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Overcoming Mental Health Issues Can Benefit Physical Health, Too!

overcoming mental health issues can benefit physical health too

July 19, 2017

Overcoming mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, can have a positive effect on a person's thoughts and emotions, and consequently, overall life experience. But new research also shows that attaining subjective well-being - factors such as life satisfaction, happiness, and enjoyment of life - can have a positive effect on physical health, as well.

Research has shown that mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, can take a toll on not only a person's psychological and emotional health but also their physical health.[1][2][3] In addition to the mental health challenges, mental health issues are often accompanied by frustration, despair, hopelessness, anxiety, unhappiness, and elevated levels of stress. The longer a person struggles with mental health issues, the longer the body is adversely affected. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that those who overcome their mental health issues not only improve their mental and emotional health, they can also improve their physical health.

Researchers found that subjective well-being – happiness - influences physical health through healthy behaviors, as well as through the immune and cardiovascular systems.[4][5] Although scientists are still exploring and debating when happiness most affects health, there is no doubt that it does.

With more research, it may one day be informative for clinicians to monitor individuals' subjective well-being just as other factors are currently assessed. Individuals should also take responsibility for their health by developing healthy mental habits.

"We now have to take very seriously the finding that happy people are healthier and live longer, and that chronic unhappiness can be a true health threat. People's feelings of well-being join other known factors for health, such as not smoking and getting exercise," said Prof. Ed Diener, co-author of the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being article. "Scores of studies show that our levels of happiness versus stress and depression can influence our cardiovascular health, our immune system strength to fight off diseases, and our ability to heal from injuries."

This research emphasizes the importance of dealing with mental health issues. It also underlines the importance of therapy in this role, as therapy cannot only help individuals overcome their mental health issues but also can help individuals learn how to take charge of their thoughts and emotions so that the resulting life experience outcome is more joy filled and satisfying.

It's long been known that those who work on behavior modification are happier overall than those who don't. Since happiness, contentment, and peace come from a state of mind, learning how to achieve these states cognitively can go a long way to attaining a lifetime of satisfaction and happiness, which based on this research, can provide a healthy overall physical outcome, as well.

Can we reverse the adverse physical effects of mental illness by overcoming our mental health issues? This new research shows that we can. And, the sooner we do that, the better the outcome.

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1. "Many Mental Illnesses Reduce Life Expectancy More than Heavy Smoking." University of Oxford. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2017.

2. "Office of Research & Development." Study Confirms That Depression Can Shorten Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2017.

3. "Mental Health Disorders May Shorten Life Span." WebMD. WebMD, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 July 2017.

4. Veenhoven, R. "Healthy Happiness: Effects of Happiness on Physical Health and the Consequences for Preventive Health Care." SpringerLink. Springer Netherlands, 28 Feb. 2007. Web. 19 July 2017.

5. Ed Diener, Sarah D. Pressman, John Hunter, Desiree Delgadillo-Chase. If, Why, and When Subjective Well-Being Influences Health, and Future Needed Research. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2017; 9 (2): 133 DOI: 10.1111/aphw.12090

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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated November 20, 2018.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the latest in anxiety research about how happiness can improve physical health.