When we are stressed, our skin immediately reflects it. When we are afraid, our heart beats faster. And when we are nervous we can experience dizziness and nausea. It is clear that our emotional states influence the body, but to what extent?
There is no health without mental health
For a long time, mind and body were treated as separate entities. The existence of different concepts to refer to mental well-being and physical well-being, as well as mental health and physical health, have conveyed the idea that they are independent phenomena.
However, “There is no health without mental health”, as stated by the World Health Organization. Those butterflies in our tummy when we fall in love, or the blush that invades us when we feel embarrassed or nervous, are physical phenomena that reflect what is happening in our minds.
Today we know that body and mind form an indissoluble unit. We also know that the projections of feelings and emotions in the body are not a fleeting phenomenon, but that mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety and even stress, end up having a negative impact on the body, triggering or worsening different health problems. In other words, we have understood that we must assume an holistic approach in our relationship with ourselves and the way we take care of ourselves.
The consequences of poor mental health
Having poor mental health often takes its toll. Not only does it affect our well-being, but it also puts our body in check, causing different imbalances that can lead to the appearance of various diseases.
Depression, for example, a mental disorder suffered by 5% of adults in the world, not only affects mood and motivation, it also influences the immune system as it suppresses T-cell responses to infectious agents. As a result, the depressed persons are more likely to get sick and it is also harder for them to recover.
Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders also often cause persistent tiredness and exhaustion. In fact, while many people are used to suggest you that “It’s all in your mind,” a recent research shows that this is not the case. Mental fatigue induces physical fatigue.
Researchers at Bangor University asked one group of people to ride their bikes as usual, while another group was given cognitive exercises for 90 minutes. People who took on the mental challenge not only reported greater tiredness and listlessness before starting the bike test, but also became physically exhausted 15% sooner. Thus, poor mental health is closely linked to physical fatigue.
However, it is not even necessary to suffer from a mental disorder. Stress is also reflected in the body. A study carried out at the University of Kyoto, for example, found that chronic stress, which is maintained over time, stimulates the release of cytokines in the brain, a type of protein associated with inflammation, a phenomenon that it has been associated to the appearance of numerous diseases.
Even everyday emotions impact our health. Today we know that anger, for example, can affect heart health. A research conducted at the University of Sydney concluded that “The risk of having a heart attack is 8.5 times higher in the two hours after an outburst of intense anger.” Anxiety is not a good travel companion either: The risk of having a heart attack increases 9.5 times during the two hours after an episode of anxiety.
The explanation? Both panic attacks and angry outbursts increase heart rate and blood pressure, stiffen blood vessels, and increase clotting, all of them risk factors linked to heart attacks. Therefore, emotions such as anger or states such as anxiety go far beyond that tense body language or feeling of being “about to burst”, they can really represent a serious risk to life.
As a result, it should come as no surprise that people with mental disorders are at increased risk of dying prematurely. A study published in The Lancet based on 7.4 million people found that the average life expectancy is 10 years shorter for men and 7 for women who suffer from a mental health problem.
Taking care of mental health, a priority
It is never too late to put into practice an old Latin expression: mens sana in corpore sano, which means a healthy mind in a healthy body. We need to pay more attention to our emotional balance and be aware of the factors that destabilize us in order to develop more effective coping strategies in our daily lives.
Practicing relaxation and mindfulness techniques is particularly helpful in reducing everyday tension and stress so that we can mitigate its harmful impact on the body. Balancing our work and personal life, making sure we enjoy the necessary hours of sleep and rest, it is also essential for not taking our nervous system to the breaking point.
Of course, in the hectic world we live in, with its endless pressures and commitments, finding that ideal balance can be difficult. In those cases, an additional help from the hand of nootropics does not hurt.
Nootropics are natural substances – although they can also be found in food supplements – that amplify cognitive abilities to provide mental clarity and improve our mood by acting on different neurotransmitters. The L-Tyrosine present in avocados, for example, stimulates the production of dopamine, which influences our emotions, motivation and performance, while Choline plays a key role in regulating memory and mood.
In fact, it’s no coincidence that the market for nootropics is growing so rapidly that it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. At Soma Analytics they explore this great market to help us know what is healthy, what is dangerous, what is beneficial and what is a waste of time.
Their experts take a holistic approach to health, and their nootropics reviews are written by real people committed to the demands of the real world. Therefore, it is a useful tool to find some of the best nootropics to protect our mental health and, by the way, take care of our physical health, because one does not exist without the other.
Plana-Ripoll, O. et. Al. (2019) A comprehensive analysis of mortality-related health metrics associated with mental disorders: a nationwide, register-based cohort study. The Lancet; 394(10211): 1827-1835.
Nie, X. et. Al. (2018) The Innate Immune Receptors TLR2/4 Mediate Repeated Social Defeat Stress-Induced Social Avoidance through Prefrontal Microglial Activation. Neuron; 99(3):464-479.e7.
Tofler, G. H. et Al. (2015) Triggering of acute coronary occlusion by episodes of anger. European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care. European Heart Journal. Acute Cardiovascular Care; 4(6): 493–498.
Miller, A. H. (2010) Depression and Immunity: A Role for T cells? Brain Behav Immun; 24(1): 1–8.
Marcora, S. M. et. Al. (2009) Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol; 106(3):857-64.