Health Psychology focuses on identifying the factors that impact health and wellness and helping people to implement practices, behaviors and mindsets which promote physical and emotional health. These factors include biological, psychological, social, cognitive, spiritual and environmental components. These components interact with each other and influence both the risk of an illness and the body’s ability to heal.
Health psychologists study these factors and their interactions on patients’ health, helping to enhance healing and recovery, maintain wellness and improve health, while preventing illness. A health psychologist supports a person to identify stressors and how these may impact their life as well as design an individualized treatment plan to learn stress-management techniques such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness and heart coherence. The treatment plan may also include helping a person implement pro-health behaviors which are known to buffer against stress, prevent illness, and cultivate the body’s ability to recover from illness. These behaviors can include healthy sleep, an activity routine, a nutrition plan, cultivating gratitude, boosting the support system and engaging in meaningful activities.
The goal is to build resilience to adversity and optimize health and well-being. Stress and how we manage it is a risk factor that can lead to physical and mental illness. Stress has both direct and indirect impacts on our health. One example of the direct impact of stress on health is that the body’s chemical and physiological reactions to ongoing perceived stress decreases its ability to fend off illness. Indirectly, stress impacts our health in many ways such as affecting our sleep, how and what we eat, our ability to make decisions and how our time is spent with loved ones or activities we enjoy. Learning how to manage stress is just one example as to how health psychology services can benefit in the journey towards improved self-care and greater health and well-being.