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  • The (Very Real) Link Between Mental and Physical Health

    Have you ever wondered why mental distress or a feeling of anguish can make you feel so sick? Or why your energy levels plummet when you’re feeling sad or depressed about something?

    In recent years, the conversation around health has evolved beyond the traditional definition of purely physical well-being. We now recognize that mental health plays a crucial role in our overall wellness. But what exactly is the connection between the two? How does our mental state affect our physical body, and vice versa?

    And most importantly, how can we use that knowledge to become healthier, happier versions of ourselves?

    Understanding the Mind-Body Connection

    The mind and body are not separate entities – they’re deeply interconnected. In fact, we still don’t fully understand exactly how profound that connection really is. You’ve probably heard of (or seen) some common examples of this:

    • A hypnotist who has someone put their hand into a bucket of ice water and feel no discomfort.
    • People who’ve entered into states of meditation or prayer where they cease to feel pain.
    • People who feel real, tangible pain in a missing limb that was amputated years ago.
    • Elite athletes who use the power of visualization to increase their ability and performance – without doing any additional physical training.

    There are hundreds of examples like this – and they all point toward the fact that the mind-body connection is extremely powerful.

    How Mental Health Affects Physical Health

    Mental health issues can manifest physically in various ways. Here are some well-known examples:

    • Chronic Stress: Prolonged stress can lead to a host of physical problems, including headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
    • Anxiety and Depression: These conditions can cause symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, and digestive issues. Also, people with anxiety or depression are more likely to neglect their physical health, leading to poor diet, lack of exercise, and even potential substance abuse.
    • Psychosomatic Disorders: These are physical diseases that are thought to be caused or worsened by mental factors. For instance, stress can exacerbate conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

    Conversely, your physical health also plays a significant role in how you’re doing mentally.

    How Physical Health Affects Mental Health

    Physical health challenges can also have a profound (and completely understandable) impact on mental well-being:

    • Chronic Illness: Living with a chronic illness like arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease can lead to feelings of frustration, sadness, and helplessness, potentially resulting in depression or anxiety.
    • Injury and Disability: Physical injuries, especially those leading to long-term disability, can cause significant mental distress. The sudden change in lifestyle and dependence on others can lead to anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    • Poor Lifestyle Choices: Lack of physical activity, poor diet, and insufficient sleep can negatively affect your mood and cognitive functions, leading to mental health issues over time. It’s worth remembering that nobody deliberately sets out to sabotage themselves – very often, these issues are compounded by social stress, financial difficulty, or mental overwhelm in a fast-paced world.

    So, how does the mind-body connection actually work?

    The Science Behind the Connection

    There’s abundant scientific evidence that points toward some of the mechanisms underlying the mind-body connection. Here are a few key concepts:

    The Role of the Nervous System

    The nervous system is probably the most important factor in our understanding of the mind-body connection. We all know that the brain communicates with the body through the nervous system – and any disruption in this communication can affect both mental and physical health. For instance, stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which can have dramatic physical consequences within the body.

    The Gut-Brain Axis

    The gut-brain axis is another significant area of research. The gut and brain are connected through millions of nerves and biochemical signaling pathways. Amazingly, an imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. And as odd as that might seem, it immediately highlights the importance of diet in maintaining both mental and physical health.


    Chronic inflammation is a common factor in both mental and physical health issues. Conditions like depression and anxiety are often associated with increased levels of inflammation in the body. Similarly, many physical diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, are also linked to chronic inflammation.

    Why is this important? Simply because it points toward the fact that we can take control of certain physical factors that impact our mental health. And, of course, skilled therapy can dramatically reduce anxiety, restore balance, and aid with making the best choices for your life and circumstances.


    Practical Steps to Improve Both Mental and Physical Health

    Here at My Therapy ConnectionTM, we believe in taking a holistic approach to overall well-being. Here are some practical steps you can take right now to enhance both aspects of your health:

    • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet: Ensure your diet includes a mix of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Try to minimize heavily processed foods, and cut back on sugar. (We know – it’s not always easy!) Also, stay hydrated – remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
    • Exercise Regularly: The key to sustainable exercise is to find activities you enjoy. Whether you’re walking, jogging, swimming, or dancing – or rock climbing or doing CrossFit! – make sure that it’s rewarding and fun. Studies have shown that strength training is also really important as a stimulant to great mental health.
    • Consistency is Key. Try to do something every day, even if it’s only a token workout or a short walk. The goal is to make physical activity a healthy, enjoyable habit.
    • Prioritize Sleep: Do your best to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Also, create a relaxing sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet. Oh – and limit screen time so you have a screen-free hour before bedtime if possible.
    • Manage Stress: Find a practice that calms you. It might be prayer, a mindfulness meditation, listening to serene music while resting, or a gentle physical practice like Tai Chi or Yoga. Breathing deeply and relaxing the mind is the goal here – and reducing mental clutter or worry.
    • Stay Connected: It’s incredibly beneficial to maintain social connections. Whether it’s with family or close friends, spend time with people who enrich your spirit, bring joy, and who you can talk to about things that are meaningful to you.
    • Seek Professional Help: If stress becomes overwhelming, then don’t try to tough it out. Contact us, reach out, and talk to a qualified, empathetic mental health professional who can help and support you.

    Enjoy Great Mental and Physical Health

    Very often, small changes can bring about amazing results. At My Therapy ConnectionTM, we love to see the people we serve living life to the full, experiencing robust mental and physical health, and enjoying their best life.

    The good news? You can, too.

    Start today – and if you need guidance, we’re here for you.