6 Ways Your Physical Health Can Impact Your Mental Health

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Most of us know how to care for our physical health. We go to the doctor, we eat three meals per day, and we sleep. Yet, at the same time, a lot of us don’t always care for our physical health completely, and this can have serious affects on our bodies and our minds. You must keep both your body and mind functioning well if you want to live your best possible life. Therefore, you need to know how your physical health can impact your mental health and vice versa.

1. Sleep

Our bodies need sleep to maintain optimal physical health. Sleep affects our appetite, immune system, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and digestive tract. Since sleep impacts many parts of our body, inadequate sleep can affect our overall health.

Physical Mental Health Woman Sleeping
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However, sleep issues can also impact our mental health. Poor sleep quality can increase one’s risk for mental health issues like anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, depression, and mania. For this reason, it’s crucial to establish good sleep habits and understand sleep hygiene. Without it, you cannot function.

2. (Lack of) Exercise

Exercise is essential for heart health and overall physical health. Regular exercise prevents high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In other words, a bit of movement each day can significantly increase your lifespan.

Yet, regular exercise is good for your brain as well. When you exercise, your brain produces dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, which can boost your mood and prevent mental illness. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym lifting weights to notice these effects, either. According to experts, you need to squeeze in one hour of exercise per week to reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders.

3. Nutrition

You may already know that a poor diet can lead to health conditions like diabetes, obesity, or heart disease. However, research shows a poor diet of fried, sugary, and processed foods can increase your risk of depression by 60 percent. Studies also show caffeine intake can negatively affect a person’s mood after the temporary boost in energy wears off.

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Luckily, you can make simple changes to your diet to help improve your mental health. Experts recommend that people eat plenty of vegetables and fruits to help increase essential vitamins such as B, A, and folate. Furthermore, foods with omega-3, like salmon, support brain function and improve mood. For snacks, replace chips and crackers with nuts and seeds to improve your physical and mental health.

4. Sunlight

Sunlight provides our bodies with vitamin D, which helps your body maintain strong bones and reduces inflammation. Sunlight also help our bodies balance seritonin and melatonin production, which makes it easier to sleep properly. Yet, most people don’t realize how much a lack of sunlight affects their mental health.

When you don’t get enough sunlight exposure, your serotonin levels can decrease. Serotonin affects your mood just as much as it affects aspects of your physical health. Without proper serotonin levels, you may have a hard time focusing and remaining calm. You may also feel depressed or anxious.

If possible, try to head outside for at least 15 minutes each day for sunlight exposure. During the winter months, you can use light therapy if going outside isn’t possible.

5. Screen Time

Most of us spend more time than ever in front of screens. Unfortunately, studies say extended periods of screen time can lead to many of the same health issues we’ve already mentioned like obesity, high blood pressure, sleep problems. Screen time can also cause neck and back pain, which can become a lifelong issue.

Physical Mental Health Screen Time
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Excessive screen time can also affect one’s mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, or ADHD-like behaviors. If untreated, this can eventually lead to inattentiveness and antisocial behavior. Over time, all of this can snowball and cause to an increase of symptoms.

Therefore, most experts recommend you spend at least three hours per day away from screens. You can use this time to enjoy other hobbies, spend time outside, or read books. It’s also a perfect opportunity to socialize and spend time with others, which can help boost your mood, too.

6. Alcohol and Drug Consumption

Many people indulge in alcohol, cigarettes, or other substance to “take the edge off.” However, consuming these things can take its toll on your body and mind over time. Smoking and drinking can impact your heart health, liver function, and other aspects of your physical health. What’s more, the temporary relief these substances provide to your mental health actually cause your mood to drop over time, making your dependency on them that much more significant.

Physical Mental Health Drinking
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It’s best to limit your consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, or any other substances. Instead, you can replace the use of these things with exercise or other stress-relieving measures like meditation or relaxation.

Take Control of Your Physical and Mental Health

As you can see, your day-to-day physical activities can affect your mental health in several ways. Of course, understanding the connection between your physical and mental health is just a starting point. You may also need to make profound lifestyle changes to maintain optimum mental and physical health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can mental health affect my ability to sleep?

Adequate sleep is necessary for both physical and mental wellbeing. However, conditions like anxiety or chronic stress can make sleep difficult. This is why it’s important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule and develop a nighttime routine that promotes sleep.

Do chronic health conditions impact mental health?

Studies show that people who live with chronic health conditions are at an increased risk for mental health conditions like depression. This is why it’s important to be aware of other triggers so you can manage your risk as much as possible.

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Megan Glosson

Megan Glosson is a passionate writer based in Nashville, TN. She enjoys writing about topics related to health, wellness, and everyday life, especially when the topic has a personal connection to her own life. Megan is currently published on over a dozen websites, including YourTango, Feel & Thrive, Moms.com, and The Mighty. Megan also serves as a content editor for Unwritten, a digital publication focused on millennial lifestyles.