When you think of what is involved with staying healthy, you probably think of habits and lifestyle choices that keep your muscles strong and your heart working properly. When asked to name healthy habits, most people say things like ‘eat a nutritious diet:” and “get plenty of exercise.”
Very rarely does someone mention meditation, controlling stress, or taking care of their mental health when talking with their doctor about ways to improve their health.
Taking care of your mind and your emotional well- being is an essential part of safeguarding your overall wellness. Your psychological fitness is just as necessary as your physical health, and when you take care of one of these, you help to take care of the other.
Your mental health plays significant roles in your physical well-being, and researchers have documented this effect in many ways. And when you care for your body, you also are helping to care for your mind.
Below, we explore the differences between your emotional and physical health as well as how these two aspects of wellness affect each other. We provide you with simple yet effective strategies for improving your mental health in ways that impact your physical health, too.
What is Emotional Health?
Emotional health occurs when you are aware of your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and it also includes your ability to manage and regulate these emotions and reactions. Those with emotional health have a self-awareness that allows them insight into who their feelings are affecting their outlook and choices. Emotional health means that you also understand how others are feeling and treat them with empathy whenever possible.
Emotional health is what allows you to cope well with stress, handle problems as they arise, and maintain healthy relationships in your life. While you may not have the most robust emotional health every single
day of your life, those who are emotionally healthy have a generally positive outlook and can bounce back quickly and easily when they experience unwanted, stressful, or adverse circumstances in their lives.
This state of positive psychological functioning should be considered an essential part of your overall mental health. Emotional health plays a significant role in your overall wellness. The Mental Health Foundation reminds us that emotional health is “a positive state of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life.”
What Affects Emotional Health
There are many factors that can influence your emotional well-being. Stressful situations and outcomes play a role, as do changes in your life, including
those within your control. Some of the most come
influences on emotional health include:
- Getting laid off or losing your job
- Receiving a promotion or changing jobs
- Getting married or divorced
- Becoming injured or having a serious illness
- Caring for a loved on that is injured or ill
- When a child leaves or returns home
- Having or adopting a child
- Dealing with the death of someone you love
- Moving to a new city or home
- Financial difficulties
Your emotional health can be affected by physical ailments as well as what you put in your body. Using drugs, drinking heavily, or abusing other substances influences your mind, as does the quality of the foods you eat.
Looking After Your Emotional Health
Your doctor should regularly ask you about your emotions and problems in the same way that they should be checking in on physical symptoms or issues. Share with your doctor feelings of anxiousness, stress, depression, or an inability to regulate your emotions. Being honest with yourself as well as your physician will enable you to cope with whatever you are facing in your life effectively.
If your mental state is causing physical symptoms, if you feel like you are unable or unwilling to take care of your healthcare needs, or if your emotional symptoms are interfering with your life, you should talk with your doctor or a mental health professional.
In addition to medications and psychological treatment, there are many habits, techniques, and strategies you can use to boost your emotional well-being. We share several of the most effective of these a little later in this article.
What is Physical Health?
Physical health is the optimal functioning of your body, and your wellness depends on your ability to care for your physical self properly. When you are physically well, you know what habits lead to wellness, and you regularly engage in these.
You accept responsibility for yourself and your role in your well-being, and you can identify the elements you have success with as well as where you need to improve.
Physical wellness encompasses your diet and exercise habits, your sleeping routine, your ability to identify and manage illnesses and injuries, your use of substances that can harm your health, and how well you look after your psychological well-being, too. Caring for your body is crucial to your long-term welfare and happiness, and without it, you cannot hope to live a long and healthy life.
What Affects Physical Health
Several factors influence your physical health.
- Physical activity plays a crucial role in your physical wellness. The more you move your body, the stronger your bones and muscles will be. Exercise reduces your risk of injury as well as many chronic illnesses. Being active gives you more energy.
- What you eat also heavily influences your health. Your body needs a wide range of macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to perform its regular functions, so eating a wide variety of natural foods that come primarily from plants can help give your cells everything they need.
- Getting enough sleep is crucial for your mental as well as physical health. Sleep is when your body repairs and rejuvenates tissues as well as processes new learning and stores things into long-term memory.
- In addition to being proactive with diet, exercise, and sleep, your wellness also involves taking care of health problems when you first notice them. Visiting your doctor regularly, paying attention to warning signs and symptoms, and following your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to your health are all crucial factors that will influence how healthy you are.
- Your family history and genetics play a role in your physical health as well. When you have an increased risk for a specific disease or condition because others in your family have it, it is imperative that you control other risk factors to stay healthy.
- Your environment can also affect your health. If you live in an area with high levels of pollutants in the air or water, if you are exposed to dangerous materials as a part of your job, or if you experience chronic levels of stress because of your career or relationships, you are much more likely to experience physical health problems.
- Caring for your mental well-being influences your physical self. When you are emotionally unwell, when you have mental health issues, or what your self-esteem is low, you are much more likely to die early or suffer from a chronic illness.
The Connection Between Emotional and Physical Health
Your body reacts to and is influenced by how you feel and think in the same way your emotions and mental state are affected by how you physically feel. The mind-body connection has been documented and explored consistently over the past several decades, and we now have definitive evidence that your emotional and mental state is connected in many ways to your physical health.
