3 External Factors That can Affect Your Mental Health
© Jaime Reimer
There are a lot of internal factors that can contribute to a worsening mental health. Brain structure, genetic factors and even your diet can all play their part. However, there are also a number of external factors which can affect your mental health too. This makes sense because the environment that we inhabit forms the background of our lives providing it with the all-important context. Read on to learn more.
There are a number of environmental factors that can impact your mental health. These are the things in the world around us that we often have little to no control over. Where you live, and the things around you have a huge impact on your mental health and the way that you feel.
The amount of sleep that you get, or the lack thereof, can be negatively contributing to your mental health. There are a number of environmental factors that could be affecting your sleep, from noise to temperature. Think about your sleeping arrangements and whether they could be adjusted to ensure that you are getting around eight hours of quality sleep every night.
Spending too much time in areas with a high level of air pollution, especially as a youngster, is said to increase the likelihood of experiencing mental health issues later in life. The importance of clean, fresh air cannot be overstated and can do wonders for your internal balance. Persistent bad weather can also have a negative impact on your mental health. Firstly, it is stressful, and bad weather can inform your mood, which is why a lot of people suffer from seasonal depression. In truth, there is not a lot that you can do about the bad weather, except maybe take a vacation every now and then.
Social influences can also have a significant effect on the way that you feel. Society provides the context to our thoughts and feelings. The culture that we are brought up in and its customs often tells us a lot about our feelings, and when, how and why we should feel them. Experiencing discrimination and stigmas such as racism, homophobia, sexism, or any number of other forms of discrimination regularly can increase your risk of mental illness. Prejudice can take its toll; for example, BIPOC communities can often be on the receiving end of discrimination, but there is also a culture of silence within the community itself, which can make it harder to combat mental health issues. This article by Talkiatry goes into more detail and explains the importance of ending the stigma around mental illness.
Living in a volatile environment can also harm your mental health. Strife, violence, abuse or poverty can shape your life whether you experience it as a child, adolescent or adult. You are more likely to experience chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can all stem from these experiences, as can more serious conditions like PTSD. Poverty, perhaps surprisingly, can be more insidious, purely because it can permeate every aspect of your life, from what you eat to where you live and work, meaning that there is no reprieve. This can then turn into chronic stress, frustration and a low self-esteem or self-worth. It can also force people into other unhealthy or damaging environments.
Human beings are social creatures, too much isolation is not good for us. We are designed to need each other. Feeling alone, unsupported or ostracized can deeply impact your sense of self. However, unhealthy or toxic relationships can dismantle a person’s self-esteem and increase the volatility of their mood. Finally, some relationships or environmental factors can make a person feel unsafe, and a feeling of uncertainty can increase a person’s stress and anxiety it can lead to disorders like PTSD or trauma responses.
Some external factors that can affect a person’s mental health are even more intangible. The best way to categorize them is as mental stimulation or, more aptly, a lack thereof. Firstly, green spaces and nature as a whole are incredibly important for your wellbeing.
This leads on to the next point. A lack of visual stimulation can also have a negative impact on your mental health. Dull, boring or environments that are simply lacking can dampen the mood and stifle both creativity and productivity too. The same can be said for environments that are either too or not enough rigid or regimented. There is a level of tidiness that is oppressive; it can be stifling. On the other hand, high levels of mess can cause anxiety and make it hard for people to achieve anything with their day.
Finally, artificial forms of mental stimulation like addictive substances, so alcohol, nicotine or drugs, can alter your brain chemistry which is how addictions start. An addiction to a substance can lead to the onset or the exacerbation of mental health conditions. The occasional usage may not have any negative effects. It is when you start to have a reliance on the substance, whether that is something as seemingly innocuous as alcohol or cigarettes.
The Bottom Line
There are a lot of external factors that can impact your mental health in addition to the obvious genetic factors or traumatic experiences. The truth is that the different types of factors tend to lead to or influence each other. While this can be to their detriment, it can also help too. A positive change in your environment can help to improve your mental wellbeing. Seeing a counsellor, therapist or psychiatrist can also do wonders for you, especially if you are struggling to cope alone.