Physical and emotional health are inextricably linked qualities in each individual. People who come from poor psychological dispositions are unlikely to build or maintain strong physical health. Likewise, people with poor physical health are much more prone to harbor negative views on life. This sample health essay explores the connection between emotional and physical health.
Mental well-being and maintaining emotional stability
From a psychological standpoint, mental health is generally viewed as a continuing sequence of emotions that run the gamut from happiness to disappointment. Excitement and thrills might only be experienced during select moments of a given week or month, but a person will still keep a positive frame of mind on average days, and even manage a level-headed disposition when the chips are low.
While some people are more prone to mood swings than others, it’s not generally considered a problem unless a person is manic or experiences chronic depression:
- Mania – characterized by hyperactivity, overexcitement, and delusional thoughts or statements
- Depression – indicated by lethargy, disinterest towards everything, and feelings of sadness and despair
Basically, a person’s mental well-being is usually considered healthy as long as he or she doesn’t display feelings that could be described as either too happy or too sad.
Meditation and emotional health
The human mind has a tendency to wander from one thought to the next. When left unchecked, the mind can get lost in a maze of negative thoughts that can lower a person’s overall mood. By harnessing the mental process, however, a person can have better mood control. An improved awareness of how the mind works can also make it easier to understand and positively influence the emotional states of friends and loved ones.
A 2011 study of various contemplative practices found that meditation increases one’s ability to identify emotional patterns in others as well as oneself, and to improve relationships with that knowledge (Kemeny et al.) In other studies, mindfulness meditation has been found to be an effective method for minimizing the possibility of stress, nervousness, despair, and other negative feelings (Goyal et al.)
Using meditation to increase emotional stability isn’t a step one takes alone. Te practice requires someone who is trained to teach meditation to novices. Meditation can be learned from local counseling centers, gyms and fitness centers, secular Buddhist practitioners, or yoga instructors.
Environment, lifestyle, and mental well-being
Generally, an individual’s environment will be a determining factor in his or her lifestyle choices, opportunities, health, and happiness. A person’s place of residence, for instance, can have a lot to do with the availability of education, healthcare, employment, and financial resources for that individual. In the United States, where institutional racism has led to inborn advantages being largely split along racial lines, health disparities are often present between middle-class whites and working class minority communities.
Genetics, family customs, and upbringing are also factors that contribute to a person’s emotional makeup. The values and insights that a boy or girl absorbs during childhood can shape the ways in which that person will handle experiences—both positive and negative—and potentially seize opportunities as an adult.
Over the past 50 years, various reports have been issued concerning the ways in which health is interdependent with other factors in life. In a 1974 Canadian study on the topic, human health is attributed to three areas (Lalonde):
- Lifestyle – which accounts for the choices that an individual makes, the likes of which will ultimately help determine that person’s health and lifespan.
- Environment – which takes into account parental nurturing and the external factors, beyond an individual’s control, that can impact that person’s quality of life and health.
- Biomedical – which deals with the genetic aspects of an individual, in mind and body, that influence his or her health throughout life.
The upkeep of health is accomplished with joint regard to an individual’s social, mental, and bodily vigor: collectively known as the “health triangle.”
At the First International Conference on Health Promotion in 1986, the World Health Organization affirmed that health is more than merely a condition, but a “positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities,” (“The Ottawa Charter”).
Decisions, surroundings, and family influence
Of the three areas that factor into human health, lifestyle is the one that is most often addressed by self-help experts and motivational coaches. The reason for this is simple: each individual can determine his or her own lifestyle, which has significant influence on stamina and lifespan.
Key factors in this area include diet, exercise, and sleep; all of which should be maintained at levels proportional to the age and size of each individual. Mental health also is affected by addictions like drugs, alcohol, and tobacco—whether it amounts to indulgence or outright avoidance—will also have an impact on health.
The concept of health does not exclude people with chronic illness; even the terminally ill could be considered healthy—relatively speaking—by following proper advice regarding physical activity, rest, and food intake.
Nature and nurture also play a part in shaping one’s physical and mental health. From a set of parents, an individual can inherit fast or slow metabolism, as well as a particular somatotype—ectomorphic, mesomorphic, or endomorphic—all of which can impact his or her physical shape and overall bodily health.
An endomorph with a slow metabolism, for example, could be more prone to weight gain, especially if raised on unhealthy foods by obese parents. Obesity, in turn, can take a toll on one’s physical health, energy, stamina, esteem, and emotional well-being. In terms of emotion, the examples set by parents can influence how a child learns to cope with stress, frustration, and disappointment throughout life.
The impact of diet and exercise on mental health
The most natural way for a person to get the nutrients necessary for optimal physical and mental health is through a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. A healthy diet of all the daily essentials helps in the development and maintenance of bones, muscles, and tendons; all of which give a person energy and stamina.
On the emotional side, a healthy diet promotes clear-headedness and rational thinking skills; traits which help people achieve success and face difficulties in stride. Nutrition also helps to combat illnesses and infection, lower the probability of disease, minimize chronic conditions, and regulate processes of the body.
Aside from all the physical benefits, exercise is also advantageous to the body’s physiology. For one, exercise lowers bodily levels of the steroid hormone cortisol, which is often the root of mental and physical deterioration. Heart efficiency is also boosted through exercise of the aerobic and strength-training varieties; the former raises cardiac volume while the latter promotes myocardial thickness.
One of the leading causes of heart failure is obesity and physical inactivity, which puts middle-aged and older individuals at risk of coronary artery disease. However, sedentary people in their forties and fifties can lower their risk of cardiovascular disease by incorporating moderate activity into their day-to-day routines. Research gathered by WHO has determined that lack of exercise is also responsible for 17% of diabetes, 12% of balance loss among seniors, and 10% of cancer development in the breast and colon areas (Silberner).
Kemeny, Margaret E., et al. “Contemplative/emotion training reduces negative emotional behavior and promotes prosocial responses.” APA PsycNET. American Psychological Association. April 2012. Web 14 Nov. 2015.
Goyal, Madhav, et al. “Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” JAMA Internal Medicine. American Medical Association. March 2014. Web 14 Nov. 2015.
Lalonde, Marc. “A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians.” Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services (1974): PDF file.
“The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion: First International Conference on Health Promotion, Ottawa, 21 November 1986.” WHO.int. World Health Organization. n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Silberner, Joanne. “100 Years Ago, Exercise Was Blended Into Daily Life.” NPR.org. National Public Radio, Inc. 7 June 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Elwood, Peter, et al. “Healthy Lifestyles Reduce the Incidence of Chronic Diseases and Dementia: Evidence from the Caerphilly Cohort Study.” PLOS. Public Library of Science. 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Cooney, Gary, M., et al. “Exercise for depression.” Cochrane Library. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.