As we contemplate the ambiguous term “Mental Health,” it is important to recognize that our mental health is just as important as, and even an integral part of, our physical health. There is a cornucopia of studies that link mental health to the way we feel physically. There is a reason why we feel better after a long walk, a hard workout, or even a day of doing yard work. In some cases, exercise is used to supplement or even replace medication in treating mental health issues – think: runner’s high. Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Bipolar Disorder, Personality Disorders, and even Schizophrenia are all mental health diagnoses that have been successfully treated, in part, by exercise.
Eating healthy also impacts our mental health. Our stomach and our brain are linked by a nerve that tells us when we are hungry – but this also explains why we lose our appetite if we are stressed out or anxious. Eating well fuels our bodies which reduces our brain’s need to overcome stress. We feel less stressed & anxious, we have more energy, and we sleep better when our bodies have the right fuel. And lack of sleep leads to irritability, anxiety, fear, and even confusion and brain fog. When we lose sleep, we are less likely to get the exercise we need, and we are more likely to experience anxiety in an unhealthy way. Giving ourselves the gift of rest is the epitome of physical and mental health.
October 10th was World Mental Health Day, let’s recognize that health has two co-equal components – mental and physical. Let’s break the stigma surrounding mental health and inject the same energy and vigor into exercising good mental health practices as our society does physical health.