How Is Your Mental Health Linked With Your Physical Health And Vice Versa

mental health awareness and link with physical health
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What is mental health?

According to World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life and develop his full potential, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community."

It is totally normal for mentally healthy people to also feel sadness, anger, or unhappiness, which are the core components of a meaningful life. Nevertheless, a good state of mental health quite often is considered as a positive state of mind, filled with happiness, and being in control over the situation and environment.

Mental health includes a variety of skills that serve in all life dimensions. They include "subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, intergenerational dependence, and self-actualization of one's intellectual and emotional potential." 

It dictates our reaction to stress, relationships with others, and it can influence our life decisions. It is important for our wellbeing throughout our lifetime, starting from the early stages of life, childhood, youth, and up to adulthood. 

What is physical health?

What is physical health
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Physical health is defined as a normal body functioning at all levels, a normal course of biological processes that enable our survival and reproduction, a perfect equilibrium between our organism functions, and the environment we live in, participating in social and work activities, lack of sicknesses, or painful conditions, and our bodies skill to adapt to the continuous changes of the external environment. 

According to traditional science, before the advancement of modern medicine, people without an illness were considered physically healthy.

Components of physical health:

  • Physical activity, including strength, flexibility, and endurance.
  • Nutrition and diets, including nutrition, fluids, and healthy digestion.
  • Alcohol and drugs, including abstaining from using harmful substances.
  • Medical and self-care, including curing oneself of injuries or ailment, asking for help from emergency care.
  • Rest. Taking enough time to relax and sleep.

In brief, physical health is "the ability to perform daily tasks and live comfortably in one's body."

As per the research conducted by The American Heart Association:

"Physical activities boost mental wellness. Regular physical activity can relieve tension, stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. You may feel a good sensation immediately following your physical activity, and most people note an improvement in general well-being over time as physical activity becomes a part of their routine."

How are mental and physical health connected?

There is a fundamental link between mental health and physical health, due to many associations between mental health and physical conditions that affect our life quality. According to World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, there is no health without mental health.

The link between mental health and physical health:

  • Poor mental health can lead to many chronic physical conditions. 
  • Chronic physical conditions can lead to poor mental health.
  • People with severe mental health illnesses risk suffering chronic physical conditions.

A range of factors that influence the health status of individuals can influence both chronic physical conditions and mental health. To prevent this, individuals need to increase physical activity, nutritious foods, good financial conditions and become part of society. This will strengthen protective factors and decrease risk factors that harm both mental and physical health. 

By comprehending the relationship between mind and body, it is a basic element to know to use strategies to decrease the frequency of co-existing health conditions and assist those already existing mental health sicknesses, and chronic physical conditions. 

Understanding the difference between physical and mental health is not just a simple word. To the researchers this is a difficult question - How do mental and physical health interact? The answer is complicated, but what we know is that mental health affects physical health directly or indirectly.

The link between depression and the immune system.

Depression doesn't affect just mood and motivation, it can directly affect the immune system by surprising T cell responses to viruses and bacteria.  A weak immune system can cause severity in allergies or asthma.

Through experiments on mice, researchers were able to trigger depressive symptoms as a result of the immune system's response to stress.

A weak immune system is correlated with physical health, and the increase of stress increases depression, in addition, depression may weaken the immune system, thus creating a vicious cycle. 

The link between Mental illnesses and fatigue.

Mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and other mood disorder lead to tiredness and exhaustion. Although people think it is "only in their head" researchers show that being mentally tired leads to physical fatigue. Mental illnesses are closely linked with fatigue, and that persistent tiredness can quite easily cause declines in physical health. 

If somebody suffers from depression and anxiety, they are not motivated to engage in physical exercises, and when they do they quit early. Tiredness caused by mental disorders is correlated with basic hygiene, causing vulnerability to infections and diseases. 

The link between Anger, anxiety, and heart health. 

As per the research conducted by an Australian group of experts, anger, and stress of anxiety damage the heart. They saw that acute emotions can cause heart attacks like in the movies. Dr. Thomas Buckley, who directed the study said, "our findings confirm what has been suggested in prior studies and anecdotal evidence.... that episodes of intense anger can act as a trigger for a heart attack."

