On a basic surface level, we understand that there is an obvious distinction between 'mind' and 'body' - or the mental vs. physical aspects of ourselves - but, as we’ve seen in plenty of studies and learned through our own life experiences, it’s not actually that clear-cut. The mind and the body are irrefutably connected and intertwined with one another. You cannot have one without the other, as both exist to establish the self. When one’s physical health suffers it can lead to mental health problems, including depression, feelings of anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, a person's psychological well-being has been scientifically proven to affect one’s overall health. Several years ago, after experiencing a rapid decline in my physical health, I became severely depressed and started seeing a psychotherapist - anecdotal proof that this correlation is real.
Since the pandemic, healthcare professionals have increasingly been asked to consider a patient's mental health along with their physical symptoms, and vice versa. Many lobby groups and nonprofit mental health agencies are seeking additional funding to improve mental health services in America. While Covid-19 has brought the mental health crisis in America to mainstream media awareness in 2021, the dilemma has been occurring for decades.
FACT: People with mental health conditions are less likely to seek out and receive proper health care.
FACT: Those with higher stress levels are at great risk of coronary heart disease and more likely to die from cancer than those who feel less stressed.
FACT: Depression, the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., can be just as much of a physical illness as a mental one. By suppressing T cell responses to viruses and bacteria, depression can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to contracting sickness and disease.
FACT: Individuals with schizophrenia have an increased risk for heart and respiratory diseases.
Fortunately for all Americans who are struggling with a mental health condition, there are lifestyle changes that can positively influence both physical and mental health.
Not surprisingly, exercise is at the top of the list. You don’t have to go to a gym to work out; any form of physical activity can help release endorphins (feel-good chemicals) in the brain. Even a short 10 minute brisk walk can improve mental sharpness, energy, and mood. If walking isn’t your speed (sorry for the pun), pick another activity that you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening, swimming, walking your dog, or playing a sport - just try to keep moving. Your body and mind will thank you.
You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true. The food we eat can influence the development, management, and prevention of numerous mental and physical conditions, including depression and memory loss. A healthy balanced diet includes a healthy amount of proteins, essential fats, complex-carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. Recently, I started taking B12 on the advice of my physician to help eliminate chronic fatigue. Click here to learn more about the benefits of Vitamin B.
Get out and enjoy some sun and see if your mood doesn’t improve. Exposure to sunlight releases serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone associated with boosting mood, creating a sense of calm, and improving focus.
Animal Assisted Therapy
Last but not least, for anyone who has a pet, you have probably experienced the calmness that comes from petting an animal. The history of Animal-assisted therapy goes back centuries when it was used to help improve morale, engage the attention of the elderly, and help people with disabilities improve their skills. Today, most people think of therapy dogs to help reduce anxiety, elevate mood, and lower blood pressure. Both are incredibly beneficial for mental and physical health.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Please talk to a friend, medical professional, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find additional mental health resources on your website and be sure to follow us on social media for shared stories and inspirational quotes.