When it comes to our physical health, we kind of know the basics: exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, drink as much water as you can to stay hydrated, don’t eat pizza and fried chicken for every meal and indulge in a salad or 2, and try and get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

But what about your mental health?

Believe it or not, there’s a direct correlation between mental and physical health. It’s kind of like a set of scales – if one is out of whack, the other is out of whack, and the goal is to keep them balanced and harmonious.

So how exactly does your mental health affect your physical health and vice versa? Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Mental and physical health is fundamentally linked

Three things that you need to know is that poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions, people with serious mental health conditions are at high risk of experiencing chronic physical conditions, and people with chronic physical conditions are at risk of developing poor mental health.

These are important when it comes to reminding yourself about overall health – not just physical or mental health on their own.

“Exercise is something that psychologists have been very slow to attend to. People know that exercise helps physical outcomes. There is much less awareness of mental health outcomes — and much, much less ability to translate this awareness into exercise action.”

– Michael Otto, Ph.D., Boston University

It’s been proven that the benefits of exercise include:

  • Lessening anxiety
  • Improving mood
  • Enhancing mental health
  1. If you’re optimistic with your fitness improvements, your mental health will improve – and vice versa

“According to a 2012 Harvard University meta analysis of 200 articles, optimism may correlate with cardiovascular health and may even decrease the rate of the disease’s progression”.

– Bradley University, How Mental Health Affects Physical Health

There’s a lot of power in positive emotions, affirmations, and reinforcement. If you’ve been working out a lot and seem to have a more upbeat uptick on life lately, that’ll probably be contributing to your mental health.

On the other hand, if your mental health is doing well; if you’re feeling grounded, taking the right medications, talking to someone, etc., you may feel more motivated to hit the gym, go for a long walk, or engage in some active group activities.

“The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction and happiness are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of such factors as a person’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status or body weight.”

– Julia Boehm, Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Society, Human Development and Health

  1. There are three real lifestyle factors that can influence both mental and physical health

Again, life is all about balance. For some of us, making lifestyle changes can be straightforward, but for others, breaking sometimes lifetime-long habits can be difficult and daunting. Just remember: take it one step at a time.

  • Exercise

Staying healthy starts with physical activity. When you’re in poor physical health, almost all things seem to suffer in one way or another when it comes to overall health in general.

Remember to take some time every day to do a little bit of physical activity, even if it means taking a brisk walk around the office or down the block to get some fresh air. Trust us: your body will thank you.

  • Diet

Eating a healthy and balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, fats, and sugars can make any person (who’s not a dietician)’s head spin, but it’s one of those things that, again, contribute to overall health.

“Good nutrition is a crucial factor in influencing the way we feel. A healthy balanced diet is one that includes healthy amounts of proteins, essential fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. The food we eat can influence the development, management, and prevention of numerous mental health conditions including depression and Alzheimer’s.”

MentalHealth.org, Physical health and mental health

  • Smoking

By 2020, I think it’s fair to say that we all understand to a degree that smoking isn’t great for you.

Not only does smoking severely impact your physical health, but it can also mess you up mentally. In fact some people with mental health problems claim that smoking helps, but it’ll only relieve symptoms in the short term.

While smoking can feel good, it’s one of the leading causes of cancer, and that’s kind of obvious when you take into account that there are more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke.

We’re strong believers that mental health is not possible without physical health. It’s hard to keep things balanced, and with things in the world getting crazier and crazier, we know how tough it can be to keep so many balls up in the air.

So to lead you out, we just want to remind you of something:

You’re worth it, no matter what.