Your Brain’s Role in Physical Health
Your brain controls nearly all your body functions except for those that are automatic or reflexes (and even then, it still plays a role). Because of this, anything that is happening in your mind can also affect your body.
For example, your brain is connected to your endocrine system, which is a series of glands and organs that secrete various hormones, which control many of your body’s systems and processes. Your hormone levels regulate everything from digestion to reproduction, from heart rate to blood pressure.
When your hormones are being controlled by an emotionally charged or mentally unstable brain, it can create havoc and chronic problems that adversely influence your health.
Many people who visit their doctor to address physical complaints often have some underlying emotional issue that is the actual cause of their pain or discomfort. The leading cause of chronic illness is stress, which is a clear example of how your mind, which interprets and feels stress, influences the body.
When you are stressed, your body produces hormones like cortisol, which raise your blood pressure, affect your digestive system, and can cause elevated levels of inflammation in the body. The more stressed you are or the longer you feel that way, the more damage that these changes to your body are doing.
When you are emotionally unstable or unhappy, your body also suppresses the immune system response. Those with depression, anxiety, and long-term emotional turmoil are much more likely to become ill, partly because the immune system is not functioning at full capacity.
Those who are suffering from mental or emotional health problems are also much more likely to suffer from some form of chronic disease because they are also less likely to engage in healthy habits and behaviors.
When you are depressed, it may seem pointless to eat well or to exercise. Long-term emotional distress, such as with depression, often results in other physical symptoms, including constipation, pain, a loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping.
Changes in your sleeping habits due to problems in your emotional wellness play a significant role in your overall physical fitness. Sleep is necessary for hormone regulation, immune system health, effective digestion, memory, cognition, and emotional regulation. The more sleep- deprived you are, the more problems you will have with one or more of these areas, which can severely affect your wellness.
Chronic pain is another physical manifestation of an imbalance in your emotional or mental state. Pain is created when physical sensations combine with your emotions, and you create meaning, which you interpret as pain.
Whether you are suffering emotionally or experience physical sensations, these messages use the same types of neural pathways, which is why you may feel short of breath or your heart may race when you are angry.
Those with emotional trauma, mental health issues, and other psychological problems will often experience pain and feel “bad,” even when there is no physical reason for their sensations.
When you have health in all the areas of your life, you can achieve well-being, which goes beyond mere physical wellness and extends into all aspects of your life. Well-being means that you have health and fitness in your physical being, your relationships with others and yourself, your sense of purpose and safety, your connection to your community, and your environment.
Those with genuine well-being feel content and energized, they are connected, and they find balance in their lives. They have a general sense of contentment with the way things are in their lives, and they have balanced between their mind, body, and spirit.
Anything that disrupts this balance interferes with your well-being. Being stressed, tired, or dissatisfied makes you unwell, as does eating poorly, being overweight, or lacking strength and flexibility. Finding wellness in your life begins by determining what would bring you contentment and balance, then engaging in actions and habits that will make those come true.
Wellness requires that you engage in actively solving your own problems and addressing your health issues rather than just waiting for a doctor or someone else to tell you what to do. Advocating for your personal needs, being proactive to prevent problems, and empowering yourself to take charge of your health are all essential for your well-being.
Well-being comes from within you, and it is unique for every person who pursues it. Being aware of your current status, what you need, and where there are imbalances in your life is crucial for achieving this state. Learning to listen to your body as well as your mind, noticing what is happening, and identifying steps to help you achieve your goals will also be necessary.
Wellness is attained through small steps that combine to create more meaningful results. Create a positive environment for yourself that will allow you to achieve and succeed and including support from other people in your plan. Your body wants to be in a status of well-being, so always learn to listen to your real needs and take care of yourself.
How to Improve Your Health and Wellness
The path to improved health and wellness can be achieved in many ways. And for each of us, that journey begins when you set wellness as a priority. Below, we will explore the many different steps you can take to improve your overall emotional and physical health, and in nearly all these exercises or habits, you will see how improving one of these two aspects of wellness will influence the other.
Select those that will help restore the balance to your life, whatever that may be. Work to make it a regular part of your routine and to include it in your life as much as possible or as you need.
Learn to Express Your Feelings Appropriately
Keeping feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, or sadness pent up can lead to further emotional turmoil as well as physical symptoms. When you experience strong emotions, it is important that you learn how to express them appropriately, which
allows you to release them and find productive ways to move forward. If you choose not to express your emotions, you end up creating internal stress that can make you feel even worse than you do from your initial feelings.
Expressing your feelings allows you to talk about and demonstrate what is bothering you, which is the first step to finding a productive solution or way to move forward. Letting others know what is bothering you also communicates your boundaries and needs, showing others how they can help you.
When you share your problems with others, it gives you the chance to get feedback or another perspective from others, too, which can help you see your situation differently.
Some people fear that expressing their emotions means they are losing control of their emotional self, but in reality, communicating is the healthier choice. You will still feel the emotions, regardless of whether you express them or not.
