Increasing health and wellness is about more than improvements in one single focus area
When focusing on improving overall health, people often tend to focus on enhancing their mental and physical health as two separate projects. There are crucial links between these two types of health that, when capitalized on, allow a person to bolster their health in both categories at the same time. Physical and mental health are related to one another and work together in a synergetic fashion.
Are mental health and physical health related?
Mental health and physical health are intertwined with one another directly. A strong body can help foster a smart mind and vice versa. Your brain controls the actions of your body but it’s not a one-way path, as impacts on your body can affect your brain through chemical release as well. In fact, deteriorations or improvements in one of these types of health can be partially responsible for deterioration or improvement in the other.
How do mental and physical health impact each other?
Multiple associations exist between mental and physical health that can have lasting impacts on your wellbeing. In fact, it’s been shown that:
- Poor mental health can be a risk factor for chronic physical conditions
- Poor physical health can be a risk factor for chronic mental health problems
- Those with serious mental health problems are at a higher risk of developing serious physical health ailments
There are a variety of reasons a person may develop poor mental health or poor physical health. For some, genetics may play a role in having a predisposition towards the development of mental or physical conditions. Low motivation stemming from mental health problems can also directly impact a person’s ability to train physically. Additionally, a lack of support inability to receive help can also directly affect both types of health, which can have consequential impacts on the other type.
Understanding that this serious link between mental and physical health exists is only half the battle. By diving deeper into the causes for this two-way link, you can begin to understand how to improve both types of health and your overall wellbeing.
How can mental health impact physical health?
For many years, society was under the impression that mental health conditions were something imaginary that could be turned off on a whim. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Mental health disorders can manifest as both physical and mental symptoms that directly impact a person’s ability to regulate their health.
Let’s take a look at two of the most common mental health challenges people are faced with today: generalized anxiety disorder and major depression disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder impacts 6.8 million adults in the United States and 21 million adults have reported living with at least one major depressive episode.
Anxiety disorders and depressive episodes affect people in more ways than just mentally. To add some perspective, common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Being easily fatigued
- Headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, and other aches
- Sleep problems
- Irritability or difficulty concentrating
These are only some of the many debilitating symptoms that generalized anxiety disorders can sometimes cause a person. Common symptoms associated with major depressive episodes can include all of the above in addition to:
- Consistent feelings of hopelessness
- Changes in appetite or eating habits, as well as general hygiene habits
- Feelings of an extreme lack of motivation
- Self-harm related thoughts
As you can imagine, motivating oneself to hit the gym can seem impossible when faced with many of the above symptoms. This can lead to the eventual decay of the physical body which can only strengthen some of the aforementioned symptoms.
The above mental health conditions are just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless mental health problems that can emerge throughout one’s life that can cause similar symptoms that impact physical health. \
How can physical health impact mental health?
While it is now clear how mental health can impact a person’s physical health, the other side of the spectrum may still be a mystery. A lack of physical activity can potentially lead to debilitating mental health issues down the road, such as an increased risk of dementia and depression.
The relation between physical health and mental health doesn’t stop at physical activity. A person’s nutrition can have a direct impact on their mental health as well. The brain-gut connection is a concept researchers are still actively investigating, but it’s been proven that there’s something of a mini-brain in your stomach.
The Enteric Nervous System (ENS), as it’s professionally called, is two layers of over 100 million nerve cells lining your gut. Responsible for digestion, enzyme release, blood flow control to the gut, and much more, a person’s ENS communicates directly with the brain. Researchers have begun to find evidence that irritation to this system can trigger signals to the bodies’ central nervous system that causes mood changes.
In fact, there is evidence that suggests those who live with irritable bowel syndrome and other bowel problems are potentially at a higher risk for anxiety or depression. Ensuring you feed your gut healthier and less processed foods is important for keeping your two brains in a stable mood.
Increased physical activity, in combination with a healthy nutrition regimen, can improve your mental health. Aerobic exercises, such as jogging, hiking, running, swimming, and others, have been proven to reduce both anxiety and depression. Exercise-induced increased blood circulation impacts different areas of the brain that play a part in mood, memory, and motivation.
