How Physical Health can affect Mental Health

By Paul Flanagan, FBG Group

The mind and body are interconnected in good and poor health. Health professionals agree that there is a bi-directional relationship between poor physical health and mental illness. Many studies have shown that those with long-term physical health conditions experience considerably higher rates of depression and anxiety, with mental illness linked to a 67% increased risk of death from coronary heart disease and a 50% increased risk of death from cancer.

There is also a well established link between exercise and both physical and mental health. Exercising or simply being physically active, helps to release endorphins and other naturally occurring chemicals in the body that increase positive moods and promote energy which can reduce the risk of mental health illness. Some studies have even showed that physical exercise can enlarge an area of the brain known as the hippocampus which is responsible for cognitive functions. Attention, memory and perception are just a few of these functions that when stimulated, increase our own mental capacity.

Other Studies have shown a strong connection between a good diet and our physical and mental health. Our bodies require a healthy balanced diet of proteins, essential fats and carbohydrates as well as vitamins, minerals and water to run effectively. At the very least eating three balanced and healthy meals a day can promote physical and mental wellbeing.

Many people who suffer from physical and mental health issues also tend to withdraw from social situations due to the nature of their problematic conditions. If we are suffering from mental illness or a physical illness we may feel less confident or less able to socialise like we once did.  Psychologists have long known that social connectedness is a crucial factor in human interactions. Not feeling physically or mentally able to socially interact can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

The link between physical and mental health is well established and commonly accepted amongst health professionals–maintaining a routine of good quality sleep, a balanced diet, regular exercise and social connectedness can go a long way to promoting good physical health and maintaining a good mental state.

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