|Have you ever wondered how your physical (bodily) well-being is connected and impacted by your mental (emotional) well-being, and vice versa? This blog post will explore this undeniable connection and outline 7 distinct ways that your physical health is connected to your mental health.
During the 17th century, the mind and body were seen as separate entities working within two distinct systems and were treated within a medical model without an emphasis on mental well-being. More recently, the resurgence of the importance of emotional health has resumed and the mind-body connection has been shown to be an important component to an individuals overall health and well-being.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that "health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". Let's explore this concept by identifying 7 ways that physical health is connected to mental health. As you read through each category, think of how your own mind-body connection either negatively impacts on your life or enhances your well-being.
Food intake is one of the most important mind-body connections and is also a necessity for our survival. According to Dietitians of Canada "the food we eat is associated with our mood, behaviour, and cognition" and is therefore intertwined with our overall mental well-being. There are many factors that can contribute to poor or inadequate diets and as a result can cause long-term detriments to both the physical and mental well-being of an individual.
More facts linking nutrition to mental health:
Tip: Consider speaking with a nutritionist about your own dietary habits and how they are currently impacting on your mental well-being. Co-create a nutritional plan that will fit in your budget and serve to increase your overall health.
Suggested reading: The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversations Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health by Emeran Mayer
Water is also a necessary component of ever day life, and it is common knowledge that an individual is required hydrate in order to sustain life. However, the link between hydration and mental health is less well-known in society. According to the University of Connecticut's Human Performance Laboratory, "even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly". How do you feel when you haven't had enough to drink throughout the day?
Some more facts linking hydration to mental health:
Tip: Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day - if you're having a hard time drinking H20 (water can be a bit boring sometimes) try drinking other liquids (tea, coffee, juice) and eating water-laden foods such as cucumber or lettuce salads. Remember to drink even if you're not active!
Physical activity is linked with a long list of mental health benefits, from reducing symptoms of depression to increasing self-esteem and resilience, the list is endless! According to helpguide.org, "physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels" which can benefit an individuals mental well-being and reduce symptoms related to mental health disorders. Even a little bit of exercise can be very beneficial at promoting mental wellness.
Let's look at some more facts:
Tip: Improve your mental well-being by incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine - stick to an activity you enjoy or try out something new.
Suggested reading: Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by John E. Sarno
Getting enough sleep can often mean the difference between having a productive and stress-free day or experiencing fatigue and lack of energy throughout the day, but lack of sleep can also cause serious consequences on a persons mental well-being. The link between sleep and mental well-being is still being explored, yet Harvard Health explains that "neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night's sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability".
Tip: Check out The Sleep Hygienist for information on the health benefits of a good night sleep, as well as freebies that can help you develop better sleep habits (or information about when it might be time to see a professional for more support).
5. Substance Use
According to helpguide.org "substance abuse and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are closely linked, one does not directly cause the other". Substance use can refer to alcohol, illicit drug use, medication, or tobacco-use. The use of any of these substances can impact on the physical and mental well-being of a person, but can also cause mental health concerns to become much worse. There can often times be a stigma associated with either having a mental health disorder or a substance use problem, and seeking help for both can be even more challenging. Having support for these concerns can significantly increase a persons overall well-being.
Tip: If you, or someone you know, is concerned about substance use or addiction, reach out for more support from your doctor or a service that specializes in addictions.
A diagnosis of a chronic or short-term illness can bring on many emotions including shock, regret, anger and most, perhaps most commonly, sadness. Prolonged feelings of sadness can relate to diagnosis of the mental health condition of depression which can impact an individuals life in profound ways. Anxiety and stress brought on by the experience of an illness can also trigger mental health disorders or exacerbate underlying symptoms related to anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns.
More facts about the connection between illness & mental health:
Tip: Depression and anxiety are treatable - speak to a health professional for more information. Support (such as support groups, individual counselling, health & wellness coaching) for chronic illnesses may also be helpful in alleviating co-morbid experiences of mental health issues.
Suggested reading: Your Body Speaks Your Mind: Decoding the Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual Messages That Underlie Illness by Debbie Shapiro
7. Social Well-Being
How well a person feels in connection with friends, family, co-workers, classmates, and others in their lives is directly connected to their overall emotional and mental well-being. Poor social connections or overall social well-being is associated with poor emotional health and may even exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression.
Tip: Consider your social well-being in your current life.. how would you rate it? Would you say it is impacting on your overall mental health & well-being? What can you change to increase your social well-being in your immediate social connections (friends, family, etc) and your wider social network (society, community, etc)?
This blog post identified 7 proven ways that health and mental health are connected and interconnected and I hope it has helped to identify tangible areas that these two very important parts of us are connected. There are lots of other ways that the mind-body connection happens (can you think of others?) but hopefully this article helps you start to identify this connection and how it affects or improves your own life.
Want a real-life example of the impact of the mind-body connection? Listen to Lissa Rankin talk about her epiphany of understanding the important of BOTH your health AND mental health (pretty incredible!).
Thanks for reading and I hope you found this article helpful. Comment below with your own experience with the mind-body connection or consider sharing this post with others who may also enjoy reading about the holistic nature of our well-being.
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References: takingcharge.csh.umn.edu, mindingourbodies.ca, dietitians.ca, today.uconn.edu, health.harvard.edu, nimh.nih.gov, who.int
*Some links on this page are embedded with affiliate links. Any revenue that I receive through affiliate marketing helps me to keep the rates charged to clients lower so that more individuals can access therapy at an affordable rate.