“Mental health and physical health have a bi-directional and complex relationship” (Bhugra, Kar, and Lawton-Smith, 2014).
Essentially what that alludes to is how our thought patterns, feelings, and attitudes can influence certain things in the physical realm, such as biological factors and outcomes, just as what we do physically can influence our mental state. The landscape for this topic is further entangled by various social factors. Studies on the neuroscience involved with the tight connections between mental and physical health are emerging and the findings have been compelling.
In a nutshell, the intricate dance between mental and physical health plays a significant role in our overall health and sense of well-being. While it’s easy to get caught up with visuals and images of fit, tone bodies as a representation of good health. It is also important to keep the health of our mind in check which also takes consistent “exercise”.
The good news is that there are ways to manage both mental and physical health in tandem throughout the year.
Pick a physical activity plan right for you with a focus on consistent daily movement and conditioning.
Movement improves circulation and, respectively, blood flow to the brain. There is also a co-dependent relationship between physical activity and stress levels. Appropriate daily movement can help reduce adverse stress levels which can lead to better mental clarity and focus. Furthermore, exercise can also serve as a moving meditation allowing for concentration on the patterns of movement. Each of these factors, physical activity and stress levels, influences how we sleep which is incredibly relevant for cognition and certain biochemical facets related to the health of our brain.
Bottom line: stay physically active for both mental and physical health.
Bonus tip: Lift weights to reduce anxiety! Not only is weight-bearing exercise fantastic for your physique, including internal components such as bone health, but it can also be great for mental health as well.
Check-in on your mental patterns and habits.
Destructive mental habits, such as repetitive self-pity or ruminating, can essentially hijack positive motivations. When this occurs, it may prevent taking relevant action when doing so is needed the most. It can also influence our health-related behaviors and outcomes, as well as relationships with others.
Working to re-prioritize mental tendencies and maladaptive behaviors to, then, focus on the proactive practice of more healthful patterns can enhance emotional well-being. Furthermore, studies have suggested, for example, that exercises for mindfulness can be a helpful antidote to negative mental tendencies such as rumination.
Bottom line: clearing negative, adverse mental patterns can positively influence a sense of well-being and lead to a greater sense of motivation which is critical when it comes to taking care of both mental and physical aspects of health.
Bonus tip: Identifying and repositioning mental habits is also an area where a mentor or appropriate supportive professional can help with identify realistic and actionable steps for change, then support for staying on track.
Pay attention to breathing patterns and consider targeted approaches.
Appropriate breathing patterns are important during exercise and they can also play a role within the day to day through the activation of the relaxation response. Targeted breathing patterns, such as mechanisms of deep breathing, are also thought to help improve blood flow, relax muscles, support metabolism, regulate the immune system, and reduce stress levels. Incorporating targeted approaches to breathwork has not only been shown to support various mental related conditions, such as anxiety or depression, but it has also been influential in chronic medical conditions that may be impairing physical health. Furthermore, the practice of yoga has been touted for its emphasis on breathing and physical conditioning.
Bottom line: breathing techniques can be supportive of both mental and physical health, particularly due to the reduction of adverse, elevated stress levels.
Bonus tip: Harvard Health provides a simple, implementable approach HERE.
Winding down through methods such as spending time in nature or taking a “digital detox” can also be influential to both mental and physical health. Also, general wellness, including nutrition, is supportive.
In closing, the focus of mind-body connections is emerging in emphasis. Although certain principles have been around in sort of old-world wisdom for centuries, new research in areas such as neuroscience is further confirming the various connecting facets.
A solid, “whole-health” approach is to exercise both the mind and body.
Photo credit(s): Jacob Postuma on Unsplash
Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality. Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results. Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health. Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!
In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes? Contact me through my business site.
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