Have you ever lashed out at a friend or family member and couldn’t figure out why? Or maybe you had the opposite experience and started treating the people around you better all of a sudden.
While behavior and mental health are complex, they are also connected in obvious ways. Knowing how one influences the other can help you regulate your mental well-being and behavior.
You will also be able to notice when something is off more easily. That being said, sometimes your behavior is out of your control.
You might have inherited some condition or had a mental illness passed down genetically which makes it difficult to control your emotions.
If you find yourself in such a situation, consider getting matched with an online counselor on the BetterHelp platform.
They can help you work through these inherited behaviors and focus on healing and moving forward.
Above all, it’s vital to be aware of your own mental state and recognize the ways in which your mental health is affecting the trajectory of your life.
The Mind-Body Connection
You’ve probably noticed that your heart rate speeds up when you’re nervous or that you feel restless when anticipating an event.
Alternatively, you may feel more down on the weeks when you neglect exercise or more optimistic when you eat right.
All of these instances occur because the mind and body are connected in a variety of ways. Your mental health will impact how healthy you are physically, but your physical health will also affect your mental well-being.
It’s important to be mentally and physically healthy and proactive about both for this very reason.
Those with positive mental health and high emotional intelligence can quickly tell when something feels off. They notice their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, but don’t let these things control them.
Instead, they’re able to cope in healthy ways and take steps to feel well again. Those who aren’t as aware of their emotions and behaviors will probably find themselves being pulled and swayed by their ever-changing feelings.
They might react to situations without knowing why or do/say things they’ll later regret.
How Behaviors Affect Mental Health
Realize it or not, how you conduct yourself and the choices you choose to make will impact your mental health.
Consider the decision to drink, do drugs, eat poorly, or neglect exercise. Drinking can make you feel good at the moment but lead to worsening feelings after its effects have worn off.
Some use alcohol to numb emotions, decrease stress, or keep their anxiety at bay. However, alcohol eventually always wears off and the person is then forced to confront their feelings; using alcohol can even make certain mental health conditions worse.
Believe it or not, many people start to feel better when they choose to stop drinking.
Choosing to do drugs can quite literally change the structure of your brain and lead to both short and long-term effects.
Some of these effects can even be developing mental health disorders like anxiety or depression. This is especially true when someone becomes addicted to a drug.
Abusing drugs can make it even harder to treat a mental illness if you have or develop one.
Eating poorly can actually make your mental health worse. Most people grow up only learning about the physical benefits of eating right and neglect to understand why healthy foods are also important for the mind.
Bad diets lead to fatigue, stress, and even depression. Processed foods and those with a high sugar content can cause inflammation within the body and cause mood disorders to develop.
Your brain and stomach are linked together in a powerful way, so the choices you make with food will undoubtedly affect your mental health.
Exercise helps you look your best, but it also has drastic mental health effects. From light activity to intense exercise, every bit of movement is helpful.
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which promote optimism and happiness. Exercise reduces the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Those that deal with anger issues benefit from regular activity by channeling their anger in a productive way. In the elderly population, those who work out regularly are less likely to develop dementia and other types of cognitive decline.
Every choice you make (or choose not to make) affects you in some way whether you realize it or not. You should aim to make the healthiest choice available to you and steer clear of the decisions that will make your life worse.
Mental health can be a roller coaster with both high and low moments and you should expect this. However, you will be much more likely to stay on a more consistent path when you are proactively making good choices.
How Mental Health Affects Behavior
If you’ve ever done something without realizing why it may have been a direct result of your mental health.
Family conflict, apathy, and withdrawal are all behaviors displayed when one’s mental health is in decline. Increased cooperation, more empathy, and less judgment are each a result of good mental health.
When your mental state is in decline, it can cause you to say and do things you don’t really mean.
The heat of the moment may make you angrier than you really are or might cause defensiveness. Pay attention to when you’re fighting with those around you more than usual or when you’re feeling insecure or unsafe.
Those experiencing depression know the feeling of apathy well. They may stay in bed all day or have trouble with personal hygiene.
Feeling apathetic isn’t like feeling anger or sadness; it’s feeling nothing. When you lose interest in the activities you normally enjoy or don’t want to be around the people you love, it’s a sign something is off.
Those with any sort of mental health condition will often withdraw from the people around them because they feel like a burden. Or, they may just not have the energy for social interaction. Behaviors can indicate much more about a person than the action alone.
All this being said, good mental health can also promote behaviors that make life easier and more enjoyable.
If you find yourself being generally agreeable with those around you, cooperating more, and arguing less, it probably means you’re doing well mentally. Positive mental health leads to positive behavior.
Mental health issues can make people do all sorts of things and behave in a lot of different ways. On the flip side, people with good mental health will often find themselves doing very good and helpful things both for themselves and the people around them.
Mental health and behavior are directly connected, so the next time you wonder why you did (or didn’t) do something, check-in with yourself and see if your mental health may be the cause.
Alternatively, whenever you are wondering why you don’t feel better mentally, see if your behavior may be affecting you in one way or another.