Staying Physically Healthy by Protecting Your Mental Health

Humana’s market vice president for its employer segment offers tips for whole body health.

Perspective Guest

As we think about the challenges before us today, taking care of ourselves and our families — both physically and mentally — is more important than ever. By focusing more on what we can control in our lives, we can be better equipped to face what we cannot.

Poor mental health can adversely impact our ability to fight off disease and make good decisions. In fact, many chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, weakened immunity, asthma, obesity and gastronomical problems are linked to poor mental health.

One proven route to improving physical and mental health is through the simple act of practicing gratitude. Gratitude means deliberately expressing thankfulness, acknowledging life’s blessings and showing appreciation for what you have. Practicing gratitude regularly highlights the positives and shifts the focus from what is missing in life to what is present in life. As straightforward as it sounds, this simple practice is scientifically proven to heighten the quality of life for those who practice it regularly.

Neuroscientist Glenn Fox, PhD, at the University of Southern California has dedicated his life to studying gratitude and how it improves our resilience, lowers stress and boosts overall health. Fox’s research discovered links between gratitude and chemical brain elements, such as oxytocin, which promote social connection. The benefits associated with gratitude often include better sleep, more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, less inflammation, lower blood pressure and other positive physical and mental benefits. Practicing gratitude can also make people happier, more resilient and help strengthen relationships.

Gratitude can be seen in offering a simple “thank you” to someone who is not expecting it, a handwritten “thank you” note, or regularly writing thoughts in a gratitude journal. Even taking a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day to reflect on what you appreciate in life can be transformational. Experimenting with a few methods and finding one that works for you will create beneficial lifelong habits. This practice costs nothing to implement and is easily maintained, making it widely accessible to everyone. Give it a try and you might be surprised by the difference it makes in your mental and physical health.

Staying healthy is a central goal for many people these days. By implementing new tactics to improve mental health, notable improvements in physical health will likely follow. Here are a few tips to help you create a healthy body and mind:

  • Practice gratitude regularly and deliberately.
  • Choose an exercise program that works for you to encourage the release of “feel good” brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that ease anxiety and depression.
  • Eat a healthy diet and avoid skipping meals.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine and normal sleep schedule that consists of at least seven hours of sleep each night to protect against depression, anxiety and stress that could be caused by lack of sleep.
  • Leverage your social circle and community resources to maintain connections and support.

Taking care of ourselves has never been more important than it is today. By committing to prioritizing self-care, we can be better prepared to rise to the challenges before us. Once you make a decision to practice new health habits, hold yourself accountable to practicing the behavior without exception. Also, sharing with others that you have adopted new health habits can be an excellent way to maintain the discipline and determination to hold oneself accountable. It is never too late to make these sustainable changes, because while each is small, they collectively have life-changing impacts on our overall health and well-being.


Perspective Guest Bagby

Rhonda Bagby is market vice president of Humana’s Employer Group Segment in Louisiana and Mississippi. She may be reached at