Think back to a time when you were engrossed in an activity you enjoy. The time flew by, you were in a great mood, and your body felt energized. If you suffer from physical ailments, you may have noticed that your aches and pains seemed to diminish with your elevated mood.
Or, recall a busy day when you missed a meal and had to go longer than usual without eating. Did you find yourself feeling cranky and irritable? You may have been more impatient than usual, and more easily bothered by minor issues.
Both of these scenarios demonstrate the body-mind connection.
Taking care of your body — or failing to do so — impacts your mind in myriad ways: mood, memory, learning ability, mental sharpness, etc. This connection also applies when it comes to your mind influencing your physical body. A healthy, happy, relaxed state of mind imparts real benefits to your body; whereas an unhappy, unsettled, or stressed mind can lead to compromised physical health in the body via multiple biochemical and physiological mechanisms.
It's Vital to Care for Both Body and Mind, Because Each Influences the Other
Focusing solely on the health and well-being of either your body or your mind will yield some benefits. However, given the continual interaction and influence between body and mind, you'll experience far greater benefit by focusing on both. Conversely, neglecting either your body or your mind will have a detrimental effect on the other.
For example, someone who is diabetic will undoubtedly benefit from taking care of their mind through stress management strategies, meditation, breathing exercises, or other techniques. But these techniques are not a substitute for healthy eating habits, and a consistently poor diet will lead inevitably lead to worsening diabetes symptoms and a decline in physical health.
Furthermore, a poorly managed diabetic condition will leave someone more vulnerable to irritability and mood fluctuations, due to hormone fluctuations and nutritional/biochemical effects on the brain. All of which will detract from the person's efforts to take care of their mind.
On the flip side, let's say someone with diabetes is eating well and getting regular exercise, but also struggling to deal with a major crisis or traumatic life event. Without strategies and support to deal with these circumstances, the person's mental health will suffer, and this will take a toll on his/her physical health.
For instance, efforts to maintain a healthy weight (a key factor in managing diabetes) will be hampered by the release of stress hormones that contribute to weight gain. A troubled mind leads to troubled sleep, and poor sleep quality is also associated with weight gain. With the mind sabotaging the body in this way, the steps taken to achieve better physical health will fall short of their full potential.
Adopting a Holistic Body-Mind Approach
Given the complex and constant interplay between the body and mind, adopting a holistic body-mind approach is needed to truly achieve optimal health and total well-being. As you strive to take hold of wellness in your life, consider how the mind-body connection is always at work. By caring for the whole person, even the smallest of steps will work together synergistically, for greater overall gain.
Here are some ways you can nourish and protect both your body and your mind:
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