Mind The Health of Your Body

Physical Health Contributes to Mental Ability

If you have come to this website, it is likely that you are interested in your mind, in healing it, improving it, and making it work for you in new ways. You may not be so concerned about your body (beyond basic functionality and perhaps some cosmetic concerns). However, mind and body are, in fact, intricately, inextricably connected [1]. The one does not work separately from or at the expense of the other – quite the reverse! If you wish to improve your mind, it can really, really help to improve the health of your body in the process.

What is the problem with Dichotomous Thinking?

There is a bit of a problem in the modern world with Dichotomous Thinking [2], or ‘black and white thinking’ – i.e. seeing things as working in opposition to one another, rather than as the interconnected whole the world actually is. This is particularly evident in our attitude towards body and mind. Picture, if you will, somebody with the ‘perfect body’ – someone strong, someone fit, someone who puts a lot of effort into making their body the best it can be. Now picture someone with an excellent mind – someone who enjoys learning, who knows a lot, an intellectual.

We’re willing to bet that the ‘perfect body’ person you pictured came with a certain set of assumptions  – most prominent among them being that they aren’t particularly bright [3]. Similarly, your ‘excellent mind’ person probably was not a prime physical specimen. This shows just how dichotomised our thinking about body and mind actually is. We assume that those with good bodies are ‘dumb jocks’, or otherwise deficient in the brain department. And we assume that intellectuals are physically weak, or unattractive. It’s as though we somehow believe that building physical health comes at the direct expense of mental prowess, and vice versa. In fact, the absolute opposite is true [4].

How are We Interconnected Humans?

The brain is an organ like any other. It requires nutrients, good circulation, oxygen, and hydration. Quite simply, the better able your body is to supply these, the better able your brain is to do its job. The same is true of your body. Your mental state has a huge impact on the state of your body – either by raising or reducing motivation and willpower to exercise and eat healthily, or by actively lowering things like immune response (it is proven, for example, that stress and depression have a negative impact on your body’s ability to fight off disease [5]). Take conditions like alcoholism, for example. Alcoholism is a mental illness which has an enormous impact upon the body, and which requires both physical and mental approaches to treat it effectively [6]. As such, anyone wanting to improve their mind must simultaneously start taking their physical health seriously. To concentrate solely on the more cerebral and psychological aspects of self-healing and self-improvement is to miss out half the picture.

What Can We Do to Increase the Health of Our Minds?

So, in order to reach your mental potential, you must treat your physical self with respect. This means making certain sacrifices, and taking up certain initiatives. As a general rule, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. So, eat plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid over-processed or sugary foodstuffs. Keep yourself well-hydrated, and don’t overindulge, calorie-wise. Try and exercise as much as you can. Exercise outdoors is particularly effective, as being within natural surrounds is proven to enhance your mental health and intellectual capabilities [7]. Exercise such as walking and yoga can also be combined with meditation, providing a ‘double whammy’ of benefits for both body and mind. All in all, it’s a good idea to make a full-scale effort to change all areas of your life, in order to bring the full benefit in the area you desire.

post written by Anne Ball

Resources:

[1] Kings College Hospital, “Understanding the mind-body link”

[2] Harvard, “Cognitive Biases (Cognitive Distortions)”

[3] Andy McGlashen, Deborah Feltz, “Fighting The ‘Dumb Jock’ Stereotype”, Michigan State University, Apr 2013

[4] Patti Neighmond, “What’s Good For The Heart Is Good For The Brain”, NPR, May 2016

[5] American Psychological Association, “Stress Weakens The Immune System”, Feb 2006

[6] Detox.net, “How to Detox from Alcohol”

[7] Mark Kinver, “Green spaces have lasting positive effect on well-being”, BBC, Jan 2014