WE THINK of mental and physical health oftentimes as distinct and unrelated and treat them as such. But poor physical health can lead to increased risk of mental health problems; similarly, mental health issues contribute to poor physical health. How does mental health affect physical health?
In a study from the United Kingdom, people with high levels of self-rated distress were 32 percent more likely to have died of cancer. Those with mental health issues are also not as likely to be offered help to give up smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and make positive adjustments to their diet.
What lifestyle factors affect our mental health?
Physical activity. Research shows that even a short burst of 10 minutes of brisk walking increases alertness, energy and positive mood. There is also an uptake of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain.
Diet. A diet loaded with processed food may taste good now but these affect your gut health after. Current research also shows the impact of a healthy gut for mental health, and this is why we should include probiotics (fermented foods—like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, etc.) in our diet.
Smoking. Many people who suffer from mental health problems believe that smoking improves their symptoms. These effects are only short-term. The chemicals in cigarettes interfere with the chemicals in our brains; nicotine temporarily increases our “feel-good chemicals” but also dulls the natural mechanism for the production of such.
With recent research, there is now a clearer link between mental and physical health. During this time of Covid-19, be sure to take care of both.