This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
While therapy may have been considered something of a controversial topic as little as ten years ago, therapy has since become a much more easily talked about topic. What may not be as easily or readily discussed is the connection between the mind and the body, and how a healthy mind can significantly impact physical health. The ties between the mind and gut are still being investigated, and it is an emerging area of research, but the more the connection is studied, the greater the significance appears to be. What exactly is the mind-body connection, and how does it work?
The Mind-Body Connection
Although western medicine has long separated the mind and the body, and treated them as two different entities, increasing bodies of evidence are suggesting that the mind and body are intensely connected, and that the health of one intimately and effectively impacts the other. If someone is physically ill, for instance, they may see a decline in their overall mental health. Mental health issues—take depression or anxiety, for example—can often have a deleterious effect on physical health, leading to physical pain or discomfort and other physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset and migraines.
How Gut Health Impacts Mental Health
Although people typically associate mental health exclusively with what’s going on in an individual’s head, much of our mental health actually begins in the gut. The term “gut” may be mistaken for “stomach,” but actually refers to the gastrointestinal system as a whole, which is partially responsible for the synthesis and distribution of hormones and other chemicals in the body—including those that influence mental health for better and for worse. When the gut is not functioning properly by creating and distributing those hormones, your mental health can suffer. When your mental health suffers, your GI system is similarly affected. Articles on therapy can further dive into the many different effects therapy can have on the body and mind.
Therapy and Physical Health
Because therapy can positively impact your mental health, it has the potential to positively impact your physical health. When you are in a healthier mental state, there is often a landslide of physical effects that follow. Improved digestion, improved feelings of tension, improved sleep, and a generally improved sense of well-being can all come on the heels of consistent therapy.
Moving Forward to Pursue Health
If you have found yourself in a place of decreased health mentally or physically, seeking out a mental health professional may provide a boost to both. Acute and chronic illness alike can intensely impact your mental health. Health-related anxiety, depression, and more can all arise in response to even a small illness, leading to the need for a mental health intervention such as talk therapy or even the services provided by a psychologist. If you’ve discovered that your mental health has begun to decline, you may begin to notice increased feelings of tightness or tension in your muscles, increasing incidences of both headaches and stomachaches, and even changes to your sleep schedules, appetite, and weight.
Therapy requires some commitment of both time and energy, but because therapy often means a boost to both your physical and mental health, the return on that investment of time and energy can be significant. Pursuing health means far more than simply eliminating some unhealthy foods and joining a gym; pursuing health means addressing overall health and wellness, including mental health and wellness.