When it comes to our health, many people will focus on one aspect of wellness. For example, if a person is physically ill, they will take medicine like a pain reliever or cold medicine to feel physically better. Along the same lines, if a person is not feeling their best mentally, their doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants. While this may be a wise choice in some instances, it’s important to understand the strong connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind.
The Mind-Body Connection
How we think affects us physically, and how we treat our bodies affect us mentally. Here are a few examples:
What one person consider stressful may not have the same impact on another. With that said, knowing what causes you stress and effectively dealing with it before it becomes harmful is critical. Stress can increase the production of cortisol. Over time, an excessive amount of cortisol in the body can have a tremendous impact on physical health. Here are a few physical effects of chronic, long term stress:
- Decreased energy levels
- Upset stomach
- Chest pain
- Muscle tenseness
- Frequent colds
- Decreased sex drive
A person may take medication to treat these physical symptoms, not realizing they are caused by issues they are having mentally.
For many people, physical exercise makes them feel good mentally. Here are a few of the psychological benefits of exercise:
- Improves mood by producing serotonin and endorphins
- Relieves feelings of anxiety and depression
- Helps improve self-esteem
Aerobic exercise is believed to be an effective way to treat and manage anxiety. Performing cardiovascular exercises for 30-60 minutes, three to five days per week is believed to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Popular exercises for anxiety include the following:
Being happy and having a pleasant disposition doesn’t just feel good, it causes positive reactions in the body as well:
- Help decrease blood pressure
- Assist in decreasing pain levels and increase pain tolerance
- Strengthen the immune system
- Stimulates the production of endorphins and the “feel good chemicals” serotonin and dopamine
A healthy immune system is the first line of defense against sickness and disease. Feelings of sadness and depression could suppress the immune system. If this occurs, it can be become susceptible to a variety of dangerous health issues:
- Heart attack
- Kidney disease
Putting It Together
Working on strengthening the body and mind simultaneously is key to good health. Here are the top ways to create a healthy body and mind:
Get up and move
The human body was not designed to sit for extended periods of time. Too much sitting at the office, on the couch at home or even behind the wheel in rush hour traffic can increase the risk of muscle imbalances, constricted muscles and heart disease. Add in the propensity to snack on high fat foods while sitting can only make matters worse. Aim for a minimum of 15-20 minutes of movement daily.
On average, indoor air is up to six times more polluted than outdoor air. Getting fresh air is good for the body, as well as vitamin D from the sun.
Meditation can help clear and strengthen the mind simultaneously. It can also help to ease stress and anxiety by instilling a sense of calm and serenity.
Decrease junk food/increase healthy food consumption
Food high in fat, sugar, sodium and other harmful ingredients have been linked to a variety of health issues, including obesity, high blood pressure and depression. Eating nutrient dense foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, fish and lean meats help keep the immune system strong, decreasing the risk of becoming ill.
Get adequate rest
The human body repairs and rejuvenates itself while we sleep. The average person needs between 6-9 hours of sleep per night. Insufficient sleep over time has been linked to a weakened immune system, weight gain, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to colds.
Decrease stress levels
Determine what cause you stress and remove those triggers or find effective ways to relieve those stressors.
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Laughing releases endorphins, which can help us feel better instantly.
Get a hobby
Hobbies are a great way to relieve stress, providing a distraction from problems and provide something to look forward to. Hobbies that involve exercise (such as a fitness class) can provide many physical benefits as well.
A strong mind and body go hand in hand. By working on each simultaneously, a person is one step closer to having the healthy state of mind they desire.