The Link Between Physical and Mental Health
Not many people associate the two, but mental and physical health both affect and complement each other throughout a person’s life. Having a physical ailment can bring on mental health issues, and it can work the other way as well. If you have a mental health issue, you could neglect your physical health without noticing and potentially miss out on diagnosing an illness early, leading to complications later in life. However, exercise can really help to keep your eyes open to changes in your physical health. It can also help to improve your overall mental and physical health. Exercise encourages the production of natural chemicals that can boost your happiness, so you can avoid taking pills and rely on your body’s processes to help alleviate your depression or anxiety symptoms.
If you want your therapy to be more effective, and potentially see a longer-lasting change in your mental health, then you should look at taking up exercise. Read on to understand the specific benefits of exercising while you’re in therapy.
Scientific Links Between Mental and Physical Health
There are a variety of different scientific studies and links between mental and physical health. Depression has been linked to a 67% increased risk of death from heart disease and a 50% increased risk of death from cancer. It can be confusing to understand how sometimes your mental health can be linked to the physical, but this is because people with mental health conditions are less likely to notice the subtle changes in their body and receive the physical health care they’re entitled to.
People can access mental health services through the NHS or private care. Though this may seem beneficial for their psychological health, they are statistically less likely to receive routine checks like blood pressure and weight checks, which may detect symptoms for physical conditions earlier. Because the services are focusing on the emotional and psychological health of clients, they often forget the importance of their physical health, meaning clients aren’t offered help and advice for physical ailments. If you feel like this is something you are facing, then you need contact a doctor to talk about your health concerns. Therapists and other mental health establishments can’t help with the physical ailments, but they can advise on how to be healthier overall.
Furthermore, around 30% of all people with long-term physical health conditions have been noted as having mental health problems as well. This is most commonly depression or anxiety and can be linked to their condition perhaps due to embarrassment, fear or upset of their physical ailment. This is where therapy can be beneficial as in my sessions I take care to listen to the client’s concerns over physical health and how it is affecting their mental health. With this information I can then advise different ways that they can improve their health, positively impacting their happiness.
What Are the Benefits of Staying Fit in Therapy?
There are many benefits to staying fit while you are in therapy, positively altering your mental and physical health. Staying fit doesn’t just include exercise, but also eating healthily. Don’t restrict yourself with dieting as this can lead to more physical and mental health issues like anorexia or low blood sugars but be mindfully aware of the food that you are putting into your body. The saying “you are what you eat” is accurate and if you live on coffee and carry-out, you aren’t giving yourself the fuel you need.
Read on further to understand all of the benefits, and why you should make this lifestyle change when taking therapy.
One of the most common mental health benefits of exercise is stress relief. Exercise increases the chemical norepinephrine in the body which moderates the brain’s response to stress. This makes it the perfect activity to do if you are struggling with anxiety or feel mentally drained after a long day. As well as boosting your physical health, exercise can improve your ability to deal with existing or new mental tension, helping you to tackle issues effectively.
Boost Happy Chemicals
You might not like the thought of hopping on the treadmill or picking up some weights, but it can be so beneficial for your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins into your body, which makes you feel happier, both immediately after your workout and for the rest of the day. Regular exercise can alter your mindset for longer, working alongside your therapy to make it more effective.
Moreover, studies have shown that exercise can alleviate symptoms of the most severe cases of depression, meaning you should make time for a trip to the gym. Also, for some people, exercise can be as effective at treating depression as antidepressant pills. This makes it the perfect alternative for those who oppose taking pills because of their side-effects.
Prevent Cognitive Decline
As we get older, our brains usually don’t stay as sharp as they were in our younger years. It’s not pleasant to think about, but it is a situation we have to be ready for. Our brain can shrink due to ageing, and diseases like Alzheimer’s can kill the brain cells, leading to a loss of many important brain functions. Exercise and healthy eating aren’t a guaranteed cure for diseases, but they can help protect the brain against normal cognitive decline.
Studies have shown that working out (especially between the ages 25 and 45) can boost the chemicals in the brain that help prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, which is an essential part of the brain for memory and learning.
You might find yourself in therapy because you suffer from anxiety. And while therapy can help you understand the root of your mental health condition and identify tricks to help you to overcome the symptoms, exercise can release natural chemicals that calm you down. Taking a 20-minute jog or an aerobics class can reduce your anxiety sensitivity. So, not only are you burning calories, but you are also making your day go easier, by reducing your anxiety symptoms.
Help Control Addiction
Your brain releases dopamine, also known as the ‘reward chemical’, in response to forms of pleasure such as exercise, sex, drugs and alcohol. Though, this can lead to some people becoming addicted, relying on substances like drugs, sex or alcohol to get a regular fix. So, if you find yourself treating addiction in therapy, you can enhance your recovery with exercise. Short exercise sessions can distract you from your bad habits, making you de-prioritise your cravings, and also encourage dopamine production.
Moreover, alcohol abuse can disrupt different body processes such as circadian rhythms. This can lead to difficulties sleeping unless you have an alcoholic drink. But, exercise can help reboot the body clock, allowing for a more natural sleeping pattern.
Have you ever worked out and then gone to bed that night relaxed and ready for a deep sleep? This is because moving around between five to six hours before bedtime raises your body’s core temperature. And when your body temperature drops back down, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep. This makes falling asleep easier and can result in a much longer and deeper sleep than usual. So, working out can be perfect for people with insomnia or anxiety that leaves them lying awake at night. By removing one problem associated with your anxiety, it can give you the confidence to work harder in therapy at overcoming your remaining symptoms.
If you think that your physical health is hurting your happiness, therapy may be able to help you. Therapy enables you to understand why and what you are feeling and provides the help you need to overcome many issues. Contact me today for more information on the different types of therapy I offer.