The old adage ‘healthy mind, healthy body’ still holds true, even when it comes to preventing and treating mental illness.
The topic of depression is still relatively stigmatized and taboo, even though society has developed a deeper understanding of mental health. Unfortunately, misinformation about what causes depression continues to circulate in our common consciousness, with many still believing the disease is a manifestation of laziness or attention-seeking behavior.
But research suggests – and experts agree – that mental health is much more similar to physical health than we might think, and that the two are often intertwined. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle and a good healthcare plan are essential to maintaining mental health.
Physical Health Impacts Mental Health
The long held view on the connection between physical illness and depression has been one of cause and effect. Being sick naturally makes one sad, therefore we assumed depression follows physical illness. However, more doctors are coming to realize that depression isn’t just a reaction to being ill, but rather is another symptom of illnesses. Indeed, Dr. Andrew J. Cutler, a clinical faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida, states that by screening for elevated levels of CRP (a marker for inflammation), doctors can reasonably assess if a patient is suffering from depression.
Furthermore, a paper by doctors Reeves, et al. draws connections between a sedentary lifestyle and chronic depression, even at a very young age. These kind of physical connections between the body and mind for depression are changing the way we view the mental illness. No longer is poor mental health just a reactive illness to poor physical health.
This shouldn’t be a surprising idea, argues Yale professor Turhan Canli, given that depressed patients exhibit many of the same symptoms and behaviors as people who are physically sick. Dr. Canli’s most recent research on the topic suggests that inflammation and infection are major physical causes of depression, meaning our physical health and our brain activity might be intimately linked.
Maintaining Good Physical (and Mental) Health
This link between mental and physical well-being means that a physically healthy lifestyle is crucial for maintaining mental health and happiness. The UK’s Mental Health Foundation promotes a healthy diet as a tool to stave off depression, and TIME Magazine, the Mayo Clinic, and experts at the University of Toronto all agree that regular, moderate physical exercise can help to prevent or alleviate depression. An article by Harvard Medical School explains that the endorphins released when we exercise can help boost our immune systems and lift our moods.
Avoiding the physical illnesses associated with poor mental health is also a key component of a truly healthy lifestyle. Regular check-ups with your general practitioner can help catch the symptoms of disease before the infection becomes serious, promoting a long and healthy life.
What’s Your Plan?
A combination of nutrition, exercise, and quality healthcare can help combat both physical and mental ailments – making a few lifestyle changes may be the first step towards a brighter, lighter life. But when things out of your control happen, finding healthcare is vitally important.
Quality healthcare is essential for mental and physical health, but it can be hard (and expensive) to come by. Luckily, if you’re currently uninsured or underinsured, there are some financially feasible options. SingleCare connects patients to doctors simply and affordably, and members pay on an as-need basis at a reduced rate. Since members only pay for services needed (and joining is free), it’s is a great choice for those who cannot or do not want to pay for full coverage. Members can get as much healthcare as they need to stay in peak physical and mental health, at discounts as much as 48%.
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