We usually separate our physical, mental and emotional health into their own categories. When we’re feeling ill, we go to the doctor. If we’re feeling depressed, we visit a psychologist. If we’re having problems with our emotional health, we go visit a therapist.
Each facet of our health has its own classification, medications and medical professionals — however, we should be treating them as pieces of the whole.
But why are your physical, mental and emotional health so important, and how do they affect each other?
Pieces of a Puzzle
You are a puzzle made up of three main pieces — physical health, mental health and emotional health. While you can treat each piece individually, it’s easier to see the whole picture when they are together. Each piece affects the other two as well.
Researchers have long studied the effects physical and mental health have on each other and have found that if one piece of the puzzle, to stick with our previous analogy, is damaged or misplaced, the other two pieces suffer.
Physical health problems, for example, have been shown to cause or exacerbate mental health problems. Studies have found that individuals who suffer from chronic illness, are more likely to develop debilitating mental health problems, such as symptoms of depression, anxiety and even suicidal tendencies. This is a direct result of one of the puzzle pieces not fitting with the others. Physical and mental health are two sides of the same coin.
Good physical health, on the other hand, is beneficial to your mental and emotional health. A 2011 study found that just six weeks of regular exercise or weight training can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
How to Stay Balanced
How can you maintain the balance between your physical and mental health? A few things you could try to incorporate into your daily life include:
- Meditation, mindfulness or yoga. Basically, you want to try to remain as balanced as possible in both your physical and mental health. Meditation and yoga are great for this because they encourage you to stay centered and focused on breathing, emotion and your body. Yoga is also a fantastic low-impact full-body exercise, which can help to improve your physical health.
- Connect with supportive people. Building a support group or just having supportive friends is a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Find a gym buddy to keep you moving and someone who can help you through your worst mental health spots as well.
- Eat well. Eating a healthy diet, or at least cutting the junk food out of your diet, is an easy way to help improve all the aspects of your health. Don’t try to change it all at once, though. Focus on the little victories, and take it one step at a time.
- Get enough sleep. According to the CDC, one out of every three adults doesn’t get enough sleep. Losing sleep can contribute to both physical and mental health ailments. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep per night for the best results.
Medical professionals sometimes fall into the same traps we do and spend their time treating one of the pieces of the puzzle instead of all of them. Try to find a doctor or a team of doctors, if necessary, who have open minds and are willing to work with all the puzzle pieces.
Don’t let anyone tell you one facet of your health is more important than the others. Physical, mental and emotional health are all essential to remaining a healthy and functional human being. Pay attention to all the pieces, and you’ll find it’s easier to stay happy and healthy in the long run.