Physical and Mental Health: The Connection

Girl walking in house with dog beside her

Physical and Mental Health: The Connection

Have you ever been in a situation where you were so worried about something, that suddenly you noticed you aren’t as hungry as you used to be? Did this lack of eating then start to turn into stomachaches, headaches and muscle pain? A lot of times people don’t even realize how much they’ve been worrying until they start experiencing physical symptoms such as these, with some not even recognizing that these ailments are a result of what’s going on in their minds.

The mind-body connection is so complex and yet so simple. The way we think and feel about ourselves and the world around us can both have a direct impact on our physical body and on our minds. If we are to fully care for ourselves, we cannot focus on one or the other: mind or body. We need to care for both.

Maintaining good physical health can have a significant impact on mental health. Regular physical exercise is known to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce stress and increase overall mood. Physical exercise increases the release of endorphins in the brain, which helps to relieve tension in the body and increase mood.

Similarly, maintaining good mental health can also have a positive impact on our physical health. When we feel good about ourselves, we are more inclined to eat well and nourish our bodies with the nutrition it needs to stay healthy. Also, feeling good about ourselves can increase our desire to be more active and engage more in our relationships with friends or family, in turn keeping our hearts healthy and maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Nourishing our body with healthy foods also contributes to positive mental health. Research suggests that eating healthily and filling our bodies with the nutrition it needs can have a positive impact on mental wellness, reducing the impact of these emotions and helping to manage overall symptoms of mental illness.

During difficult times, there are lots of things that people can do to stay physically fit and maintain good mental health. Here are some ideas:

A girl participating in a computer yoga class

Exercise and Take Good Care of Your Body

  • Turn soup or veggie cans in your pantry into weights—Walk up and down the stairs in your home (if you have some) or back and forth down a hallway while lifting your weights. Challenge yourself each day to see if you can carry heavier cans or take a few more steps than the day before.
  • Follow free workout videos online—Sites like Popsugar Fitness or even searching on YouTube can bring up lots of free options. Virtual yoga classes are also a great option. The Down Dog app has some great free ones.
  • Connect with friends and family on social media or through videoconferencing and challenge each other to fun workouts—This is a great way to stay motivated, connected and take care of your body during times of stress.
  • Go for walks around your neighbourhood (making sure to practice physical distancing)—Combine this with mind-care or practice mindfulness while you walk.
  • Eat well—Maintaining healthy eating habits during stressful times is essential to nourishing your body, keeping it at optimal health.

Man sitting by water contemplating

Exercise and Take Care of Your Mind

  • Practice mindfulness—Mindfulness is a practice in which we let go of thoughts about the past and future, focusing our attention on the present moment. During mindfulness, we acknowledge the thoughts floating around in our minds, including our fears about the uncertainty of the world and our own health, bringing our attention back to the present moment.
  • Try focusing on your senses—What do you see around you? What do you feel? Smell? Hear? Focus on this minute right now and what you are thankful for.
  • Get plenty of quality sleep—Maintain regular routines, such as specific bedtime routines, to allow the body and mind to rest and repair itself, preparing for the things that the next day might bring us.

During difficult times like this, motivating yourself to do anything or eat right can be more difficult than usual. But by focusing on even a couple things on this list, you’ll be on your way to feeling better both physically and mentally.