During the study, a wave of intense anger expressed through body language, clenched fists and teeth, and fear of "ready to burst," increased individual chances for heart attack 8.5 times higher. While anxiety increased such risk 9.5 fold during the two-hour study. Anger and anxiety proved they negatively affect heart health throughout our lifespan. 

How does mental health affect physical health and vice versa? 

How does mental health affect physical health and vice versa
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Studies have been conducted that show mentally ill people can develop physical health conditions, for example, heart disease. This can be for the following reasons. 

1. Genetics. Genes are a great factor that can lead to mental disorders, but simultaneously, they can develop physical health problems.

2. Lack of motivation. Mental health problems, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and medications can impact negatively your energy or motivation to look after yourself.

3. Problems with concentration. It becomes difficult for you to organize and follow medical appointments if your mental health conditions negatively affect your concentration. 

4. Lack of support to make changes. There are cases that when doctors and health professionals believe that you will not be able to make the right changes, then they will not offer any support so that you can stop drinking or smoking for example. 

5. Not receiving medical help. Doctors can make mistakes by believing physical symptoms are signs of a mental illness. Such people can have fewer routine checkups for their physical health ( e.g., blood pressure) which can signal for these symptoms of physical health conditions earlier.

We need to understand that mental health problems can begin with physical symptoms. Body and mind are not separated, and mental ill-health can negatively impact your body.

Depression may begin with a headache, fatigue, and digestive problems, whereas anxiety can cause problems with the stomach, for example. Both physical health and mental health affect one another, physical health conditions can lead to mental health conditions. 

Let's take an example, psoriasis, a skin disorder characterized by painful red sores that are linked with acute stress and depression. People with psoriasis go through emotional and psychological distress, which affects their overall health and life quality.

Furthermore, stress and depression are caused by stigma, anxiety, and rejection. Cancer and heart problems can generate feelings of depression and anxiety, approximately one-third of people with severe medical conditions develop symptoms of depression, low mood, insomnia, and loss of interest in activities they like. 

How can I be spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy to have complete overall health wellbeing?

When people think of general health, they refer to their physical bodies, but health includes our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. All these factors are interrelated with each other.

In many ancient cultures, the connection between, body, mind, and spirit three compose of a part of a whole. With the advancement in medicine and psychology, we recognize that our overall health depends upon our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects. They all four influence one another. 

Spiritual health

Spiritual health is your connection to energy, some consider this to be more related to religion than spirituality, others link it to the quantum energy that science addresses. Both of them are perfect viewpoints, to see the source of spiritual energy. Spiritual health is the least realized aspect of health. You can dedicate some of your time to spirituality as a constituent of a healthy life because it impacts our overall wellness.

Paragement says we're not only psychological, social, and physical beings, but we're spiritual beings as well. Spirituality grows out of a yearning - the human yearning for something transcendental, something beyond ourselves.

He relates that it can mean different things to different people. Some consider marriage and children as sacred. These give meaning to their spirituality. It is the search for the sacred, healthy spirituality that fosters our sense of meaning in life, sense of connectedness to others.

It creates a sense of personal identity. Every person is different from others, and so it is their spirituality, thus, it needs steps to cultivate and discover their version of spirituality. To be spiritually healthy you must first discover what is sacred to you. Take some time off to do some soul searching and identity, what matters most deeply to you in life.

You can do this through relationships, meditation, study, or action. Encourage people to reflect on where they experienced their deepest feelings of wonder, awe gratitude, mystery, timelessness, and love.

Tips for maintaining your spiritual health. 

  • Apply meditation.
  • Study consciousness, religion, or philosophy.
  • Retreat in silence to connect with yourself.
  • Pray every day.
  • Stay present at the moment.
  • Listen with your heart and live according to your values.
  • Accept yourself and others for what they are. 
  • Look at everything around you like a chance to grow spiritually. 

Emotional health

Emotional health is a dynamic state which is closely related to other health dimensions of wellbeing.

To be emotionally well is generally considered and defined as being a master in handling, feelings, and expressing human emotions, such as happiness, sadness, or anger. It also includes the skill to feel love, and receive love, reaching a feeling of fulfillment in life.

