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The Intersection of Physical and Mental Health and an Investigation on How to Lead a Healthy Life

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.


BACKGROUND:

Hi there! My name is Grace Battles. I am a senior at a high school in California. Being a teenager school, I have experienced many forms of mental and physical health in my life, especially in recent years, wither this be in my friends, family, or myself. I have noticed how hard it can be to lead a healthy life. I have noticed that the intersection between physical and mental health in an important one to be aware of.

Physical health can affect your mental health and your mental health can effect your physical health as well. There is a clear relationship between the two; a relationship I have discovered in my own life and one that I value greatly. I have struggled with mental health in the past, and it is still something that often haunts me, yet I have found a relief in physical activity. I have realized that exercise makes me a happier person. One thing with my health that I still struggle with is eating and body image. The pressures of high school have made this worse in many ways. My personal experiences is what inspired me to do a project about leading a healthy life in high school. One this page I will explore what this means, and how unhealthy physical practices can effect mental health, and how unhealthy mental practices can affect physical health.The purpose for my project is to find a way to create an understanding in teens about what is healthy for them mentally and physically. More specifically, I want to look at eating disorders; how they are formed, can be prevented, and how this related to physical health in the formation of the disorder. I think that teens engage in many unhealthy lifestyle practice, right a time where they are becoming independent and need to learn about their health and happiness.


THE CHALLENGE:

Multiple factors contributed to my contemplation of this subject. The challenge I noticed was how many of my peers were not leading healthy lives in many different ways. So I talked to a lot of students at my school about their physical practices as well as mental health. Surprisingly, a lot of them were willing to talk to me and were pretty personal. Some students do not exercise regularly, and many of them also talked about struggling with depression. Some said they have very unhealthy eating practices; some too much, some too little. Many of these students said that they have struggles or still struggle with eating disorders and/or distorted body images. Another person I talked to said she has always struggled with depression and even had issues with PTSD and in order to help her with this she got a personal trainer and works out a few times every week week.

This study shows a clear intersection between metal and physical practices in my community, but what about further? Well, take a look at this infographic:

Some more interesting statistics:

50% of women use unhealthy behaviors to control their weight
70% of 18-30 year old women dislike their bodies
37% of men who binge eat experience depression
43% of men dislike their bodies

The average woman in 5’4 and 165 lbs, but the average female model is 5’11 and 120 lbs.

There are similar statistics about men in the media compared to average men as well.

Not only does this data show the definite connection between physical and mental health, but it shows how media perpetuates an unfair image to average people about how they should look. This just adds onto the pressure to fit this image.

Middle and high school is a time o change for young people. It is a time where they begin to discover who they are and find their independence. This is why it is crucial to eliminate this pressure to fit in, a pressure which obviously is mentally unhealthy and leads to unhealthy physical actions such as eating disorders, unhealthy eating, etc. How can we educate kids about health and what is is to lead a healthy life? To answer this, we have to understand what health really means.


WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LEAD A HEALTHY LIFE?:

There are many habits that contribute to health.

ACTIVITY

It is proven that daily activity and lengthen your life, yet 70% of americans don’t regularly exercise. The benefits of exercise go beyond that, tough. In a resource published by UCLA, a study was described. In this study, multiple students were given the task to exercise for 20 minutes; simple enough, right? After, students who could not it still were attentive. Students who did not usually even go to school started showing up everyday and using the workout equipment after school. One student who struggled with anger management issues said he felt much more in control and in a better mood. Students were overall motivated and high-spirited. This shows the huge benefit exercise has on your physical and mental health. This, of course, is caused by endorphins which are released through physical activity.

DIET

Of course, it is healthy to eat healthy. Kids are always shown the infamous food pyramid when they are young and told to follow it to live a longer life. A healthy diet also includes staying away from alcohol and drugs. People, especially young people, often over look the importance of having a balanced diet filled with proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Having such a diet is proven to increase your quality of life. It also is proven to decrease your risk of getting Alzheimers disease.

STRESS

Effectively managing stress through positive self-talk, practicing relaxation, or participating in hobbies can help people live healthier lives. Stress can interrupt sleep schedules, and cause negative energy. Stress in unavoidable but felt with to some extent.

SLEEP

Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to health. Seven to nine hours is the right amount for adults, and reaching this goal of sleep can decrease risk of obesity, addiction, and depression.

These examples don’t only show how to live a healthy life, but prove that there is an obvious relationship between physical and mental health. So the question is now, how do we teach and promote the importance of this relationship and the importance of healthy living in general in order to keep things like eating disorders from developing in young kids?

THE SOLUTION:

To being to tackle this issue, I came up with a four step program, called Healthier Choices Sooner, or HCS. HCS is a four part program that should be instilled in schools ranging from elementary school to high school.
Here is the chart depicting the HCS:

The four parts of my program are:

1) Instilling a health and wellness course that is required for every student to take every few years. This would probably mean a course in 1st, 5th, 9th and 12th. The class would discuss topics like physical, mental, emotional, and sexual health. The subjects would involve based on relevancy to the age of the class. This would provide kids with everything they need to know about health and the long lasting effects of it. I personally never had a class like this and I think it would be extremely beneficial for every school to have.

2) Infusing Education with Physical activity would be next. More extracurricular programs need to be offered that are not as high pressure as a varsity sport. This can include spin classes, walking, running, etc.

3) Providing healthy cafeteria food in schools can help kids be motivated to eat healthier.

4) The classes would have to include education about technology and the dangers of overusing it. The impact social media can have on mental health and therefor, physical health, can be very harmful.

So that is what I think shod happen to solve the change and educate people on the important intersection between mental and physical health, but what about you?


WHAT’S NEXT?

Let me know what you think! DO you have any other solutions? Any questions you want to ask me? Let me know!

email: gbattles18@shschools.org

Thanks for reading!!

~Grace Battles


SOURCES CITED:
JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “330.639.01 The Intersection of Mental and Physical Health, 2014 4th Term – Course Catalog.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, www.jhsph.edu/courses/course/20466/2014/330.639.01/the-intersection-of-men tal-and-physical-health.

“Physical Health and Mental Health.” Mental Health Foundation, 20 Nov. 2017, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health. http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/activity.pdf

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COMMENTS: 7
  1. April 27, 2018 by CC Yin

    Hi Grace! Great project! I definitely learned a lot… you do a great job explaining everything in detail and your project is super interactive!

    • April 30, 2018 by Grace

      Thanks so much! I am glad you learned a lot 🙂

  2. April 27, 2018 by Surumya.Bhargava

    Hi Grace! I really like the plan you made for the solution. I think the idea of exercise helping with attention and overall stress is known but not well enough. Nice job!

    • April 30, 2018 by Grace

      Hi! Thank you so much, I worked hard to come up with a system I think will really help health if utilized in schools. Thanks for reading and engaging in my project, I appreciate it!

  3. April 28, 2018 by Julianna Aikens

    Hello! You did an amazing job on this project!! I have always wanted to learn more about this topic and I think that you executed it perfectly!

  4. April 30, 2018 by Grace Nichols

    I like how you looked into more holistic treatments for mental health (in our class we usually focus on medication and therapy) and I think there’s a lot of potential with your project because it’s such an easy and inexpensive solution, so really a great choice to focus on. I also thought your four step plan was well done because it shows that you have a concrete plan to catalyze change and it involves your school and peers outside of GOA, but is still not something impossible to implement or too much to handle.

    • April 30, 2018 by Grace

      Thanks! I really think that it is something easy that can really help, given that these things are proven to effect mental and physical health positively. 🙂

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