Understanding the Mind and Body Connection
Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. So much of what we do physically impacts us mentally –it’s important to pay attention to both your physical health and your mental health, which can help you achieve overall wellness and set you on a path to recovery. This May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Community Care Services wants to raise the awareness about the connection between physical health and mental health.
Considering one in five Americans is affected by mental health conditions, developing a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic health problems.
There are several factors of our physical health that have a direct affect on our mental health, such as diet/nutrition, sleep, and exercise. General wellness of both the mind and body can be achieved through improving those three things in our lives. Here are three areas to help make a healthy mind and body connection.
When you hear someone say, ‘you are what you eat,’ to some extent, it’s quite true. Our nutritional intake can have huge impacts – both negative and positive — on how we feel, thanks mostly to the chemical serotonin. When serotonin levels are high, we’re happier, and when they’re low, we become depressed. Eating too many carbs and sugar can decrease sensitivity to serotonin, which leads to bad moods, and eventually obesity. To balance serotonin levels, eating protein can be the solution, especially before carb-intake. Instead of eating a sugary pick-me-up midday, go for a snack high in protein to keep the mood positive and energy up, avoiding a crash later.
One in three American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, according to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Too little sleep or poor quality sleep can make it difficult to function during the day. Lack of sleep has also been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health conditions. By depriving the body and brain of sleep, our bodies have a high chance of producing more cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Not only does sleep re-energize ourselves through the production of serotonin, but it also allows any cortisol levels to drop. A good night’s sleep can bring a calming and energizing effect to your next morning. Tips for restful night’s sleep, establish a regular bedtime, turn off digital devices, create a comfortable sleep environment and avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals before bedtime.
Exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle, both inside and out, but it’s also important to know that our mental health can also get a much-needed boost when we exercise. It starts with the release of endorphins in the brain, those chemicals that give us a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Studies show that exercise can alleviate symptoms in those clinically depressed and, in some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medications.
It can be as simple as going for a walk, short jog, a handful of push-ups or crunches – exercise is one of the keys to keeping your brain and your body working in unison. With even just a 20-minute window of exercise per day, your body will have more strength to shut down any depressive hormones, reduce anxiety, give a serotonin boost to the brain, but also give your physical self the energy it needs for the day-to-day grind. Exercising is a key contributor to good mental health, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Getting more exercise is not a substitute for other forms of treatment. If you’re struggling with symptoms of a mental health disorder, talk to a therapist or your family physician.
At CCS, we believe in ending the stigma of mental illness. During the month of May, we will be doing whatever we can to get the right materials into everyone’s hands – those who have questions, have someone they want to help, or who just want to better understand what mental health is all about. Whether it’s for you or a loved one, supporting those who struggle will help spread awareness and help end the stigma.
Interested in getting involved? Take part in any of the following community events, all presented by different powerful organizations that support mental health:
- 14th Annual Walk-a-Mile in My Shoes Rally – May 2, Lansing Capitol Lawn (100 N. Capitol Ave.) More than 2,500 people are expected to converge in Lansing. At the rally, you’ll be able to meet with legislators, talk about current legislation regarding mental health, visit many of the informational booths, and march to show support of ending the stigma that surrounds mental health.
- CCS Hosts Cooking Matters Class – May 7, Turning Point Clubhouse (1605 Fort St. in Lincoln Park) Join CCS and Gleaners Community Food Bank for an informative workshop and cooking demonstration on how to maximize grocery shopping and healthy food choices without breaking the bank and prepare healthy and delicious meals at home all while sticking to a limited budget. This event is FREE but limited to the first 60 registrants. Register at www.comcareserv.org.
- Mental Health Matters – May 10, Eastern Market (2934 Russell St. in Detroit) The Mental Health Matters event is open to the public for a chance to learn about mental health but also to enjoy downtown Detroit’s Eastern Market. Come and listen to public speakers, enjoy great food, and walk through exhibitor booths to grab more information on what mental health is all about.
- Downriver Chapter Families Against Narcotics (FAN) Meeting – May 17, Turning Point Clubhouse (1605 Fort St. in Lincoln Park) FAN’s mission revolves around fighting for the community, raising awareness, providing education, and providing those who are struggling with the help they need, stigma-free. Come join the discussion to learn more or ask questions.
- 3rd Annual Opioid Abuse and Heroin Overdose Solutions Summit – May 23, Burton Manor (27777 Schoolcraft Rd.) Be part of the solution to the outbreak of opioid and heroine addiction by joining in on the 3rd Annual Opioid Summit. Hosted by the Greater Detroit Area Health Council in partnership with Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, there will be discussion from all angles for learning, growth, and how we can end the epidemic. This year, the summit will focus on discussing areas of a person’s life that can help aide in prevention and treatment.
For more information, visit www.comcareserv.org or the Community Care Services Facebook page.
Susan Kozak has been a licensed social worker for the past 31 years and currently serves as the executive director of Community Care Services, a position she has held since 2011.