Emotional wellbeing includes optimism, self-esteem, self-acceptance, and the skill to share your feelings. 

To cultivate emotional wellbeing you can follow these tips:

  • Tune in to your thoughts and feelings.
  • Develop an optimist and positive mindset.
  • Seek and provide support.
  • Develop time management skills.
  • Practice everyday activities to deal with overthinking and develop stress management techniques.
  • Accept forgive and love yourself.
  • Be positive.

Physical health

Physical health encompasses all physical aspects of your health, from the lack of disease to the fitness level of an individual. It affects our overall sense of wellbeing. Some of the variables that work for physical health are behavior, physical activity, and nutrition. To improve your physical health follow these tips:

1. Consume less sugar, and drink more water in your diet. To avoid excess sugar in your diet, make sure you don't forget to cut out on sugary beverages.

2. Develop and maintain a plan to exercise daily. Regular physical activities, even just a walk in the park or running, riding a bike, or whatever it can be, will help you maintain your physical health fit. 

3. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Nutrient-dense foods will provide your body with what it needs. Vitamins and minerals maintain your body functioning properly. A healthy snack is better than fatty chips or burgers.

4. Get more rest.  As per the research conducted by Harvard University, sleep gives the body the chance to restore itself. Through sleep, cells can repair themselves, and your brain requires some breaks time after time. Seven to eight hours of sleep each night are necessary for all adults.

It's easier to think that it's hard to pay necessary attention to one's physical health, especially for beginners. It all can start with baby steps. Spend some time in nature, go to the gym or practice easy physical exercises at home.

Mental health

On the surface, our mental health consists of our thoughts, but if we go on a deeper level, it consists of our beliefs, desires, values, and goals. We consider our beliefs and opinions to be true, without taking time to prove them. What we consider most important in our life are the things and elements we value the most. Values and beliefs may originate from thoughts since our childhood. 

Desires push us forward to achieve what we want in life, for this reason, we set goals and our intentions get us where we want. Some of our surface-level thoughts create goals and desires that steer the wheel of our mental focus. In this way, our mind works, and this is one of the aspects we know best. 

Our mental and emotional health experiences from the past can create turbulences. Fears, for example, create anxiety, or they can come from hate we feel toward someone, which we can re-experience later in life when history repeats itself. 

Our minds encourage creative and stimulating mental activities. They need to engage in mental activities just like our bodies do in physical ones. The minds of people with a high level of mental health are engaged and continue to learn. 

A healthy intellectual uses everything he is enabled to expand his knowledge and improve his skills. Staying updated with the latest news and current events and being part of society are also important. 

To practice activities for mental health you can follow up these tips: 

  • Set goals.
  • Continue your education.
  • Eliminate stressors from your life.
  • Take a course.
  • Learn whatever is of benefit to you. 
  • Read.

Personal Experience: How weight training can help you stay in control after a bipolar diagnosis

"I had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis after years of suffering, the more time I spent around doctors and medications, I felt out of control of my life. I spiraled into an eating disorder, which gave me some type of control over something.

It wasn't until a doctor looked at me and told me to pick out my coffin because that's where I was going to be in few months if I didn't get help (It sounds harsh, but for me, it was a turning point in my life.)

I decided to seek out a trainer and told him what was happening in my life. At that time, my energy was extremely depleted and I was frail. I could barely do any of the exercises but he continued to push me.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and I continued to do a little better each time. I could lift a little more. I could push for one more rep. I looked in the mirror and I realized I had control over building my body up.

Instead of destroying myself, lifting weights helped me not only physically but mentally build myself back up in the healthiest way possible. Lifting weights truly saved my life." 

Final thoughts

As we have related in this article, a wide range of factors are important for our health and wellbeing. They all depend on and influence each other.

Wellness is the pursuit of continual growth and balances all health aspects with one another. Many people consider wellness or being healthy as words that relate to physical health in most cases.

Being healthy includes nutrition, sleep, physical activity, and having excellent blood pressure. To be healthy means complete integration of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Our life quality depends upon the inter-relation of all these aspects. To be healthy, we cannot neglect one aspect of health over the other, if this happens, then it will have negative effects on our overall health.


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