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The Mind Body Connection

When you think about the things you can do to help your mental health what comes to mind? Do you think about deep breathing, seeing a therapist, or practicing gratitude? How about your diet, exercise, and sleep? It is easy to think that caring for the mind and caring for the body are two separate things, but your mind and your body are more connected than you might think. The experience of physical health problems increases an individual's likelihood of developing mental health problems. In addition, there are a lot of mental health issues that lead to the experience of physical symptoms. For example, someone who is experiencing depression might get pounding headaches or someone who struggles with anxiety may experience regular upset stomachs. Taking care of your physical health is a great way to manage stress, lower the risk of illness, increase your overall energy, and improve your mental health. So, what are some things that you can do to take care of both your mind and body?

  • Eat Right: According to the American Psychological Association, gut bacteria produce neurochemicals that are used to regulate both physiological and mental processes. Even mild stress can impact the microbial balance in the gut which can lead to stomach problems and infectious diseases. You can improve your gut health and your brain health by maintaining a healthy diet with a variety of foods. By incorporating a diverse range of foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fermented foods, and fish into your diet you can absorb a broad spectrum of different vitamins and minerals that will leave your gut feeling good.

  • Eat Mindfully: Its not just about what you put in your body. Changing how you eat can make a huge difference with your health. Mindful eating is a practice where you pay attention to your food and the experience of it without judgment. It is about being fully present for each bite of food. Eating mindfully has been shown to lead to a greater overall psychological well-being. Before you eat, take a moment to check in with yourself to find out how hungry you are, what would satisfy the hunger, and why you want to eat. Are you bored, sad, lonely, or are you actually hungry? If you are not actually hungry, do something that will satisfy what you truly desire instead. When you begin to eat, make sure you are fully present in the moment and turn off any distractions. Take the time to savor every bite and reflect on the taste, texture, smell, weight, and consistency as you chew. After each bite check in with your body to see how you are feeling. Are you full? Do you need more? Make the best choice that feels right to you.

  • Exercise: Exercise causes your brain to release serotonin and endorphins. These are the feel-good chemicals that help to improve your mood. Even short bursts of physical activity can improve your physical health and your mood. If you are short on time, don't sweat it. Small amounts of exercise add up so don't worry if you can't block out large chunks of time for exercise. Are you not a huge fan of exercise? That's no problem! Physical activity does not have to feel like torture. Doing something you love like tending to a garden or playing basketball can be a great form of exercise. Finding an exercise activity that you enjoy can make you feel less stressed and motivate you to get up and move more.

  • Get Adequate Sleep: Humans are supposed to get an average of 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem a lot of people struggle with, and it is associated with higher stress levels, frustration, depression, and anxiety. If you are struggling to get enough sleep each night, try to stick to a sleep schedule and go to bed at the same time each night. In addition, having a daily bedtime routine will help your body start to prepare for bed before you even get in it. Reducing your exposure to blue light from screens and devices two hours before bed can also help to improve your rest. If you still can't seem to fall asleep at night, you may want to consider reducing your caffeine intake, especially when it gets later in the day.

  • Quit Smoking: It is a common belief that smoking can help you feel more relaxed. This is because smoking relieves the stress the body feels when it is craving another cigarette. Unfortunately, smoking cigarettes is known to actually worsen mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Those who have quit smoking have reported a reduction in their experience of symptoms.

  • Stay Hydrated: Research suggests that there is a link between hydration status and mental health. People who drink plenty of water are less likely to experience issues with their memory, attention span, depression symptoms, and anxiety symptoms.

  • See Your General Practitioner: If you are worried about your physical or mental health or if you're in need of a routine checkup, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Written by,

Tierney Puig, Intern



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