“Managing my physical health is closely tied up with looking after my mental health.”
Physical health and mental health are strongly connected. Taking care of your physical health is scientifically shown to improve mental wellbeing, and vice versa. If one declines, the other can be affected too.
A balanced diet, proper sleep, and cutting down unhealthy habits such as smoking, alcohol, and drugs are some of the key physical health factors that can promote mental wellbeing. Some of the things that can affect mental wellbeing are stress, working too much, and being too inactive.
Studies are showing more and more that a holistic approach to health – linking physical, social, emotional, and mental health – is necessary for mental wellbeing. This approach also helps a great deal with managing and recovering from mental illness.
For more information, take a look at our pages on food, sleep, and being active.
A closer look
Hydration plays a crucial role in physical and mental health
75% of the human brain is water. Hydration increases circulation and cleanses the organs of the body, especially the heart and brain. Drinking tea or juice isn't enough; it’s vital to drink water on its own as well. Some symptoms of not drinking enough water may include headaches and mood changes. (Source)
Exercise stimulates chemicals in your brain that improve your wellbeing
Exercise can get you outside, exposing you to sunlight, fresh air, and potentially new companions through group activities. The act of physical movement reduces risk of physical illnesses, lifts your mood, and can improve your sleep. Exercise even helps you think more clearly with the extra blood flow to the brain, and increases the size of the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory. (Source)
Recreational physical activity improves mental health
Playing recreational sport 1-3 times a week reduced distress by 34%, according to a large study. Organised recreational activity is shown to raise self-esteem and brain function. This may be partly due to the social interaction aspect of the activities. The study also states these benefits are as potent as medication, for moderate anxiety and depression. (Source)
People with mental illnesses are more likely to smoke
Across the general population, rates of smoking have declined greatly in the last 20 years. However, smoking is still common among people experiencing a mental illness, who often begin smoking earlier and smoke more than the average smoker. Even if you have a severe mental illness, you can cut down and quit smoking with the right support. Nicotine replacement therapy, for example, can help. (Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3)
Exercise helped me cope. I got on my bike, I ran, I did exercise classes. I found it such a great release. It was lovely to get out in the fresh air, and to calm my mind.
Keeping myself centred and balanced is crucial for my mental health. I'm careful about what I eat and drink, try to fit in some 'me time' regularly, and I find swimming quite meditative. When my little girl has her swimming lesson, I do a few laps. Our physical and mental health are so wrapped up together.
Playing footy is a huge part of my life. It's the only time I can properly feel my emotions and regulate them because I know it's something I'm good at. That's a big outlet for me. I get to clear my head and distract myself from what's going on in my mind.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool (opens in a new tab).