Volumes of studies have shown time and time again that our physical health plays a role with our mental health, and vice versa. Research by the National Institute of Health shows that emotional distress creates susceptibility to physical illness. A review in Current Opinion in Psychiatry evaluated the relationship between exercise, physical activity and physical and mental health, and found that exercise and physical activity are associated with better quality of life and health outcomes.
How do you take control over the chaos in your physical life if you are sedentary, sick, and feeling stuck?
What are you feeding your body? Food can either be fuel for our body, filling us with important nutrients that heal us, or it can be toxic and addicting. Vegetables and fruits are important sources of energizing vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants that can help fight off chronic disease. These same foods can also affect moods. B vitamins in particular are needed to produce brain chemicals that regulate your mood. Think of your body as a machine that needs quality fuel in order to operate properly. Eat whole foods that come from nature, and avoid processed foods that come from a box or drive-through window.
Get moving. Exercise not only provides an immediate boost to the mood, it also provides long term benefits as well. Research shows that exercise can help alleviate long term depression, increase serotonin (the feel-good chemical in your brain), and improve sleep. If the thought of beginning an exercise program feels daunting, put on your walking shoes. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of walking a day to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower the risk of obesity, and enhance mental well-being.
Think positive. Helen Keller said, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Keeping a positive mindset can help you achieve both physical and mental health. The Mayo Clinic reports benefits of positive thinking to include lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, and better overall well-being. If you are used to negative self-talk, however, it can take some time to replace a habit of negative thinking with one of positive thought. Start to pay attention to your inner voice. Notice when you let negative thoughts pop-up throughout the day. Begin to replace those thoughts with positive and encouraging thoughts instead. Speak to yourself the way you would to a loved one or friend; with encouragement, patience, and understanding. Positive thinking can also help you with your health goals of eating good food and getting more exercise. Harness the power of visualization, and see yourself making good food choices before you head into the kitchen. While you are walking, imagine your body getting strong and healthy. Professional athletes like Jack Nicklaus use this kind of positive thinking to see the results that they want in their mind before taking action to achieve these results. It can work for you, too.
It can be hard to set and reach goals when you are feeling chaos in your physical or mental self. To gain control over your emotional self and turn chaos into order, you must address your physical health. Likewise, to achieve the physical goals that you set for yourself, you will need to be honest about your mental wellbeing. Focus on fueling your body with healthy foods, getting exercise, and thinking positively to bring both your emotional and physical self to a state of health. Once you have achieved balance with your physical and mental health, you can empower yourself to achieve any goal.