Despite the clear distinction between mind and body, our
mental and physical health are connected. The human body is essentially a
well-oiled machine. If you think of it as a car, then you can see how our
physical state can impact on our mental wellbeing.
For instance, a car with worn out wheels will consume much
more fuel to slow down even though the wheels and the engine are two entirely
different parts of the vehicle. Similarly, with us humans, our bodies can
dictate how our minds feel and vice versa.
Our physical health can impact on our mental health in a
positive way and in a negative way. If you eat a balanced diet consistently,
then your physical state will improve and so will your mental health. If you
are a chronic smoker, your physical state deteriorates and eventually so does
your mental wellbeing. Let’s look at some clear-cut examples of physical health
affecting mental health.
Exercise and Depression
Physical activity has great benefits for both the body and
mind. For the body, it yields better overall fitness and helps build muscle
mass, making us stronger. For the mind, exercise increases activity in the
frontal lobes and increases the brain’s uptake of endorphins, which are
otherwise known as feel-good hormones.
Physical exercises improve our physical state, but they also
have a great impact on mental health. In fact, exercise is considered the best
natural antidepressant because of the effect it has on the mind. Exercise
improves our physical health, and our physical health positively affects our
mental wellbeing. Better physical health enhances confidence and self-esteem,
and this can uplift a depressed individual’s mood considerably.
Depression and Chronic Illnesses
On the flip side of things, poor physical health is
detrimental to our mental health. A study conducted in 2009 on patients with
chronic heart disease discovered that 22 per cent of the subjects had mild
depression. 17 per cent of the participants were even taking antidepressants.
At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that poor quality of life
brought on by chronic illnesses can cause depression.
This conclusion was echoed by one professor from the
Institute of Psychiatry in London. Professor David Goldberg noted that chronic
illnesses put people at higher risk of depression. Interestingly, he also
stated that depression could cause some chronic physical illnesses, saying
“depression and chronic illness [es] are in [a] reciprocal relationship with
Poor physical health is often a precursor to mental
illnesses, but the reverse is also true. Let’s look at how our mental health
can impact our physical state.
Stress and Chronic Illnesses
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that affects millions of people
worldwide. This condition, which is characterized by the development of flaky
sores on the skin, is triggered solely by stress, making it a prime example of
how poor mental wellbeing can affect our physical state.
85 percent of psoriasis patients are irked by their
condition. One in ten contemplate suicide, and one in three feel shame and
humiliation over their condition. This shows us the profound impact our mental
health can have on our physical wellbeing, but it is also a clear example of how
something like a bad skin condition can cause depression and even promote
Physical stress has just as bad an impact on mental
wellbeing, which is why many professional athletes suffer from mental illnesses
at some point in their careers. Retired athletes often fall into depression due
to the sudden shift in routine at the end of their careers. Their bodies are
adapted to strenuous training schedules, and the sudden switch to sedentary
living often instils them with a sense of hopelessness and lost purpose.
Our physical and mental health are tied to one another in
complicated ways. What we know is that they can both impact on each other
positively and negatively. Many chronic illnesses are predated by mental
illness, but our mental health also suffers significantly when our bodies
undergo a prolonged period of illness. The two are cyclically linked, so your
physical health is just as important to your mental wellbeing as your mental
health is to your physical state.
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