By: Dr Glenn Low of DTAP Clinics
This piece is produced in collaboration with Talk Your Heart Out (TYHO), an end-to-end platform offering therapy in Singapore.
William Shakespeare once wrote, our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are our gardeners. This timeless quote, along with others like it, underscores the enduring human perception of the mind and body as two distinct yet inseparable facets of our being. In this article, we delve into the intricate relationship between physical health and mental wellbeing.
Physical Health’s Impact on Mental Wellbeing
Let’s start by examining how physical health profoundly influences mental wellbeing. It’s a simple concept: when we’re in good health, our stress levels decrease, and our anxiety diminishes. Conversely, poor health can cast a shadow over our lives, leading to worry and fear about aging, illness, and diminished mobility.
There are two essential aspects to consider when exploring how physical health affects mental wellbeing. Firstly, individuals already grappling with health issues must receive proper care and management. As our society ages, the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension continues to rise. Neglecting these conditions can lead to complications that further exacerbate life’s challenges. For instance, untreated diabetes can result in numbness in the feet and slow-healing wounds, causing significant stress, especially when these problems persist. Therefore, anyone diagnosed with such health conditions must maintain regular contact with a healthcare professional for effective treatment.
Secondly, even those in peak physical condition eventually face the uncertainties of aging. Uncertainty is a potent source of anxiety, especially concerning one’s health. A proactive approach to mitigating this anxiety involves regular health screenings, as recommended by your healthcare provider, to detect and address medical issues early on.
The Reciprocal Relationship: Mental Wellbeing’s Impact on Physical Health
Conversely, mental wellbeing can profoundly affect physical health. Firstly, a positive mental state is a prerequisite for effective self-care. When burdened by constant stress and worries, it becomes increasingly challenging to plan for and make sound decisions regarding one’s health.
Secondly, scientific studies have consistently demonstrated that chronic stress takes a toll on the body’s physiology. The fight-or-flight response, activated during periods of heightened stress, leads to an increase in stress hormones like cortisol. While this response is useful for immediate survival, sustained high levels of cortisol are associated with elevated blood pressure, glucose levels, and weight gain, which can have long-term health repercussions. Stress is also known to trigger inflammation in the body, exacerbating chronic diseases and posing a significant risk for heart attacks and strokes in the future.
Nurturing Mental Wellbeing
So, how can one foster mental wellbeing? The first step is adopting an active lifestyle with regular exercise. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, those feel good hormones associated with happiness and overall wellbeing. These endorphins counteract the negative impact of stress hormones on our bodies. Moreover, prioritizing adequate sleep—ideally, 6-7 hours per night—plays a pivotal role in maintaining mental clarity and reducing stress. During sleep, the brain efficiently consolidates and eliminates metabolic toxins accumulated during the day. Neglecting sleep allows these toxins to build up, leading to symptoms like brain fog, confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of mental clarity—all of which contribute to heightened stress levels.
In conclusion, the profound interplay between physical health and mental wellbeing underscores the importance of nurturing both aspects of our lives. By acknowledging this connection and taking proactive steps to maintain balance, we can ensure a happier and healthier future for ourselves.