Identifying what you are feeling as well as the cause of your feelings can help you figure out triggers that help you identify areas in which you need to focus as well as find paths forward that help you learn to be happy and succeed.
Seek Balance in Your Life
Wellness is about achieving a balance between all the various aspects of your life. When you focus too much on one component, you are left with no energy or ability to focus on other, equally critical areas. When you obsess over a specific problem or give all your energy to work, family, or leisure activities, you end up neglecting the other parts of your life that are necessary for real well- being.
Over time, your priorities will shift, and certain things in your life will be more critical than others, but it is still essential that you determine what balance is best for you so that you can always devote some time to all aspects of your wellness.
So, while your career may be necessary when you are younger and less critical when you are in your mid-years, it is still essential during all of these times that you devote energy to the other and to the many different aspects that comprise a full and happy life.
Become More Resilient
When you have resilience, you are able to cope with stress and maintain your health. Resilience is what allows you to overcome obstacles and recover from setbacks while also remaining dedicated to what you believe is important in life.
Resilience is a skill that can be learned or strengthened, and it is essential for emotional health as well as physical well=being.
To develop resilience, you should focus on creating and maintaining a healthy support system. Keeping an optimistic outlook and maintaining a positive view of yourself are also crucial.
Learning to accept change and keep setbacks or failures in perspective is also extremely vital. You can learn to become more resilient with practice and by engaging in specific training activities.
Engage in Mind and Body Calming Activities
Relaxation strategies can help you calm your mind as well as your body, which can improve your emotional as well as physical health. Some of the most used and effective of these mind-body techniques include meditation, using guided imagery, yoga, tai chi, and deep-breathing.
The purpose of these activities is to bring your attention to your present reality, to calm your heart rate and release tension, and relieve any stress you may be feeling.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a diet filled with healthy, natural foods that are rich in nutrients will help give your mind and body the fuel it needs while eliminating harmful additives that can influence your physical and mental well-being.
Your diet directly influences your body, and when you load it with healthy ingredients that contain the right amounts of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, it will respond by keeping you healthy and giving you the energy, you need to live your life. When you neglect your diet, your body will respond with physical and emotional symptoms.
Spending time moving your body, being outside, and pumping blood through your system will help improve your mood, enhance your brain function, and improve how your body functions.
When you exercise regularly, your body regulates the hormones that help regulate mood, and you strengthen your muscles, including your heart, which ensures you are pumping enough blood to all your tissues, including your brain.
Activity release neurotransmitters that help boost your outlook, and when you spend time exercising outdoors, you will enjoy additional mental and emotional benefits.
Seek the Right Medical Care
Your primary care provider should be interested in not only your physical but also your mental health, and you should feel comfortable talking with him or her about your emotional pain as well as any physical issues you may be having.
If you are struggling with your emotional or mental state, then enlisting the advice and support of a mental health professional could also be helpful. Seek the help you need, and always talk honestly and openly with those entrusted with your care.
Overcome the Brain’s Instinct for Negative Thinking
Our minds are hardwired to focus on the negative. In survival situations, this enables you to remain vigilant and avoid danger or threats. But, in everyday life, a constant focus on what is wrong or “bad” in our lives in not productive. This negativity bias is what keeps you dwelling on past mistakes or problems or gets you so upset over minor frustrations in your day.
Instead of allowing your mind to focus on this negativity, you need to retrain your brain to look instead at what is positive and enjoyable in your life.
By focusing on gratitude, being mindful of how negative thoughts are influencing you, and learning to experience the world with wonder can keep you from fixating on the negative.
Learn to Forgive
Those who walk around harboring resentment or other negative emotions toward another are much more likely to have health problems and suffer from other emotional and psychological issues.
Forgiveness, which is the act of acceptance regarding an event as well as letting go of your negative feelings about what happened, helps us experience more positive physical and mental health.
Forgiveness does not mean that you have forgotten what has happened but that instead, you accept that it is over, you no longer wish to feel bad about it, and you can take the lessons you learned and use them to inform your future.
When you learn to forgive others or even yourself, you will notice that you feel less pain, you are not as easily angered, and that some of the physical symptoms you may have been feelings have resolved.
Learning to forgive can boost your immune system and even help you live longer. Harboring ill will or bad feelings has a negative impact on your heart as well as your overall health, so learn to let it go and move on.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is an effective way to reduce stress, release tension in your body, and calm your mind. Those who regularly practice deep breathing notice improvements in their ability to think and reason as well as lower blood pressure.
Deep breathing focuses your attention on your breath, which allows you to block out negative emotions and center your thoughts on something other than anxiety or stress. Learning to breathe deeply can have a significantly positive influence on your life and your health.
If you want to improve your emotional well-being or bolster your physical health, it is vital that you take care of your mind as well as your body.
Adopting positive self-care routines, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting quality sleep can help you relieve stress, improve your outlook, and reduce physical symptoms like high blood pressure and gastrointestinal distress.
Those with better mental health are physically more fit, and those with excellent physical health enjoy strong psychological wellness.
The link between these two aspects of your well- being is undeniable and focusing on both as well as all the other aspects of wellness is crucial.
Stay well and take care!