It may seem like an obvious concept that physical and mental health are connected, however when you hear the word ‘health’ what do you automatically think of? Salad? Running? Going to the gym?
There is so much more to health than what the media shows us everyday, and that is why I wanted to show you ways in which our physical and mental entities are very closely connected, and how much one can affect the other.
Moving more is linked with a lot of health benefits both mentally and physically. Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are chemicals released in the brain during exercise which affect us in a positive way resulting in increased motivation, less fatigue and a general increase in mood to name a few benefits. Exercise also gives us the feeling of being productive, motivated and can help to increase self-confidence and self-worth.
In 2010 it was recommended that the average adult should be exercising between 75 and 150 minutes per week. In the world of social media and the internet I feel like the word ‘exercise’ now conjures up images of marathon runners or weight lifters. However it doesn’t have to be like that. Think of exercise as moving your body in a way you normally wouldn’t. So this could be brisk walking, swimming, jogging, pilates, a workout DVD, rock climbing or pole fitness. The most important thing is to find something that makes you feel good both in body and mind.
It is amazing how sleep can affect us physically and mentally but it is still not prioritised by a lot of people. We all know sleep is a chance for the body to recover from our day-to-day lives, however it is also when the brain gets to also rest.
I think we have all woken up after going to bed too late and felt pretty bad. It also affects the rest of the day as a lack of sleep results in lower patience, increased sensitivity and the inability to concentrate as well as usual. There is a lot more going on in the brain then we realise though.
Studies have shown that when we are sleep-deprived the brain doesn’t send information to and from different parts of the body as quickly as it usually would, resulting in slower reaction times. So in order to be the most productive and positive versions of ourselves, it is important we are giving both our mind and body adequate time to rest each night.
One of the most important yet forgotten aspects of health is having good nutrition. We hear all the time how a poor diet can affect us physically, however it also affects us mentally which is not as well-known.
What we put into our bodies will have an impact on how we feel, especially if you add intolerances into the mix. Foods high in sugar are absorbed quicker into the bloodstream causing an initial burst of energy which wears off as quickly as it came, leaving you feeling lethargic and sluggish. These sugar crashes can make mental health issues more prominent because of the lack of energy you have to give. We all need fat in our diet and it is important for the brain to receive fatty acids such as omega-3 to keep it working healthily. Instead of avoiding all fats, we should be thinking about eating the the right ones. Anything which lists ‘trans fats’ in the ingredients are tempting but this kind of fat is no good for your body or mind in the long run.
What should you eat?
A balanced diet is something to strive for, however there is no right or wrong way when it comes to each individual – we all need different levels of nutrients so there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Ensuring that you are providing yourself with adequate complex carbohydrates, essential fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and water will help you step closer to good physical and mental health.
Linked with nutrition is hydration – it is something we fuel our body with to make it function. Water is something our body is running on constantly, even when we are sleeping, to help us function in a healthy way.
Water is lost through breathing, sweating and going to the loo, and when we don’t replenish what is lost we get dehydrated. Just think about how you feel when you’re dehydrated – irritable, hot, headachey? Dehydration can also cause you to find it difficult to concentrate and affect your mood in a negative way. The heart, brain and lungs all consist of over 70% water, so if you are not giving yourself enough water these organs are going to be affected.
Being dehydrated affects humans in how we feel and think, and you go downhill faster in comparison to hunger. If you have mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, a change in brain function can be even harder to deal with with lower moods and lack of motivation.
Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is one aspect of good physical, emotional, and mental health. We’re not one-dimensional and our approach to mental health shouldn’t be either.
Remember to look after yourself not just for body, but for mind too.