The links between physical and emotional health

Noel Bell

Noel Bell

UKCP psychotherapist Noel Bell is a UKCP psychotherapist, blogger and podcaster with extensive experience in the mental health field. He has spent the past 20 years exploring personal growth and inner transformation.

Good emotional and mental health is predicated on enjoying good physical health. A positive self-care regime should include getting sufficient levels of sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and doing high-impact physical exercise (please contact a competent health professional for an evaluation before engaging in high-impact activities). It is more difficult to be mentally efficient and emotionally resourceful over the longer term without these foundations in place.

The tripartite of good sleep, a healthy diet and an exercise regime will boost your immune system in order for you to better maintain emotional wellbeing. These fundamental tenets of physical wellbeing will also boost neurogenesis, the process of growing new brain cells. However, these considerations are often ignored or downplayed in therapy training schools, where there can be an almost exclusive attention to the internal workings of the mind. Whilst gaining insight from internal states of mind is, of course, the cornerstone of psychotherapy training, the more holistic aspects of psychological wellbeing are of equal importance.

Physical exercise can boost your well-being

Physical activity is not only for your body but it’s great for your mind too. Research has shown that instigating a robust physical exercise schedule releases chemicals in your brain that help to boost a sense of wellbeing – increasing your self-esteem, improving concentration levels as well as helping you to sleep better.

Maintaining a healthy diet

A healthy diet is one that maintains or improves overall health and supplies essential nutrition to your body. Essential nutrition entails fluid, macronutrients such as protein, micronutrients such as vitamins, and adequate fibre and food energy. A healthy diet alone might not be the sole cause of having poor mental health, but maintaining a good diet is essential when seeking to protect your ability to regulate mood. When twinned with exercise, eating a healthy diet in the right proportions can help you watch your weight, which will boost your sense of wellbeing. It will also help to lower your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes. An unhealthy diet can be a key contributor to poor mental health.

The importance of sleep for well-being

Deep and REM sleep stages help unlock the restorative power of sleep. It is very difficult to control these stages. However, you can get into healthy habits during the day that can positively impact on your readiness for both stages of sleep.

During deep sleep, you will experience a relaxation of your muscles while they repair themselves. Your blood pressure drops (which is a good thing) and your energy is restored. In REM sleep, you will most likely be dreaming, which is critically important for memory formation and stabilisation of mood. Practice good sleep hygiene, including having a buffer zone before putting your head on the pillow (when you don’t engage with electronic devices or anything visually stimulating) will help you reach sleep restorative stages.

The benefits of psychotherapy

Taking a holistic view of your life should include biological, social and physical as well as psychological dimensions to your wellbeing. It can be potentially transformational to explore, for example, the role of perfectionism in seeking to understand behavioural change. It might be that you are not necessarily striving for perfection in your appearance, but rather that the self-critical element of perfectionism may have predisposed you to developing a poor self image.

Psychotherapy can offer you a safe and confidential space to explore past decisions and an opportunity to take a holistic overview of your life direction and lifestyle. The sessions can help to make conscious some of your behaviours that have appeared hitherto to be automatic. There can often be something happening in the mind that is impacting your body. This could be past emotional wounding in your early life, for instance, which caused discomfort and perhaps led to an avoidant set of behaviours. These behaviours could have been appropriate for that particular point in time, but they might not be needed now. They could, therefore, be considered legacy behaviours. Seeing a personal trainer can be a useful motivating influence in boosting your physical wellbeing but unless the personal trainer is psychologically trained, the risk is that you will not unearth any internal unresolved conflicts in your mind.

Find a UKCP accredited therapist on our website.

You can also find support by contacting:

In an emergency, call 999

NHS (England), call 111

NHS Direct (Wales), call 0845 46 47

The Samaritans 24-hour helpline, call 116 123

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