10 Reasons Why Your Mental Health Is So Important

Find out all the ways it's affecting you life.

Your mental health affects everything, from the way you feel emotionally on a day-to-day basis to how physically healthy you are. So needless to say, prioritizing your mental wellbeing is key to staying in tip-top shape.

Unfortunately, however, many people who need help sorting out their mental health issues don't seek it out, largely due to societal stigmas. "Roughly 25 percent of adults in the U.S. over 18 are suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder. Surprisingly, only half actually seek treatment or help," says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a neuropsychologist in New York City and faculty member at Columbia University. "Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States today."

If you need some motivation to take care of your mind just like you take care of your body, there's no better time than Mental Health Awareness Week to get educated. Here are just some of the reasons why your mental health should be of the utmost importance.

It affects your physical health.

High Intensity Workout Class

Your mind has more power over your body than you think. So, when you don't prioritize your mental health, it can negatively impact your physical health, too. For example, a poor mental state can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses. One 2018 study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes even found that men between the ages of 45 to 79 who had high levels of psychological distress had a 30 percent higher risk of heart attack than those with better mental health.

"The head-heart connection should be on everyone's radar," Barry Jacobs, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Springfield, Pennsylvania, told the American Heart Association. "It's not just being unhappy. It's having biochemical changes that predispose people to have other health problems, including heart problems."

And if you're sick, it can help you recover faster.

sick man in a hospital bed scariest diseases

When you're dealing with a serious illness like cancer, staying positive is easier said than done. However, it pays both mentally and physically to look on the bright side during treatment. When German and Canadian researchers analyzed data on breast cancer patients in 2014, they found that "depression is strongly associated with mortality in younger patients with early stage breast cancer." Another 2018 study published in the journal Cancer found that in patients with head and neck cancer, even minor depressive symptoms were associated with a decreased likelihood of survival.

It plays a role in your quality of sleep.

black man and woman sleeping in bed with white sheets, better sleep essentials

Not sleeping well? Your mental health status might be to blame. "Insomnia and sleep disturbances are two examples of how mental disorders can impair physical health," Hafeez says.

It can affect your energy levels.

Man Yawning While He Scrolls on His Laptop, contagious conditions

Even if you do manage to get enough sleep every night, letting mental health issues go unchecked can still drain your energy reserves. According to the Cleveland Clinic, both emotional stress and mood disorders like depression can affect your energy levels, making you feel tired and sluggish every day until you receive proper treatment.

It can lead to bad habits.

alcoholism and the brain - image of a man who can't stop drinking

If you don't keep your mental health in check, it can easily change the way you feel about yourself and the decisions you make. Munni Visco, a New York-based certified life coach for Relish, notes that "when you don't feel that you're enough, you can feel unworthy of affection and can subconsciously sabotage your relationships or make bad choices, such as turning to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain."

With depression in particular, the American Addiction Centers says drinking alcohol is a common coping method, as the substance's sedative effects serve as a distraction from the symptoms.

It can help you remain optimistic.

older couple hugging and smiling in the kitchen mental health awareness

"We will all face challenges and obstacles, [and] if we are unable to cope, [they] will prevent us from maintaining a healthy perspective," says Visco. "We can become negative and angry."

When your mental health is in a good place, though, you'll be able to cope with anything that comes your way.

And it can help you manage transition.

Woman packing up boxes getting ready to move

Everyone deals with several transitory periods in their lifetime. And if you work at keeping your mental health in good standing over the years, those transitions will be much easier to manage.

"Change is inevitable. Getting married, changing jobs, having kids, moving—they're all part of life," Visco says. "[Good] mental health and a positive attitude are key as you move through transition. An inability to deal with transition in a healthy way can keep you stuck in unhappy situations or cause you to withdraw."

It affects your productivity.

black woman talking on the phone in her office in front of laptop, hings not to say to customer service rep

Being productive is hard enough as it is. Throw in untreated mental health issues, though, and you're basically setting yourself up to miss deadlines and struggle to complete what should be easy everyday tasks.

"For some, mental disorders are debilitating, leading them to miss work, class, or a doctor's appointment," Hafeez says. "Every year, more than 200 million workdays are lost due to depression alone. This figure doesn't even include anyone who struggles with anxiety and stress, who are also likely to take sick leave repeatedly."

It can put a strain on your relationships.

senior asian couple sitting on couch at home, angry at each other
imtmphoto / iStock

If you think your mental health only affects you, think again. "Mental health doesn't just affect the person struggling, but also the friends and family around them," Hafeez explains. "Too often, individuals who suffer from mental illnesses—and sometimes those who need significant care—isolate themselves. They may feel like no one—not even their close friends and family—understands what they're going through. This puts a strain on most relationships, worsening the state of isolation."

It can impact your weight.

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Gaining weight can be incredibly frustrating—especially when you're not sure why you're packing on the pounds. But what many people don't realize is that this sudden scale increase can be the result of mental health problems left untreated.

One 2010 meta-analysis published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found that having depression can significantly increase your chances of developing obesity later on, and vice versa. That's because, when you're in a bad mental state, you're often less invested interest in eating healthy meals and working out regularly. And to find out how you can have better mental health in your day-to-day life, check out the 20 Expert-Backed Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Every Day.

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Tehrene Firman
Tehrene Firman is a freelance health and wellness writer. Read more
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