Health - The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

New studies once again prove 'no health without mental health'

by Elizabeth Griffiths

Whatever way you look at it, the link between physical and mental health is incontrovertible.  Either one will have effects on the other.  Poor physical health can lead to poor mental health and the other way round, just as good physical health can improve our state of mind, a strong and healthy mind can greatly improve our ability to cope with physical ailments. 

The mind and body are all part of what makes us who and what we are and cannot be separated in terms of health. 

What the scientists say

Researchers at Bangor University in Wales found performance of a mentally fatiguing task prior to a difficult exercise test caused participants to reach exhaustion more quickly than when they did the same exercise when mentally rested.

So “resting up” and finding a peaceful mindfulness before a big day of physical activity is likely going to help you feel better and last longer during the day. 

Another study found that elderly adults who are more physically fit tend to have bigger hippocampi and better spatial memory than those who are less fit. 

Ill-health and mental illness

We are all aware that if we suffer from a long term illness or long term pain when it drags us down and alters our mood and perception.  Very often depression and/or anxiety can suddenly manifest itself after a prolonged bout of illness or pain.

Uncontrolled anger can lead to heart problems.  People who have a problem coping with their anger or aggression have been found to be ten times more likely to be at risk of future heart arrhythmias than those without such anger problems.

Sleep and mental health

‘New Scientist’ asks whether bad sleeping habits aren’t simply a symptom of psychiatric and mental health concerns, but may be the actual cause of some of them in some people.  It is a valid question, given how much research has been conducted showing strong links between enough healthy sleep and our mental well being. 

So we ask the question does poor mental health cause bad sleeping patterns or do bad sleeping patterns cause poor mental health?  Whichever way round it is, it becomes clear that sleep is essential to good mental health and that we can only benefit from a regular sleep pattern ensuring that we get enough sleep. 

Balance and imbalance!

It is interesting to find that a sense of balance can have so much to do with anxiety.  Researchers found that a simple course of treatment for balance problems in a group of children also relieved their anxiety issues.  While not every child with anxiety has a balance problem this research shows that sometimes a physical problem can mimic mental ill health.  Thus by relieving the physical balance issue the mental health of the sufferer was also relieved.

Exercise

Much research has also been done into relieving poor mental health by improving our physical fitness through exercise.  You don’t need to become a world-class athlete but gentle exercise is a must for people suffering from poor mental health.  Something as simple as a gentle stroll every day can make a world of difference. 

We cannot doubt that a physically fit body can lead to a mentally fit mind and that a mentally fit mind can lead a physically fit and well body.

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