Body and Mind: The Holistic Approach to Wellness
We humans have powerful minds, and powerful bodies, and the relationship between the two is stronger than many people think. Having a healthy mind will help keep your body healthy, and vice-versa. Many of us lead stressful, busy lives, and find it difficult to keep our minds and bodies healthy. We often lead sedentary lives, going from desk, to car, to couch every day. Lack of time, cooking skills and knowledge can mean that we eat a damaging diet. Urban life exposes us to toxic chemicals everywhere we go. All these things can help contribute to both physical and mental health problems, and they in turn contribute to each other.
If you tend to find that you are tired, grumpy and lacking in energy, and prone to minor illnesses and aches and pains, then you probably already know that you need to change your lifestyle. How do you do this? You make body and mind wellness your goal.
Wellness is about more than just not being ill: it is about managing your body and mind so that they work for you, not against you. A key part of the wellness concept is recognition that the body and mind are not separate, and that healthiness in one can help promote healthiness in the other. This is partly a general connection: if you feel physically ill, your emotional health will be affected, and that in turn may make you feel more ill.
However, there are also some very specific connections between physical and mental functioning. For example, scientists know that half of the neurotransmitter function in the brain is actually made in the gut: so eating the right food has a direct link with cognitive function. Poor emotional health could even be a risk factor for developing cancer: a study carried out by Israeli researchers showed that women who had suffered two ‘severe life events’ were 62% more likely than other women to develop breast cancer.
It seems clear that if you do not keep your body and your mind healthy, you will not struggle to keep either of them healthy.
Often, it is difficult or impossible to do anything about some of the things in our lives that are causing us stress and damaging our health. Things like having to commute in busy traffic every day, working with difficult people, or having financial worries are hard to do anything about. While we cannot always change our lives easily, we can make sure that we have resilience, and resilience leads to wellness. Resilience is being physically and mentally strong and able to deal with everything life throws at us. If you are finding that even running simple errands (having to collect parcels or do some last-minute shopping) feels stressful, then you need more resilience.
Follow these practical tips to help you build your Resilience:
– Keep active.
Our bodies are not designed to be inactive, and when we do not use our bodies enough, they begin to deteriorate. When we are sedentary, our minds are more prone to stress and depression, as we are not using our bodies as we should. Exercise sends an instant hit of glucose and oxygen into the brain, both of which it needs to function properly.
– Understand nutrition.
Eating the right foods gives your body and brain the fuel they need to function. Having the right diet can sometimes mean being able to stop taking drugs for chronic illnesses and allergies. The best food to eat is the food that is closest to our ‘natural’ diet: plenty of fresh unprocessed whole foods, mainly fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you have particular allergies or concerns about your diet, see if you can find a good nutritionist who can advise you on natural supplements.
– Focus your mind.
Have life-goals and a sense of purpose. What is it that you feel you were put on the planet to do? If you do not know, develop your interests and find out. Taking part in yoga, meditation or tai chi can help you focus both body and mind on your goals.
– Make social connections.
We are designed to live with and among each other: the modern pattern of living alone or in small nuclear families is not our natural state. Make time for friends and family and for your community, and you will find you feel happier and more grounded.
– Accept change.
Life is unpredictable, so stop fighting it. Build your inner core of strength so that you can deal with change, both good and bad. Do this by regularly re-evaluating your life and understanding your own emotional responses. Change always brings loss of some kind, even when it is positive (such as having a child leading to loss of independence). It often also brings opportunity, so learn to focus on that.
No-one can guarantee that they will always be happy and healthy, but you can give yourself the best possible chance.