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A healthy body needs a healthy mind

07/03/2015

Most people become pretty used to well-meaning advice from others who we feel really don’t understand. It’s human nature to eventually ‘shut our ears’ to such advice. However, there is basis for some of the well-meaning advice as we will explore in this short article.

It is true that the actions we take can affect our personal well-being, positively or negatively. Therefore, it makes sense to try and ensure wherever possible we are sending the brain and body the right messages in order to enhance our well-being.

A UK study measuring well-being estimated that only 14% of the population has a high level of well-being. While a range of factors determine an individuals level of well-being, evidence is mounting to indicate that the things we do and the way we think can have a huge impact on our health and well-being.

Keep Connected

We all know deep down that we need support from others. Some accept this fact graciously while others plough on independently but possibly make things tougher than they need to be. Being told we need help, and having well-wishers taking over our health and ‘telling’ us what we need to do is definitely not what we need, so it’s down to selecting the ‘right’ support and help.

We can influence this ourselves. We can take a back-seat and let others take over, and while some individuals are perfectly fine with this, others are not. For our own feeling of self-worth and therefore well-being it’s important to feel we have an input. Most people need to feel some control over their well-being in order to feel they have some influence over treatment. Furthermore,  if we understand how treatment is supposed to be helping and we are in agreement with the treatment suggestions, it will be more effective.

The relationships we have with others can be wide and varied, but especially when we feel unwell and vulnerable we sometimes choose the types of friendships we have unwisely. Feeling close and valued by others is a fundamental basic human need and our individual relationship with others is a unique dynamic. Sometimes, especially if we feel well, we choose a broad social network which is less close and more superficial. These relationships are important in order to feel connected and help our feelings of self-worth. But, often, in times when we require extra support our relationships tend to be deeper, more intense and fewer. It is important, especially when we feel vulnerable, to ensure that our relationships are positive, that those around us promote our autonomy, encourage us and enhance our mood positively when we feel tired, in pain and ‘down’ or depressed. We need people around us to motivate us to try and do tasks for ourselves, rather than simply do everything for us. We need them to influence us positively, tell us we can do it, recognise when we are able to do something we haven’t been able to do for a while. And importantly keep our spirits high and make us laugh.

It’s good and important to our well-being to encourage a mixture of people in our lives; younger, older, deep relationships as well as more superficial ones – a wide variety in other words.

Exercise

There will be few people who have never been nagged to do more exercise at some point in their lives. Encouragingly, evidence is indicating that single bouts of exercise less than ten minutes a day is enough to positively affect mood and well-being. While regular physical exercise is associated with a greater sense of well-being and lower rates of depression across all age ranges, you must be mindful to achieve an optimal level of exercise for you as an individual. What suits one isn’t necessarily appropriate for all.

If you have difficulty moving around, then there is little point forcing a session at a gym, maybe for you a little walk around the garden will be more effective. Keeping a log of what you do each day, and how it makes you feel can help you increase the amount of exercise over time. It maybe that on cold, damp days, you don’t do so well. You can prepare for this by selecting indoor exercise activities, even if a walk up and downstairs is what you can manage on that day, make a note. Over the course of time, you can chart any improvements. The key is variety. Once an exercise becomes routine it can become dull and boring and become a ‘sense of duty’. This, in the long term will not achieve much apart from excuses not to do the exercise. Exercise can be any physical activity, a walk one day, maybe some stretching or yoga exercises another. As long as you are able to do some movement every day and hopefully gradually increase the amount you do (not overdoing it) then according to research you should enjoy a sense of well-being, increase your coping abilities and block out negative thoughts.

Live in the moment

Research from the University of Liverpool has shown that rumination, or going over negative past experiences can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.  They found that brooding too much on negative events is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety and determines the level of stress people experience. Along with positive self-talk and concentrating on the positive aspects of life, a technique known as Mindfulness has recently been increasing in popularity albeit a very ‘old’ method and essential element in Buddhist practice. Simply put, mindfulness helps you change the way you think, feel and act by concentrating on the ‘here and now’ used in combination with breathing and meditation techniques. Recent research has highlighted that being aware of sensations, thoughts and feelings for 8-12 weeks has been shown to enhance well-being for several years.

Nutrition

Food forms the cornerstone of health and wellbeing. Not only does it deliver the key building blocks in the form of amino acids, vitamins and minerals needed to keep our bodily framework functioning, it should also form an important social aspect in our life. Sadly, all-too-often meals are eaten on the run, in isolation or sitting slumped in front of the TV. This is not good for our physical or emotional health because the act of eating tends to be reduced to a mere mechanical process that has been termed ‘mindless eating’. Simply taking some time to plan meals so that they are balanced and deliver a good protein level with plenty fresh vegetables is easily achievable and in fact more cost-effective than relying on ready-meals. When it comes to eating to support a balanced emotional outlook, take care not to fall into the trap of ‘self-medicating’ with food in the form of carbohydrates! It’s all too common to hear how carbohydrate based comfort foods start to become the norm in those with low mood. The reason for this is complex and revolves around the generation of serotonin following a carbohydrate based meal but the reality can have adverse effects on body weight, self-image and eventually a compounding of depression. While there is nothing wrong with the occasional comfort meal, take care not to become reliant on them. To help ease anxiety and low mood, the non-drug based remedy known as Zen-Time combines Lactium with vitamin B6 and magnesium. Using Zen-Time in conjunction with a revised dietary plan that is less reliant on high carbohydrates and sugary foods may have profound effects on your emotional balance and will have no adverse effects; well worth a try!



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Maria Webb

Psychology | Stress | Nutrition



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