fail!
If working with people to support their physical and mental well-being is of interest to you, a career in Health & Fitness might be for you. Head to our course page here, or contact our team to ask any questions and further discuss your study and career options.
The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health.