It’s interesting that people still believe there’s a sharp difference between mental and physical health today. Several existing research outcomes indicate how connected physical and mental health are. A decline or improvement in one can lead to the same in another. When an individual has good mental health, there’s a higher chance of improved physical health.
However, when an individual is suffering from a mental health condition like depression, for instance, they can have physical symptoms that are tied to the condition. It can also go the other way around. People with physical diseases have an increased chance of developing psychological distress compared to others. Connecting mental and physical health makes it much easier to understand their relationship and how they influence each other, making it easier to create a healthier life.
How can one influence the other, and how can you effectively manage both? This article gives all the information you will need.
How a physical health decline affects overall well-being
It can be very easy to assume that physical health may not have so much effect on mental health. However, feeling pain for a long time can negatively impact a person’s happiness and outlook on life. One is either spending so much time looking for ways to get better or worrying about the outcome.
This greatly affects the person’s mental health and general well-being.
How a mental health decline affects overall well-being
Being in a good mental state contributes to good physical health. A great state of mind and a positive outlook on life have been linked to a reduced risk of strokes and heart attacks. Furthermore, studies show that cheerfulness can reduce the level of body inflammation.
Conversely, a mental health decline can pull your physical health down too. Depression has been linked to chronic physical diseases like cancer, heart disease, and chronic pain.
These all point to the fact that good mental health will lead to better health overall.
The link between physical and mental health
To better understand the link between physical and mental health, it’s important to remember that the division between the two is not as significant as learning to take care of our overall health. Although they may appear non-physical, our moods, thoughts, and general mental state are all happening within the brain activity.
Mental illness and aging
Mental illness has been linked with accelerating biological aging. Patients with mental illnesses are at a higher risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and age-related diseases and have a 10 to20-year shorter life expectancy rate.
Psychological stress caused by mental illnesses can also be linked to premature aging for several reasons. However, the link results from the behaviors that come with it, not necessarily the stress itself. Anyone going through stress will likely have a poor diet, do little to no exercise, and experience substance abuse.
Most times, these will have harmful effects on physical health. Also, stress can disrupt the amount of sleep, which is also detrimental to overall health in the long run. Stress also increases the level of cortisol in the body. Cortisol increase is synonymous with body system disruption that cuts across the cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and immune systems.
With these, stress accompanied by an existing mental illness will put such persons at a higher risk of heart disease, insomnia, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
The effects of dopamine
Fluctuations in dopamine levels have an impact on mental health. Dopamine is typically referred to as a feel-good hormone released upon feelings of reward and motivation in the body. However, certain hormones like estrogen and progesterone can regulate the transmission of dopamine. An increase in estrogen levels will immediately cause dopamine levels to fall.
Things become tricky when the patient has an existing mental health disorder like ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD will worsen when dopamine levels fall. Interestingly, a decrease in dopamine levels can benefit patients with bipolar disorder and psychosis symptoms.
Heart diseases and depression
For many years, researchers have sought to find a link between severe chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and depression. In 2009, a study concluded that a good percentage of patients dealing with heart diseases were also dealing with depression, although on a mild level. For this category of people, depression is an independent determinant of health-related quality of life.
Depression among people with existing chronic physical illnesses is mostly missed by the professionals treating these sick patients. This is understandable because of the focus on the physical issue.
Moreover, depression can also come before some physical diseases. Back pain, colorectal cancer, coronary heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, stroke, type II diabetes, and multiple sclerosis are some of the other conditions that can be linked to depression.
Diabetes and poor nutrition can also cause mood disorders
The link between physical health and mental health is a two-way street. Stress can lead to high blood pressure and other chronic conditions; metabolic problems like hypertension, poor nutrition, and diabetes can lead to stress-induced changes to the brain. These changes can end up causing mood disorders. Interestingly, mood disorders can lead to stress that triggers the same metabolic diseases.
How to improve your overall wellness
The research on the link between physical health and mental health is crucial because it backs up the concept that the brain and the body are responsive to change when it happens.
A positive outlook will mean that, with constant improvements to our bodies’ physical and mental aspects, we can go a long way to improving our overall wellness. Now that you understand how the body works in connection with your brain, here are some valuable tips on improving your overall health.
Eat healthier and balanced meals
A balanced diet not only improves your energy levels and physical health but also goes a long way to improving your mental health. If you’re currently struggling with any area of your health, you may need to look at the foods you consume and balance them considering the vital role they play in the conversion of energy.
Be intentional about eating healthier and more balanced meals. Eschew fast food, processed sugar, and sodas, and choose healthier food categories like fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and water. These will go a long way to improving your mood, reducing your risk of developing chronic diseases, enhancing your gut health, and improving your health state.
