Your Healthy Body Starts In Your Head
It’s been said that a circle has no end and no beginning. You may wonder what this has to do with physical fitness, and the answer is: a lot. Research shows that what’s going on in your head is reflected in your body, and physical issues like chronic pain will affect your state of mind. An imbalance in one area contributes to problems in the other, often creating a kind of vicious circle that diminishes your quality of life.
The Mind-Body Connection
One of the key pieces of advice if you’re feeling stressed or depressed is physical activity. In such a mental state, you may not feel like doing much of anything, but research shows that even a 30-minute walk outside can elevate your mood and enhance feelings of well-being. One the flip side, there’s evidence that engaging in mentally strenuous activities elevates your heart rate in the same manner as a rigorous workout.
The connection between an unwell mind and body can be seen in a number of ways. People with undiagnosed clinical depression often have accompanying physical symptoms like generalized pain, digestive problems, and sleep disturbances that drive them to the doctor for help. However, their mental and emotional symptoms might be ignored as being over-tired. You may be under the impression that a chronic or fatal illness like cancer or heart disease causes depression and anxiety. Research has found that people who already live with mental or emotional problems have a 41 percent higher risk of developing a serious illness.
Practitioners of holistic healing recognize this mind-body connection. They seek to strengthen it through a variety of means, including meditation, mindfulness, visualization. These components have been successful with everything from weight loss to pain management. This is also proven in studies of chronically ill people who have been able to literally “think themselves well” by envisioning themselves as healthy. This can take the form of imagining a tumor shrinking by degrees, keeping consistent thoughts of walking straight and tall rather than bent over with back pain, or seeing yourself as fit and happy during your weight management efforts.
Re-imagining Yourself Healthy
Healthier living doesn’t just happen overnight. Retraining your mind and body to incorporate any major habit takes at least 30 days. It’s after the first month that the physical benefits become apparent, but the mental boost is noticeable much sooner. The phenomenon known as a “runner’s high” is an extreme example of the benefits of physical activity in our state of mind. Endorphins in our brain that are related to pleasurable feelings are released when we exercise. This is because our brain is connected to our endocrine system, which secretes hormones that cause feelings of well-being that are released through physical exertion.
Anyone can incorporate mood-improving physical activity into their everyday lives easily by:
- Finding opportunities to turn everyday activities into mini workouts; for example, bending and stretching while folding clothes or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Trying to get 30 minutes of uninterrupted physical activity each day.
- Reducing the amount of time you spend sitting
How Nutrition Plays a Part
Most people know that practicing sensible eating habits contributes to health and disease reduction. What’s less well-known is the role of diet on mental and emotional health. Sugary foods enter the bloodstream faster, causing what’s known as a “sugar rush” that is followed by feelings of depression or anxiety, which in turn leads to overeating unhealthy foods to lift the mood again. This is also the beginning of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Trade complex carbs, processed foods, and foods that are high in fat, sugars, and salts for fresh vegetables, fruit smoothies supplemented with protein powder, limited amounts of whole grains, and healthy fat burners.
A bad state of mind doesn’t necessarily cause ill health, but it can contribute to a worsening of the situation. Developing the habits that lead to a longer life that’s infused with mental and biological health requires a balance of emotional wellness, proper nutrition, and physical activity.
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