Additionally, physical activity can also provide mental distraction, self-efficacy, and increased social interaction. It can also help with self-esteem and cognitive function, allowing for those with mental illness to potentially see some benefits.
5 Tips for enhancing your overall health
Now that it’s understood how mental and physical health can impact each other, it’s time to learn how to enhance both. No matter whether your goal is boosting your physical health or mental health, the following five tips will help you take that first step:
Regular exercise is a crucial component for bolstering your physical health. Whether you are attempting to lose weight or increase strength, placing an emphasis on workout movements that focus on both strength and cardio is a must. When exercising in the gym, there are two general strategies to follow: strength building and hypertrophy training.
When focused on strength training, target lifting heavier weights for fewer sets and repetitions. Those of you who are looking to see muscle growth in size through hypertrophy training should aim to lift less weight for more reps. Always be sure to mix cardio into your strength and muscle growth workouts to gain aerobic benefits. Some great examples of exercises to get your blood flowing include:
- Barbell bench press
- Dumbbell chest fly
- Barbell shoulder raise
- Dumbbell lateral raise
- Tricep cable pushdown
- Tricep push up
- Dumbbell bicep curl
- Hammer curls
- Row machine
- Practice healthy nutrition
Practice healthy nutrition
As mentioned previously, the ENS and CNS communicate with each other effectively. Putting healthy foods that have less artificial sugar and more nutrients can increase the communication between these two systems in your body. We always recommend talking to your healthcare provider to create an effective and healthy diet should you choose to go on one.
For all around healthier eating, it is recommended for men to have around 2,500 calories per day to maintain weight and for women to have 2,000 calories. Starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice and more should make up around 1/3rd of your diet. Add larger amounts of fruits and vegetables, aiming for near five portions per day.
If you don’t already eat fish, try to add them into your diet to increase the presence of Omega-3 fats (which can help prevent heart disease), as well as other crucial minerals and vitamins. Also aim to eat less salt and cut down on saturated fats and artificial sugars.
As for bolstering your mental health, adding daily meditation to your schedule can be an excellent choice. Studies have shown that even eight-weeks of meditation can help to reduce the effects of generalized anxiety disorder, reducing symptoms such as stress. Meditation can also improve self-esteem and the overall management of one’s emotions, thus improving emotional health as well.
Additionally, attention to detail and focus can be improved using meditation, expanding your attention span. Certain types of meditation, such as yoga, combine both physical and mental activity which can help overall health.
Foster social activity
The importance of building a social circle cannot be overstated. Strong social connections can bolster both our immune system and lengthen your lifespan. Loneliness is a key symptom of depression that leads many to seek mental health counseling. Filling your life with friends and family you can rely on is an excellent strategy for improving your overall health.
For those of you who struggle with making friends naturally, consider signing up for an exercise class or activity that takes place with other people. This will allow you to develop connections with strangers who have similar interests to yours. It’s worth noting that social activity can backfire and leave you feeling fatigued if you push yourself beyond what you enjoy. Understand the amount of social connectivity you need to feel content and aim to seek that amount.
Get plenty of sleep
Finally, sleep is an integral part of your overall health, helping to regulate not only your bodily functions but your mental functions as well. Sleep deficiency has actually been proven to be linked to health complications such as:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
Adults should aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, while younger adults and children should aim to get over 9. Practice healthy habits such as removing phones, computers, or televisions from your room starting an hour or two before bed.
As you can see, mental health and physical health have standalone characteristics, yet they influence each other every day. Increasing your overall health and wellness requires bolstering your health in both categories. Always be sure to seek the help of a licensed professional or your personal care doctor in the event of serious physical or mental health complications.
How TTP Fitness can help you hit your goals
Reaching your fitness goals can seem daunting when you don’t know where to start, but that’s why TTP Fitness is here to help. We can help by creating a custom workout regimen built just for you, as well as provide impactful nutrition tips that can help you better regulate your body. Training your body to perform at peak condition requires discipline and structure, which are two factors we here at TTP Fitness can provide. Elevate your mental and physical health by contacting us today to see how we can help.