Our mind-body connections are not to be taken lightly. The influence that your mind has on your body and vice versa is very powerful, and is a phenomenon that we often ignore, underestimate or don’t know enough about.
What is a mind-body connection, you ask? In short, it’s how our psychological functioning including our beliefs, thoughts and feelings can influence how our body functions on a biological and chemical level. Not to neglect the flip side, it’s also how our physicalities, such as the activities we partake in, can impact our psychological state – whether these effects are positive or negative.
It is only in the recent 20th Century that research began to shift back to viewing the mind and body as a powerful and complex bi-directional system, realigning with the 16th century view that the mind and body was one complete entity.
Let’s apply this to your daily life: that deadline you have at work is stressing you out, you’re worried about that next mortgage payment and you’re starting to feel those aches and pains kicking in from cleaning up after your kids on a daily basis. Well, those feelings of stress and worry you’ve been experiencing place you at a higher risk of physical problems, including heart disease – and those aches and pains, they’re likely to make you feel depressed.
But don’t worry, it’s not all bad news! It’s fair of me to assume it’s within your best interest at this point to figure out how to keep your mind and body healthy, but you’re probably thinking that’s an ‘easier said than done’ kind of scenario. Like I’ve already said, you’ve got that mortgage payment due, those tight work deadlines and those aches and pains weighing you down, so you’re probably thinking “how on earth am I supposed to find the time to keep my mind-body connection in a perfect harmony?” Believe it or not ladies and gents, it’s simple, easy and I dare say even life-changing.
So, join me on this mind and body wellness journey to boost your mind-body connection to its best possible state. I doubt you’ll regret it!
Adopt a mind-body boosting exercise
What’s really stopping you from taking 30 minutes out of your day to give it a try? Yoga is arguably one of the best mind-body activities you can engage in.
Yoga helps to build your strength and also harmonise your mind and body. Its physical benefits are vast, helping increase your muscle strength, flexibility, improve respiration, cardiovascular health and increase your energy levels.
Mentally, yoga is a perfect stress-buster, as stress can manifest itself physically in different ways, including difficulty sleeping, headaches and compromised concentration. Yoga can help minimise this stress and help develop a positive outlook and positive coping mechanisms.
It’s a very mindful exercise, relying on introspection to detect how the mind and body feels, instantly grounding you in yourself, combatting a negative psychological state and increasing physical wellbeing.
Yoga’s increasing popularity in recent decades means it’s not hard to find somewhere that offers guided group yoga sessions. Look up your local area to see if there’s a nearby Yoga studio or class that you can get involved with.
Or, if you’d prefer something a little more introverted (I can’t blame you) or if you just don’t have the time, there are plenty of tutorials on Youtube and the internet on how to perform Yoga positions and exercises safely and in the comfort of your own home.
Tai chi is based on Chinese philosophy and forms part of China’s traditional medicine practises. It is meant to support and increase the flow of our ‘life energy’, also known as Qi in Chinese.
Its physical benefits include increased balance, managing joint conditions such as arthritis and improving coordination and flexibility.
Its mental benefits appear to be very significant, including decreasing depression amongst the elderly population, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing self-esteem and revolutionary research has even shown that when used alongside Western Medicine, Tai Chi can benefit mobility and posture in those with Parkinson’s disease.
Tai Chi classes are less commonly found, but it may be that your local community offers Tai Chi classes that you can sign up to. But again, the trusty internet always has you covered, with plenty of videos you can watch for free and articles you can read to practise the art of Tai Chi in your daily life.
A positive outlook
Research has demonstrated that the chemicals your brain produces, whether these be helpful chemicals or harmful chemicals, depends on your mental outlook. By maintaining a positive outlook and remaining hopeful in situations that would be stressful or upsetting, such as times of illness, your body is more likely to produce positive chemicals that enable your body to heal faster.
Better yet, having a positive outlook can actually help you in handling stress or pain in comparison to an absence of positivity or a less hopeful outlook. Positive thinking can actually help more directly with your physical health, including reducing the risk of dying from cardiovascular issues and it can also increase longevity.
Individuals who regularly adopt a positive outlook are also a lot more resilient, and this can actually buffer depression.
How you can maintain a positive outlook:
- Laugh more
- Start an appreciation journal
- Stay active
- Give yourself plenty of breaks from work
- Have hobbies and interests to look forward to
- Think less about the short term and more about the long haul
- Listen to music
Honestly, this is the simplest piece of advice I can possibly give – go outside and get some sun! Sunlight is the most prolific source of vitamin D for our bodies, and can work wonders for both your physical and mental health.
Vitamin D is essential for your physical wellbeing, research has shown that without the necessary amounts of vitamin D our bones begin to weaken and this can contribute to issues such as osteoporosis in later life. Not only this, but Vitamin D plays a crucial role in immune functioning and reducing inflammation in the body.
In terms of your mental health, Vitamin D plays a critical role in a number of brain processes, and when individuals are deficient or have low levels of vitamin D, they are at greater risk of depression. Exposure to sunlight releases a special chemical in your brain called Serotonin – a mood boosting hormone that helps you feel calm and improves focus. So, sunlight in itself can significantly improve your mood.
Of course, there’s always the disclaimer I have to point out, getting too much sun or not protecting yourself from UV rays can put you at heightened risk of sun burn and skin cancer. But sunlight is essential, so just make sure you wear plenty of SPF and apply regularly throughout the day if you’re heavily exposed to the sun.
Something I’m sure we’ve all heard of, but do we really know what meditation entails? Meditation is a method by which we can increase attention and awareness and achieve a calmer state of mind.
It’s an easy and effective way to alleviate stress which could otherwise lead to the production of cortisol – a negative chemical that contributes to increasing blood pressure and disrupting our sleep. Fortunately, mindfulness meditation has actually been shown to reduce the negative effects caused by stress.
When considering our emotions, meditation is very effective at promoting our emotional wellbeing. A lot of research points to meditation being a useful method to improve or reduce symptoms of depression and also anxiety.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily involve what I’m assuming you’re picturing right now – cross-legged, hands poised on knees, making an ‘omm’ noise… meditation is just about finding a quiet space where you can reflect, focus on your breathing and keep your mind from wandering onto all of your busy thoughts. There are different ways you can meditate, and here’s a link from HeadSpace that I feel you’ll find useful if you’d like to learn more, or alternatively, check out our own article on meditation:
So, there you have it. Four easy ways for you to stay in peak mental and physical health. It can be tough sometimes to find the time to work on your health, and you’re definitely not alone in that, but hopefully with this easy guide, the process will be a lot simpler for you to keep both your mind and body in perfect harmony.