The scientific community believes that physical activity influences your mental health, which may lower your risk of several illnesses.
The main driver of this process is the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline.
In the past, the body and mind were considered to be two separate entities that don’t interact with one another. However, this concept turned out to be completely false, as scientists keep diving in the mysterious world of neuroscience, only to discover more connections between mental and physical health
I know what you’re thinking, “what do these shenanigans have to do with anything?”
Well, when we understand how one system affects the other, we could optimize our health comprehensively!
Instead of looking at the impact of physical health on mental well-being, how about we look at this issue from the opposite perspective?
You see, the effects of mental health on physical well-being are rarely discussed. Therefore, in this article, we will dissect the relationship between mental and physical health and how the former could influence the latter.
How mental health affects physical well-being
The impact of mental health on physical activity varies greatly from one patient to another, and it’s also dependent on the mental health issue.
Perhaps the most common sign that demonstrates the effects of mental health on your body is the decrease in life expectancy.
This is especially true with psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. In fact, according to the Mental Health Foundation, patients diagnosed with schizophrenia have three times the risk of dying from respiratory disease, and double times the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, major depressive disorder (MDD) is linked to a significant increase in the risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.
It is not all doom and gloom, though! Good mental health also positively impacts physical health.
How chronic stress interferes with physical health
Psychological stress is triggered by multiple factors that are mostly benign. For example, the stress you feel before an exam is beneficial to keep you going and study more.
While our brains are fascinating in every aspect, they still have their limits. One of those limits is the inability to differentiate psychological stress from physical stress.
In other words, if you feel stressed because you have a job interview tomorrow, your body’s physical reaction is similar to what you would expect to see when you are being chased by a bear; your brain simply goes haywire.
The sympathetic nervous system is activated, which is often referred to as the “fight or flight” system. As a result, your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate will all increase. Unfortunately, if this reaction is chronic, your body will endure some serious damage that may lead to multiple debilitating diseases.
Over time, this reaction could cause heart disease, blood hypertension, and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease).
To reduce the effect of stress on your health, engage in activities that you find amusing, such as meditation, yoga, music, participating in social groups, or just do whatever makes you feel less stressed.
I would like to end this section with one of my favorite quotes from a Tom Hanks‘s movie, Bridge of Spies, where he asks Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) over and over again during difficult situations, “Do you never worry?”, and Mark Rylance would then answer “WOULD IT HELP?”
Effects of positive emotions on physical health
Harvard School of Public Health conducted a major meta-analysis to study more than 200 articles in order to determine the relationship between optimism and physical health.
Researchers found that optimism may decrease the risk and progress of cardiovascular diseases, stating that “optimism can be considered a psychosocial resource that may protect health over the life course. This is based in part on a growing body of research indicating that optimistic individuals have reduced risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality compared with less optimistic individuals”
These findings support the theory that the influence of mental health on organicity is not restricted to negative emotions, but is also affected by positive ones.
The stigma of being diagnosed with a mental disease is still widely spread all over the world.
Some people don’t even believe in mental issues and consider them a sign of weakness and vulnerability; however, everyone could develop a mental disorder at any time. Researchers keep finding new evidence that suggests mental health is not entirely controlled by environmental factors, and that genetics play a major role in this process.
For this reason, we should be more considerate when it comes to mental diseases, which can trigger several organic maladies, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and even some types of cancer.
Hopefully, you found this article informative and helpful, but if you still have any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section below.