“Mental health” is a misnomer. Physical and mental health are so intimately intertwined it’s foolhardy to try to figure where one leaves off and the other begins. My lived experience is made up equally of my physical sensations and my mental interpretations, and so is yours.
Before I got sick, I knew that being sick could make you sad, and that poor mental health could drag down even a healthy body. I hope you don’t know from personal experience, but “depression hurts,” just like those commercials say.
When I was a freaked-out 1st grader with anxiety issues, my stomach would hurt so much I had to call my mom to pick me up from school. Was there anything wrong with my stomach? Yes, and no. It did hurt, terribly, but there was nothing anatomically or functionally wrong with my digestive tract — the problem was in my head.
What I didn’t know before I got sick is that good mental health can mitigate poor physical health. Reality exists in each person’s head, and there are a million ways to tweak that reality and change it for the better. When you do that, you’re less vulnerable to the vagaries of the mortal meatbag you call a body. Wellness is very much a state of mind.
It took me several years more to learn that physical health can affect the mental for the better. It wasn’t until I started exercising regularly, running especially, that I noticed exercise could induce a deep sense of calm throughout my entire body, but most surprisingly, I feel calm in my mind. Things are quieter up there, with the feeling of just being.
Some people sit sliently and meditate to reach a similar state, but I never had much luck with that. Turns out, exercise is a shortcut to inner peace that works for me. Healthy body, healthy mind. Healthy mind, healthy body.