If you have ever suffered an injury that has put your ability to exercise on hold, then you will know just how closely related physical and mental health really are. When you’re used to an active lifestyle or your life revolves around a particular activity or hobby and it's suddenly stolen away from you, unexpectedly, then the impact on your mental health can be pretty severe and surprisingly swift. We often underappreciated just how mood boosting physical activity can be. Many of us do it because we love it, rather than out of a sense of serious obligation so when something you love is ripped from you it can be quite confronting to face the void that is left in its absence. The thinking that the mind and body are distinctly separate isn’t really that helpful. Anecdotally this might be evident in your own life or others around you but research also supports this. Nearly one in three people with a long-term physical health condition also suffers from a mental health problem, the most common of these being anxiety and or depression. Now, it can be a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario. A lack of physical activity can result in major impacts upon your mental health but the same is true in that mental illness can significantly contribute to poorer physical health. Research shows that those living with particularly severe and often long-term mental illness, such as schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, are far more likely to develop comorbid physical illnesses and have a tendency to die earlier than others in the general population. This really highlights that any approach to treating mental illness needs to include a focus on physical health. The two can’t be treated as mutually exclusive entities. There are several reasons why poor mental and physical health often go hand-in-hand but some of these include:
- Higher exposure to the lifestyle characteristics which foster physical disease, including lower socio-economic status, which usually leads to higher rates of smoking, poor nutrition and a less physically active routine.
- Access to quality health care may be limited, either financially and geographically.
- Systemic issues in health care that result in physical and mental health being treated separately and one or the other not being monitored effectively as a result of this.
- Pharmaceutical treatments, particularly for mental illness, can have adverse effects on physical health, contributing to lower levels of motivation, increased fatigue and in some cases even directly contributing to obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
It can be a vicious cycle as all of these things can lead to increased time away from the workforce, with this greater level of isolation and financial stress further watering the seeds of mental illness.
None of these issues are easily fixed but a good physical regime will go a long way to laying the foundations for good mental health. Knowing this, there are lots of things that can be done to simultaneously support physical and mental wellbeing.
Some of these include:
When we exercise, or even just engage in something that is physically strenuous, our brain releases chemicals known as endorphins, otherwise known as the feel-good chemicals. Regular physical activity has a huge impact on our mood. A study asked people to rate their mood directly after physical activity and periods of physical inactivity. For instance, after going for a walk versus after sitting reading a book. Research showed that participants felt more content, awake and calmer after engaging in physical activity. This obviously has huge ramifications for mental health. Exercise can boost a person’s sense of self-worth, lower their stress levels and reduce anxiety. All of these things together equal strong mental health. If you are someone who is struggling with mental illness and motivation, visit an online chemists Australia site and explore your options around vitamins and supplements that can help support you with the energy you need to get active.
Get Plenty of Sleep
A sure fire way to ensure that you won’t have the energy and motivation to get active is to not get enough sleep. Sleep is at the heart of all health, both mental and physical. Studies show that people with mental health disorders are far more likely to suffer from sleep disorders. To give a better idea of how big an issue this is, around 50% to 80% of people with mental health conditions report having difficulty sleeping. Compare this with only 10% to 80% of the general population reporting that they suffer from a sleep disorder and you start to see how severe this relationship can be. Again, it is a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario as mental health disorders can disrupt sleep but a lack of sleep can also exacerbate or compound existing mental health conditions. To ensure that you are well rested enough to get active and healthy, consult an online chemists Australia site as things like melatonin supplement can be a huge help in improving the quality of your sleep. Make sure that you consult your doctor though if you are taking any other medications.
Give Up the Smokes
For somebody suffering from depression, their level of the chemical dopamine, a chemical influencing positive feelings in the brain, will be suppressed. Sadly, the nicotine in cigarettes has the ability to trigger the production of dopamine so those suffering from depression may use cigarettes as a way to ease their symptoms of depression. This is obviously pretty counterproductive due to the significant health risks associated with smoking, all of which will limit a person’s ability to be active and feel good about themselves. A very short term gain for what will likely be more long term pain. Products like nicotine patches, chewing gum, lozenges, mouth sprays and inhalers, all available from online chemists Australia, can be hugely beneficial in helping to withdraw from smoking and begin pursuing a more healthy and active lifestyle.
A helpful rule when thinking about mental health is to think holistically. If you’re inactive, not pursuing physical activities that you enjoy and are trying to medicate with things that are likely to leave your overall health worse off, a great place to start targeting in order to feel better is to get moving. With that in mind, make decisions that will help to support that more active lifestyle and you’ll hopefully start to experience a more content and calm mind.