5 simple ways to take care of your overall well-being

A woman stretches her arms outside before her workout.

Your mind and body are more connected than you might think

When it comes to health and wellness, mindset really does matter. A recent study by Evernorth found that 92% of adults living with behavioral health conditions — such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder — also had a physical health condition.

There are a couple of reasons why this is the case:

  • People with poor mental health are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, poor diet, poor sleep habits, and living a sedentary lifestyle — all things that can raise their risk of developing chronic health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
  • People who experience behavioral health conditions are less likely to seek care or take medications as prescribed, which can lead to the development of chronic health conditions or the progression of current ones.

Conversely, physical health issues can affect mental health.

  • People with extreme obesity are almost five times more likely to have experienced an episode of major depression in the past year as compared to those of average weight.1
  • Individuals with diabetes are more likely to experience anxiety or stress, and they’re two to three times more likely to experience depression than people without diabetes.2

Tips to improve your mind and body

While poor mental health is a risk factor for disease progression, having a healthy mindset can help prevent the progression of disease. In a large analysis of 15 studies, researchers found that those with an optimistic mindset had a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.3

Here are five simple things you can start doing today to improve your overall well-being. Be sure to check with your doctor first before making any health or lifestyle changes.

1. Stay active

Exercise can improve brain function, help you manage weight, control blood sugar, improve sleep quality, and increase quality of life.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or biking, as well as two days a week of strength training.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a well-balanced diet can help you think clearly, feel more alert, improve concentration, and increase attention. It’s also an important part of managing many chronic conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.

According to MyPlate, a healthy diet consists of whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and fat-free or low-fat dairy. It also limits sugars, alcohol, highly processed foods, and foods high in saturated fat or sodium.

3. Quit smoking

Quitting smoking can improve your mental (and physical) health in the long run. Researchers found that people who quit smoking were less likely to experience depression, stress, and anxiety than those who continued to smoke.4 Smoking also interacts with many medications, so smokers may need higher doses of certain medications to make them effective. Quitting smoking could mean a lower dose.

The CDC and Smokefree.gov provide free online resources to help you quit.

4. Improve your sleep

Poor sleep is associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental and emotional health conditions. It’s also a major risk factor for cardiac problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure.

That’s why it’s important to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine provides some helpful tips, including turning off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime and not eating a large meal late at night.

5. Reach out for help

It can be difficult to know where to turn to if you’re not feeling your best. Your primary care doctor can provide you with mental health screenings and help connect you with the right services. Many health plans cover telehealth appointments, which provide convenient access to therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals from the comfort of your own home. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of free and confidential resources, depending on the support you need.

1 National Library of Medicine: The Psychosocial Burden of Obesity (July 10, 2018): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6052856/.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diabetes and Mental Health (accessed June 27, 2023): cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/mental-health.html.
3 JAMA Network: Association of Optimism with Cardiovascular Events and All-Cause Mortality (September 27, 2019): jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2752100.
4 National Library of Medicine: Smoking cessation for improving mental health (March 9, 2021): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8121093/.

Posted date: September 20, 2023

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