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Why Is Mental Health Important to a Healthy Lifestyle

Lifestyle and mental health are closely linked to wellness. Read on to learn more about how they’re interlinked.

Mental Wellness

Mental health and healthy lifestyle habits are equally important aspects of overall health and wellness. Mental health includes your psychological and emotional wellbeing. This affects the way we feel, think, and behave, as well as how we handle stress and decision-making throughout our life. Lifestyle choices and mental health are strongly connected in many varying ways.

Lifestyle Management and Mental Health

Lifestyle management alone – including things such as exercising, eating well, and maintaining a positive outlook – aren’t enough to manage some mental health disorders, but it can have a powerful impact on overall mental wellness and how we take care of ourselves.

Mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and even some cases of addiction and abuse, are further complicated by a variety of factors that relate to our mental wellness. However, no matter the cause, lifestyle changes along with appropriate treatments can improve our overall mental health or even help prevent the development of some disorders as well. 1

Lifestyle and Mental Health

Factors that Contribute to Mental Health Problems

More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder at some time in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mental health is not static; it can change over time and with new experiences. 2

The causes of mental illness are complex and intertwined. While lifestyle and mental health are linked, experts agree that mental health is determined by a combination of biological factors, life experiences, lifestyle factors, and family health history.

Biological Factors

A healthy lifestyle and mental health aren’t always in your control. The biological causes of mental illness are diverse, and ongoing research continues to shed light on how mental illness develops.

The most common biological factors that affect mental health include:

  • Chemical imbalances (malfunctioning of the brain’s neurotransmitters)
  • Infections of the brain
  • Brain injuries or defects
  • Early damage to the brain, such as birth trauma that disrupts oxygen flow
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to environmental toxins

Finally, genetics and heredity play a large role in mental health. People who have a family history of mental illness have a greater risk of developing one themselves.

You cannot change injuries or inherited traits, but lifestyle changes may help mitigate some of the vulnerabilities caused by biology.

Life Experiences

Life experiences are composed of personal experiences such as upbringing and current social circumstances. People who are frequently exposed to stressful situations and those who are survivors of traumatic experiences have a higher risk of developing a mental health disorder.

Examples of life experiences that contribute to mental illness include:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Poverty
  • Frequent exposure to violence
  • The loss of a loved one
  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • Being in combat or living in a war zone
  • Homelessness
  • Substance use and addiction

How Long Lasting Are Life Experiences to Mental Health?

The effects of a negative mental health lifestyle aren’t always permanent. For example, the loss of a loved one can cause grief that leads to isolation and depression. With time to heal and the right support, the depression may pass and never return.

In other cases, mental illness related to life experiences may worsen with time. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by trauma typically become more severe without therapeutic intervention.

Family History

Your family history has a larger impact on your lifestyle and mental health than you may realize. Genetics plays a major role in health, including cognitive abilities. 3

Those who have a family member with a mental illness have a higher risk of developing an illness because they share the same genes. In addition, living with a parent who is unpredictable due to a mental health condition can lead to an unstable home life, increasing the risk of a mental health disorder.

How Can Family History Influence Wellness?

Other family history factors include:

  • Learned bad habits, such as poor diet and lack of self-care
  • Parents or guardians self-medicating with harmful substances
  • Epigenetics (the theory that childhood stress alters genes)
  • Isolation or poor communication skills due to living with a mentally ill parent

Living a brain-healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk of mental illness, and it will also decrease the risk factors for future generations of your family.

Why Is a Healthy Lifestyle Important to Mental Health?

You already know that lifestyle choices make a difference in your physical health. Smoking, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle increase your risk for heart disease and other physical illnesses.

Your daily lifestyle choices and mental health are also connected. What you eat for breakfast, how much you work, how often you socialize with friends, and many other factors have a potential impact.

No matter your mental health challenges, taking steps to lead a healthy lifestyle will make managing your mental health easier.

What Does a Positive Lifestyle Entail?

A positive lifestyle is more than just eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. It includes:

  • Stress management
  • Maintaining physical health through good habits and appropriate health care
  • Having good relationships
  • Making meaningful contributions to your community
  • Productive work and a good mental health work-life balance

How are the Body and the Mind Linked?

Mental health conditions sometimes come with physical symptoms. The body-mind connection is real: Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders can cause fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, and more. 4

The healthier lifestyle habits you practice, the better prepared your mind and body will be to handle any challenges life brings your way.

Lifestyle and Mental Health

Tips to Improve Your Mental Health and Lifestyle

You can make many lifestyle changes today to improve your mental health, and most of them are easy to start off small with. Consider the following healthy lifestyle tips.

  • Change Your Diet: Eating an anti-inflammatory diet promotes good brain health and may prevent health conditions like heart disease.[5 ]
  • Exercise: This has a profound positive effect on mental health and helps boost overall mood.
  • Education: Educate yourself on stress management to enhance your healthy lifestyle and mental health.
  • Sleep Schedule: Get regular, restful sleep to help build emotional and mental resilience.
  • Keep a Journal: Writing down thoughts and worries is an effective way to release mental tension and understand your thinking patterns.
  • Strong Support System: A healthy social life is part of maintaining your mental health and healthy lifestyle.
  • Mental Health: Be honest about your lifestyle and mental health and speak to someone if you are struggling.

If you have a hard time coping, feel sad or anxious, or have other concerns about your mental health, consider seeking therapy.

Get Treatment for Mental Health Disorders at Genesis Recovery

At Genesis Recovery, we offer a variety of lifestyle and mental health programs to help people improve their mental health and manage mental health disorders. Individual therapy and family therapy are both effective approaches to improving mental health and lifestyle. Get help now at Genesis Recovery.


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