Include regular exercise in your daily routine
The whole body benefits greatly from regular exercise. Not only does it improve your muscle mass and function but also your metabolic functions as well as strengthening your immune system. Regular exercise also reduces inflammation and generally contributes to better respiratory and cardiovascular health. Regular exercise will greatly benefit your stamina, weight, and energy levels.
When your body system is in the right frame, it’ll also go a long way to improving your mental health. Exercising directly benefits the brain and can improve cognitive function and impulse control, reduce stress levels, and reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
Some other quick benefits of exercise to overall health include spending less time dealing with pains and being energized enough to go through your day.
Not getting enough sleep will affect your mood and energy levels for the next day. Now imagine not sleeping well for an extended period. This will reduce your concentration levels, attention to detail, and liveliness. Physically, your chances of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and similar conditions will increase.
By getting at least seven hours of sleep daily, you’re increasing your chances of a sharpened memory and the ability to solve problems. You can also improve your attention span, creativity levels, and decision-making abilities.
Stay away from substance and drug abuse
Overindulging in alcohol and substances will take its toll on your health one way or the other. They are associated with major mental health problems like anxiety, depression, anxiety, negativity, and other emotional issues.
However, recovering from substance and alcohol abuse will improve every aspect of your health. Rather than opening yourself up to a negative intake of substances, substitute them for healthy meals and exercise that will improve your health.
Many of the habits we have today that impact our health negatively result from not paying attention to them as they compound. However, learning to be present in the moment and being mindful go a long way to helping us stay in tune with our bodies. Paying attention to our body language and being mindful of its needs will help in curbing anxiety, depression, and even chronic pain.
Go for regular checkups
Even when it doesn’t appear like you are sick or in need of medical help, it’s important to go for regular checkups. You may have a potential ailment that can be cured effectively if it’s found early enough. Many chronic diseases that affect people today don’t start out on a large scale. However, they escalate into something much worse due to neglect or lack of knowledge. The sooner ailments are detected in the body, the faster they can be treated. Include regular checkups as a part of your monthly and quarterly plans.
Talk to a therapist or counselor
Talking to a professional is one of the best things you can do for yourself if you’re struggling with your physical or mental health. Even more than a doctor, a therapist or counselor can help you overcome your problems and handle the issues you may be facing and improve your quality of life.
How counselors can help in improving your overall wellness
When we think about counselors today, what comes to mind most of the time is professionals who help in solving emotional and mental health issues. However, counselors also help patients handle their physical health. As discussed earlier, physical and mental health are intertwined and a number of mental health issues will manifest as physical health diseases. While counselors don’t treat their clients’ physical health issues directly, they are involved in addressing the major physical health issues.
When mental health counselors see clients who need physical health attention in addition to their mental health care, only the most prepared of them will be able to handle the intricacies. To ensure that you’re fully equipped for what may come your way, you can earn a mental health counseling online master’s degree from St. Bonaventure University. This is a stepping stone to becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or pursuing other counseling-related roles. The demand for mental health professionals is growing, and an online degree can provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to enter this rewarding field.
Here are ways counselors can improve the overall wellness of their clients
Help clients address cardiovascular diseases
One of the most common causes of both mental and physical ailments today is cardiovascular disease (CVD). At the moment, it is the greatest killer of American adults, and considering how many people deal with these issues, counselors need to be equipped to handle this within their patient population. Considering that the issue of CVD has affected the population to such a great extent, counselors should understand that it’s an important part of the rehabilitation process.
Guide clients on developing health habits
Smoking is one of the biggest root causes of major health problems, such as CVD and some cancers. For this reason, counselors need to be able to handle chronic smoking issues within their patient populace. Smoking can also be treated as a poor habit that individuals have taken up. Counselors can outline ways through which ailing patients can change their poor habits.
Encourage clients to record healthy activity
Making healthy changes to one’s lifestyle can be difficult so it is important to track progress to stay motivated. Mental health counselors can help clients make lasting changes by encouraging them to record their healthy habits.
There are a few ways to do this. The first option is to keep an exercise journal. This can help patients visualize their progress and stay motivated to continue being active. Another option is to use a fitness wearable. These devices can track steps taken, calories burned, and other metrics that help clients stay on track.
However, clients should always consult their doctor before starting any new exercise program. This is especially important for clients who have health conditions.
The link between physical and mental health is complex, but both are essential for overall well-being. While physical health refers to the condition of your body and how well it functions and includes things like your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, mental health refers to your emotional and psychological well-being. It cuts through things like your mood, thoughts, and ability to cope with stress.
Counselors are trained to provide emotional support and guidance to clients. However, in recent years, counselors have increasingly been asked to provide advice on a range of health-related topics, such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management.