Which is more important: mental or physical health?


Fact Box

  • The National Alliance on Mental Issues reports that in 2019, one in five US adults (over 51 million) experienced mental illness. 
  • The World Health Organization states that one in four adults do not “meet the global recommended levels of physical activity” and that 5 million deaths a year could be avoided if people were more active. 
  • Anxiety disorders account for most mental health issues, with 18% of the US population suffering from them. 
  • According to the CDC, people who are physically active for about 150 minutes a week decrease their risk of “all-cause mortality” by 33% compared to those who aren’t physically active. 

Bre (Mental Health)

The detrimental impacts on the physical health of those with poorly maintained mental health are well-established and varied. Now more than ever, the presence of mental health struggles is understandable and treatable. Individuals can impact their physical wellness for the better by first tending to their minds. 

Emotions have well-documented physiological consequences. Because heightened stress hormones in our bodies often lead to serious physical outcomes, it’s important to avoid sustained periods of intense stress reactions. For example, prolonged suppressed anger is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. A host of negative physical conditions, afflictions, and diseases is known to arise due to mental health issues; it’s imperative mental health be valued and nurtured first and foremost.

While mental health tools are becoming more widespread, even taught in schools, access to resources for monitoring and treatment can still be limited, often due to social stigma or financial restraints. Nonetheless, the need for mental health services is higher than ever as populations were confined with minimal in-person contact due to COVID quarantines. It’s no wonder mental health care is now more necessary and accepted.

Practicing mindfulness is a simple and popular method of combating negative thoughts and emotions that can harm our health. With numerous benefits, including reduced stress, improved memory and mood, boosted awareness, resilience, emotional intelligence, and even prevention of depression relapse, mindfulness can have a profound impact on the way one’s mind and body interact.

Caring for mental health is more critical than focusing solely on physical health because overall wellness cannot be achieved without mental wellness. Due to its undeniably foundational nature and the unprecedented recent times, mental health is finally and rightfully receiving heightened attention.

Joanna (Physical Health)

Lack of physical health can cause mental problems. For example, physical illnesses like high fever and chronic conditions like arthritis can cause stress, frustration and reduce the ability to make independent decisions. 

Not being able to use your body in a way that feels good for you can lead to tremendous mental anguish over time. Watching your friends and family members do tasks easily, but not being able to perform those without assistance can lower self-esteem. Individuals with lower mental and physical stamina may feel uncomfortable repeatedly asking for help and eventually decide to skip difficult tasks altogether. This can hold them back from their mental, physical, psychological and spiritual goals. 

Individuals with disabilities face discrimination in society, which can create emotional and relational difficulties. Having a smart mind but being denied well-paying jobs can be disappointing. Repeated experiences of such discriminatory situations can degrade one’s view of the self. Physically unhealthy people tend to be sedentary, by habit or by disability, which reduces productivity. 

Studies show exercise stimulates creativity and better cognitive capabilities. Being physically inactive can decline these capacities. This can again lower self-esteem as people can’t function at their best. 

While mental health worsens with declining physical health, you can improve your mental state with regular exercise and other improvements in physical health. Once you start working out, you see positive changes in other areas of life such as work, relationships, self-esteem, and more. Finally, physically fitter people live longer than unhealthy individuals.

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