In today’s society, it’s undeniable that physical health and mental health are deeply intertwined. So, why, in 2023, does our education system still neglect the importance of teaching our young people about their minds and how to promote good mental health? In this blog, we will explore some of the significance of this connection and the reasons why the education system must adapt to benefit our future generations.
Motivation and Behaviour: The Crucial Connection to Mental Health
A healthy mind plays a pivotal role in maintaining motivation. Those who have experienced challenges with their mental health are familiar with how it can profoundly affect their drive to complete daily tasks that enrich our lives. Concentration becomes difficult, and performing at one’s best feels like an uphill battle. This impact extends beyond our personal lives, affecting our social interactions, professional commitments, family dynamics, dietary choices, decisions regarding our future, and our capacity for self-care, including exercise and nutrition.
A Healthy Mind in Managing Stress and Physical Health
A healthy mind is undoubtedly better equipped to handle life’s inevitable stressful events. At some point in all our lives, the pressure can become overwhelming, and this stress can have numerous effects on our physical health. Stress triggers the “fight or flight” response, which involves the release of stress hormones, particularly cortisol and adrenaline. In large doses, these hormones can have a significant impact on our physical health. When we are mentally prepared to cope with these challenging situations, we can reduce or even eliminate the negative physical consequences of stress.
The Sleep-Health Connection
Good mental health plays a crucial role in our sleeping patterns. When we experience difficulties with our mental health, such as stress, anxiety, or mood disorders, this significantly impacts the quality of sleep we get each night. The lack of sleep can weaken our immune system, leading to physical health challenges, affecting cognitive functioning, and impacting our overall well-being.
The Immune System and Mental Health
As mentioned earlier, a lack of sleep can compromise our immune system, but challenges with our mental health alone can have the same effect. Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can weaken our immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and physical illnesses. A healthy mind, without a doubt, can boost our immune system, helping prevent unnecessary illnesses.
Hormonal Balance and Mental Health
Poor mental health can disrupt our hormone balances. For instance, stress can trigger the release of cortisol, which, when chronically elevated, can negatively impact physical health, including blood pressure and weight gain.
Self-Care and the Role of a Healthy Mind
A healthy mind encourages good self-care, which isn’t just about taking long baths and spa days. Self-care includes attending doctor’s appointments and staying on top of health checkups. It enables us to make better, healthier decisions about food and exercise. On the other hand, an unhealthy mind can lead us to neglect ourselves and not prioritise our physical well-being.
The Role of Self-Worth, Self-Esteem, and Confidence in Health
To have high self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence, a healthy mind is essential. A healthy mind enables us to perceive ourselves positively, which, in turn, encourages us to engage in activities that boost these attributes and allows us to continue growing and prioritise all aspects of ourselves, including our physical health. Conversely, low self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence can have the opposite effect. The physical consequences of low self-worth, esteem, and confidence can include unhealthy lifestyle choices, self-harm, reduced motivation, lack of motivation, worry, and exhaustion, among others.
Conclusion: The Broken Education System and the Neglect of Recognising the Mind-Body Connection
Despite the numerous connections between mental and physical health (and there are many more that have not been discussed here), the school education system is failing to provide the necessary education and support for mental health. As an adult who personally experienced the shortcomings of the education system during my teenage years, I am deeply passionate about raising awareness regarding the crucial need for curriculum changes to support future generations. While physical health is undeniably important, good mental health is equally essential for the well-being of ourselves and our young people.
Contemporary research highlights that mental health and understanding our minds may be even more critical than physical health. This is due to a lack of understanding of the incredible power of our brains in maintaining our overall health. To address this gap, it is imperative to introduce a weekly curriculum lesson in our schools, offering education on the workings of our minds. This education would help us comprehend how to manage our emotions, build resilience, learn to value and love ourselves, and provide us with the tools to overcome challenging life experiences, ultimately preventing long-term physical and mental consequences for everyone.