Although sometimes used interchangeably, “behavioral health” and “mental health” are distinct terms.
Behavioral health encompasses mental health. That is, mental health is a component of the former. It describes the connection between behaviors and an individual’s overall health. Behavioral health examines how actions such as drinking, drug use, eating habits or exercising impact both physical and mental well-being.
Mental health includes emotional, psychological and social health. It focuses on any underlying psychological disorders that may influence an individual’s behavior or impact quality of life—such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and many others.
Behavioral health professionals can help improve relationships, curb substance abuse, assist with managing emotions and more. And the tactics employed by behavioral health professionals can potentially help those living with mental health disorders live more fulfilled lives or more successfully cope with stressors.
But there are some things anyone can do today to help improve behavioral health.
Behavioral Health Boosts
Physical exertion, even moderate, stimulates chemicals in the brain that leave people feeling happier, less stressed and more relaxed. Exercise has been shown to improve mood, treat anxiety and even alleviate long-term depression.
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat.” And perhaps no part of the body is more impacted by an individual’s diet than the brain. To illustrate this, multiple studies have found a link between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function. It’s important to eat a diet rich in high-quality foods containing the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that protect the brain from cell-damaging oxidative stress.
Serving those in need can make people “feel good,” but new research is uncovering just how beneficial volunteering can be to improve both mental and physical health. One study found that volunteering reduced feelings of depression in 48% of 600 volunteers polled. And it’s not just mental health benefits that can be reaped from volunteering. A study of adults over the age of 50 who volunteered on a regular basis showed they were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.
Spend Time Outdoors
Research has found that being in nature activates parts of the mind that are otherwise languid. And that leads to a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.
Smoking isn’t only bad for physical health. New research is uncovering how detrimental it can be to mental health, too. Recent research suggests that smoking leads to an increased risk of depression. Other studies suggest that smoking can make people more depressed and that can lead to more smoking—a vicious cycle. Still, other research suggests that people struggling with depression turn to smoking, hoping to make themselves feel better. The takeaway: whether smoking causes depression, or is a symptom, it’s detrimental to both physical and mental well-being.
There’s a considerable link between heavy alcohol use and depression. And, similar to smoking, regular drinking can lead to depression—and depressed people are more likely to drink too much. If a person finds that drinking is causing problems at home, work or in other personal relationships, or often turn to alcohol just to get through the day, there may be a more serious problem. Either way, limiting alcohol use is important for improving behavioral health.
In cases when self-managed activities fall short of achieving optimal behavioral health, the best thing to do is seek professional help. Know that seeking professional counsel isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a symbol of self-respect and dignity. From substance abuse treatment to assistance managing anxiety and depression, Davis Behavioral Health has the supportive, trained and experienced mental health professionals on staff to help.