Healthy Bodies Support Healthy Minds

Lifestyle choices can have a big impact on mental health. People with poorer physical health are at a greater risk for certain mental illnesses, whilst looking after your body can greatly improve your overall sense of wellbeing.

Eating and exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and reducing exposure to alcohol, smoking and other drugs support good mental health. Reducing stress, undertaking relaxation activities, keeping connected to others and spending time in nature all provide physical and mental health benefits.

If you need support to start making changes speak to your GP or utilise online resources.

Small changes to your daily life can make a big difference to how you feel.

Keep Active

Only one third of Australians are getting enough exercise. Australian guidelines recommend adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that can help with anxiety, depression and can improve your mood. You don’t have to run a marathon or join a sports team, even just a short work can make a difference.

If you need some support on getting started go to https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/tips-for-getting-active

Eat Well

When it comes to supporting good mental health, our diet plays a critical role. Beyond the physical health impacts, diets high in saturated fats and refined sugars impact how we feel emotionally. We need to avoid processed food and incorporate a diet which includes drinking plenty of water and enjoying a wide variety of foods from the five food groups (vegetables, fruit, grains, meat/alternatives and dairy/alternatives) every day.

Find more information at https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/

Sleep More

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for our physical and mental health. Over the last few decades our sleep quality and quantity has declined. Poor sleep leads to a range of health impacts including weight gain, depression, anxiety, and lethargy. Sleep helps to regulate the chemicals in our brain that transmit information. If we don’t get enough sleep we can start to feel depressed or anxious. Most adults need 7-8 hours a sleep a night.

Find tips to support good sleep habits at https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/

Avoid Alcohol and Smoking

Alcohol, smoking and other drug use have detrimental impacts on physical health. Smoking and alcohol are often used when people are under stress, but these addictive substances can make symptoms worse in the long run. Whilst they can create an immediate sense of relaxation, the people who use them then experience withdrawal symptoms which can increase anxiety. Smoking is not recommended and Australian guidelines for alcohol use for healthy adults is no more than 2 standard drinks a day.

Find out more at https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/drugs-alcohol-and-mental-health

Reduce Stress

Try activities like deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, walking the dog, reading a book, having a cup of tea, listening to music or reading a magazine or book. Shifting your focus can make a big difference to managing stress levels.

Find some quick stress reduction tips at https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/how-to-reduce-stress-right-now

Take a Technology Detox

Over exposure to screen time can be bad for our physical and mental health. Being able to unplug can make you feel more energised and connected to the world around you. Set a time limit each day to check social media, and balance time online with connecting with others and relaxing activities.

Find some detox tips and stories from people trying tech detoxing at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/13/how-to-quit-your-tech-phone-digital-detox

Enjoy Nature

Studies show that spending time in nature can improve our self-esteem and mood, reduce stress levels and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Nature is both restorative for people with mental health challenges and protective for general mental health.

If you live in Central Australia find some walking and outdoor activities at https://northernterritory.com/alice-springs-and-surrounds/see-and-do/outdoor-activities/walking-and-hiking

Be Socially Connected

Being connected to others is important for our physical and mental wellbeing. Social isolation is known to be a trigger for mental illness so work on developing healthy relationships with family friends, neighbours and co-workers. Consider volunteering or online social groups.

Find some tips to improve social connections at https://5waystowellbeing.org.au/5-ways/connect/

Ask For Help

If you need support to start making changes speak to your GP or utilise online resources.

If you feel overwhelmed or are in distress 24 hour support services are available:

Download the Healthy Bodies Support Healthy Minds flyer here


Equally Well

People living with severe and complex mental illness experience poorer physical health than the general population for a range of reasons including side effects of medications, silos between physical and mental health services, stigma and discrimination, and ‘diagnostic overshadowing’.

MHACA is a signatory to the Equally Well Consensus Statement, a national initiative to improve the quality of life of people living with a mental illness by providing equal access to quality health care. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan has seen all Australian Government’s commit to the Equally Well Consensus Statement. The statement provides an evidence base and a list of actions that provide guidance to health service organisations.

Nationally, four out of every five people living with mental illness have a co-existing physical illness. Compared to the general population, people living with mental illness are:

  • Two times more likely to have cardiovascular disease
  • Two times more likely to have respiratory disease
  • Two times more likely to have metabolic syndrome
  • Two times more likely to have diabetes
  • 65% more likely to smoke
  • Six times more likely to have dental problems
  • Comprise around one third of all avoidable deaths
  • In Central Australia some of these statistics are even higher, especially the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.

Through the ‘Healthy Bodies Support Healthy Minds’ health promotion campaign MHACA is supporting participants to improve their physical health through implementation of tailored health screening tools, educational sessions, participant wellbeing activities and an integrated approach with other agencies including community health, oral health, nutrition and AOD services.

Download the Equally Well Consensus Statement here