There’s an absolute link between your emotional health and your physical well-being, so take time to nurture both.
To be completely healthy, you must take care of not only your physical health, but your emotional health, too. If one is neglected, the other will suffer.
Understanding the Physical Health and Emotional Health Connection
There is a physical connection between what the mind is thinking and those parts of the brain that control bodily functions. According to Charles Goodstein, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine in New York City, and president of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York, the brain is intimately connected to our endocrine system, which secretes hormones or chemicals that can have a powerful influence on your emotional health. “Thoughts and feelings as they are generated within the mind [can influence] the outpouring of hormones from the endocrine system, which in effect control much of what goes on within the body,” says Dr. Goodstein.
“As a matter of fact, it’s very probable that many patients who go to their physician’s office with physical complaints have underlying depression,” he says. People who visit their doctors reporting symptoms of headache, lethargy, weakness, or vague abdominal symptoms often end up being diagnosed with depression, even though they do not report feelings of depression to their doctors, says Goodstein. Depression causes you to be over-aware of physical discomfort.
While unhappy or stressed-out thoughts may not directly cause poor physical health, they could be a contributing factor and may explain why one person is suffering physically while someone else is not, Goodstein adds.
Physical Health and Emotional Health: Examples of Links
There are many circumstances that support the link between physical health and emotional health, including:
- White-coat syndrome. This is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure increases the minute they step into a doctor’s office. In white-coat syndrome, anxiety is directly related to physical function — blood pressure. “If you extrapolate from that, you can say, what other kinds of anxieties are these people having that are producing jumps in blood pressure? What is the consequence of repeated stress?” asks Goodstein.
- Personality and heart disease. Some people are more at risk of heart attack because of their personality, specifically those “hard-driving, hard-charging” Type A individuals.
- Chronic disease and depression. People who are having a hard time coping with a chronic illness are more likely to become depressed.
- Physical symptoms of emotional health distress. People who are clinically depressed often have physical symptoms, such as constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy, among others.
And on the other hand: “Those individuals who have achieved a level of mental health where they can manage better the inevitable conflicts of human life are more likely to prevail in certain kinds of physical illness,” says Goodstein.
Physical Health and Emotional Health: Caring for Both
The best way to care for your total health, emotional and physical, is to follow the advice of your mother:
- Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
- Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
- If you fall down, get back up.Resilience in the face of adversity is a gift that will keep on giving both mentally and physically.
- Go out and play. Yes, work is a good thing: It pays the bills. However, taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health andyour physical health.
- Exercise. Exercise is proven to improve your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.
- See the right doctor, regularly. Going to the right doctor can make all the difference in your overall health, especially if you have a complicated condition that requires a specialist. But if your emotions are suffering, be open to seeing a mental health professional, too.