The Environment: It Can Impact More Than Just Physical Health
Studies show that the foods we consume, as well as the sights and sounds in our environments, all conspire to influence our day to day lives and play a critical role in how our bodies develop and function. It is also worth noting that these very factors can also affect our mental health as well. For those who may not have been aware, June is mental health month. As such, this is an opportune time to highlight some of the social and environmental factors that can take a toll on both our physical and mental health and why you should be aware of them.
HOW YOUR HOME AND WORK ENVIRONMENT AFFECTS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
If you work a full-time job, you probably spend about 33 percent of your day surrounded by your boss, co-workers, and friends. Not surprisingly, the amount of time you spend at work will invariably have a significant impact, positive or negative, on your mental health. In fact, studies show that your work life can impact your internal motivation, behavior, and overall mood. For example, a work environment filled with bright colors and a mixture of natural and artificial light has been proven to reduce depression and anxiety among those struggling with either mental health disorder. Conversely, an environment that is delineated by dull colors and poorly lit have been shown to trigger feelings of depression.
That aside, let's take a look at how a work environment can impact behavior and motivation:
Behaviors - For many people, the way they behave at work often carries over to their home life. For example, individuals who work in an orderly environment with well-defined procedures are more likely to have a similar home life. This type of work and home environment have been shown to reduce scattered thoughts and improve concentration.
Motivation - An organized and clean work and home environment can improve one's internal motivation in that it allows clear thinking, which makes it easier to set and reach goals.
Interactions - Having an unorganized work or home life can quickly and adversely affect how you interact with friends, family, and co-workers as it can cause them to become distant, which, in turn, decreases social interactions. According to a study conducted by Bringham Young University, positive social interactions can offer the following benefits:
- Reduced depression
- Improved immune system
- Better sleep
- Mental sharpness
- Increased productivity
LIFESTYLE AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
There is no denying that physical and mental health are intertwined; in fact, there is more than enough scientific data to suggest that those who are physically unhealthy are at a greater risk for depression. Beyond that, they are also more susceptible to obesity, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease.
There are also external factors like increased exposure to non-renewable resources like carbon-based fossil fuel, for example, that can compromise one's physical and mental health. According to annualreviews.org, a California-based nonprofit publisher that details the progress of science and the benefit of society, some of the biggest health impacts that an individual can face stem from the harvesting and burning of solid fuels, particularly those that contribute to ambient air pollution. Exposure to these toxins coupled with certain lifestyle factors can lead to the following:
- Inability to express various emotions
- Difficulty recovering from a state of depression
- Inability to develop one's personal strengths
- Unable to enjoy life
The best way to avoid these problems is by limiting your exposure to dangerous chemicals and making better lifestyle choices like eating a healthy diet, exercising, reducing stress, and limiting alcohol consumption.