Make the connection: Changing how you think may change how you feel

March 2, 2017

iStock-516180836.jpgMaybe this question has been on your mind: Can my mental state affect my physical health?

Doctors have suspected for centuries that there is a powerful tie between mind and body, and modern medical studies prove them right. Researchers now know that unhealthy levels of stress, depression, and anxiety can wreak havoc with your hormones, immune system, heart health and blood pressure.

Back pain, chest pain, headaches, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, a stiff neck or a racing heart are just a few of the physical symptoms that can appear when your emotional health is off-kilter, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Tending to your emotional health can improve your quality of life. It also may help your body fight infections, recover from an illness and prevent chronic disease.

What helps the mind-body balance grow strong? Thankfully, research has answered that question too. These top the list:

1. Getting a move on. Exercise changes how the body responds to stress. It improves mood too.

2. Finding healthy ways to relax. Some people use music, art, prayer, woodworking, reading or even 10-minute walks to lower stress in their life.

3. Expressing yourself. Negative feelings and fears that are bottled up may flow out as aches, pains , and problems. A trusted friend, partner or religious adviser may be able to help you focus on positives and work through challenges. Some people keep a gratitude journal or write down goals and accomplishments. Professional counseling is advised if you are stuck or feeling overwhelmed.

Finally, remember these words of wisdom: Be honest with your doctor about the stresses and challenges you face. Ask for help if you think you're feeling depressed. Your doctor can suggest many ways to improve your health and wellness—both mental and physical.

Additional sources: American Psychological Association; National Institutes of Health

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