Have you considered that what you 'feed' your mind may have as much of an impact on your health outcomes, as the food and supplements you consume to feed your body?
For centuries, healers have pondered the interconnections between mental and physical health, matter and spirit, thought and action. And now in recent years, science is catching up in the recognition of emotional, spiritual, and behavioural factors in contributing to biochemical imbalances within the body, and directly affecting overall health and wellness.
You may well have made a connection between eating sugar and toxins and feeling anxious, overly emotional, tired or not thinking so clearly, and may be well aware that consuming a daily diet based on wholesome food is an essential and powerful tool to feed great health. But, how should you deal with the consequences of negative thinking and stress on your mind-body health?
What we know for sure is that a positive attitude works - we just need to remember and take time to nurture it.
Experts rate exercise, sufficient sleep, meditation, yoga, controlling negative thoughts and building a strong social support as some of the best ways to decrease stress and boost immunity – so paying attention to your feelings and needs is as vital as drinking enough water and avoiding junk food.
Achieving long-term health and energy can, therefore, be seen as a mind-body balancing act.
So, how are you 'feeding' your own mind? Here are five winning ways to promote good mind-body health:
If you feel like you have an aversion to exercise, or struggle to prioritise it, please think again. The release of endorphins during exercise has been shown to promote a sense of wellbeing, which has also the added benefit of boosting your immune system.
During exercise, the lymphatic system – a network of tissues and organs that helps your body to eliminate toxins and waste – is mobilised. Its main role is to transport lymph fluid, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells. Unlike the blood, which is transported by the heart, lymph fluid only moves if you do.
A recent study from a North Carolina university showed that people who exercised for five or more days weekly experienced 43% fewer days of upper respiratory infections.
Walking, running or any other muscle-moving activity also dramatically reduces stress by ‘working off steam’ when you are upset or angry. With the release of endorphins, your body receives a natural mood boost, resulting in reduced stress levels, which in turn puts less pressure on your immune system.
2. Get enough sleep
According to an American Psychological Association study, stress is what keeps more than 40% of adults awake at night. To aim for the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, avoid caffeine, digital screens and try to turn in at the same time each evening.
3. Focus on some self-care
Make an effort to do something nice for yourself every day. Neglecting your own needs adds unnecessary stress to the system, resulting in increased vulnerability to illness.
Women, in particular, tend to put their own needs last, especially if they’re caring for children and/or elderly parents. If you battle with guilt when you take an hour off to read, go for a manicure or have a coffee with a friend. Remind yourself that if your bucket is empty, you’ll have nothing left to give anyone else. Simple, but effective.
Did you know that you cut in half the chances of catching a cold by meditating?
A University of Wisconsin study showed that people who practised mindfulness – a type of meditation or mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while accepting feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations – noted 13 fewer illnesses and took 51 fewer sick days.
Researchers concluded that this reduced the physical effects of stress, which is known to weaken the immune system.
5. It takes a village...
Building strong social connections has proven psychological and physiological benefits. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, having a ‘support group’ – no matter how big or small – boosts immunity by creating ‘stress buffers’.
Being able to share stress or concerns with close family or friends provides an opportunity for outside support and advice, which alleviates a sense of being alone in your situation.
Ongoing stress is also a contributing factor to many chronic diseases, and the stress hormone cortisol may be a serious barrier if you are trying to lose weight.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” – Jack Kornfield, American author and Buddhist mindfulness pioneer.
What could you do differently straight-away to harness your mind and help you heal your body?