Living Well: The relationship between physical and mental health
Healthy mind, healthy body
- Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being and mental illnesses are common and treatable or manageable.
- A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions, as well as chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It can also help people recover from these conditions.
- For those dealing with a chronic health condition and the people who care for them, it can be especially important to focus on mental health.
- When dealing with dueling diagnoses, focusing on both the physical and mental health concerns can be daunting – but critically important in achieving overall wellness.
- Humor, spirituality, recreation, animal companionship, and work-life balance are important for everyone, but may be of special importance to people also living with chronic health conditions and those who care for them.
- Finding a reason to laugh, going for a walk, meditating, playing with a pet, or working from home once a week can go a long way in making you both physically and mentally healthy.
- The company of animals – whether as pets or service animals – can have a profound impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to recover from illnesses. A pet can be a source of comfort and can help us to live mentally healthier lives.
- Sometimes life is far from funny but finding humor in a situation can lift moods with laughter and help people to better deal with and overcome difficult experiences.
- Whether you go to church, meditate daily, or simply find time to enjoy that cup of tea each morning while checking in with yourself – it can be important to connect with your spiritual side in order to find that mindbody connection.
- Living a healthy lifestyle may not be easy but can be achieved by gradually making small changes and building on those successes.
- Finding the balance between work and play, the ups and downs of life, physical health and mental health, can help you on the path towards focusing both #4Mind4Body
Mental health resources
If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, the following resources are available to help. (We should include an MRH resource on this list - Jennifer best to call the Clinic and meet with a provider first?)
- Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, www.dbsalliance.org
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org
American Association of Suicidology, www.suicidology.org
Increases in physical activity — even relatively gentle activities such as walking, stretching or taking the stairs — can help reduce the risk of becoming depressed.
That’s according to a study published in January in JAMA Psychiatry which found that any kind of movement can add up to keep depression at bay. The findings are significant because of the relatively small amount of activity that’s needed in order to decrease depression risk — and also because research has long shown a link between good mental health and good physical health.
“We saw a 26 percent decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity,” said the study’s author Karmel Choi, a clinical and research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
He said that the increase in physical activity is what you might see on an activity tracker if you replaced 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of running, or one hour of sitting with one hour of moderate activity like brisk walking.
“I think that’s why our study findings were especially appealing. It didn’t say you have to run a marathon, do hours of aerobics, or be a CrossFit master just to see benefits on depression,” he said.
Physical health conditions
Depression and other mental health issues can contribute to digestive disorders, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, heart disease and other health issues, according to Harvard Medical School.
The national association Mental Health America reports that a healthy lifestyle can prevent the onset of mental health conditions, too, in addition to physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Mental Health America recommends lifestyle practices such as humor, spirituality, recreation, animal companionship and work-life balance for good mental health.
“Finding a reason to laugh, walking with a friend, meditating, playing with a pet, or working from home once a week can go a long way in making you both physically and mentally healthy,” according to Mental Health Association. Ongoing research is also exploring whether physiological changes seen in depression may play a role in increasing the risk of physical illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
In people with depression, scientists have found changes in the way several different systems in the body function — including signs of increased inflammation, changes in the control of heart rate and blood circulation, abnormalities in stress hormones and metabolic changes typical of those seen in people at risk for diabetes.
“It is not yet clear whether these changes seen in depression raise the risk of other medical illness. However, the negative impact of depression on mental health and everyday life is clear,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
When you hear “family medicine,” think of your family doctor — the person who provides you with general health care for all ages.