As I mentioned in my last blog, I think we’ve made a huge mistake in separating our mental and physical health, and I’m on a mission to change this outdated way of thinking because there is an irrefutable link between our physical and mental health.
How does movement impact mental health? When I was in the thick of the mental struggle, I didn’t want to move—I didn’t feel like moving, but I knew that I should. And so I did. And when I moved, I felt a lot better because I got that release of both dopamine and serotonin, which made me feel more of a sense of well-being. And I wanted to continue moving.
It’s like the saying: “Put your body in motion and your brain will follow.”
To sum it up as simply as possible, your physical actions and health affect your mental health, and your mental health affects your physical actions and health. It really is all about striving for complete health.
My Top Ways to Transform Your Complete Health:
Nutrition, Movement, and Mind.
So, now that we better understand that mental and physical health are linked, and our goal is to achieve complete health, how can this be done? With so many options, I’m sharing some of the steps I take on a daily basis for complete health that involves not only nutrition and movement but mindset too.
In our 24/7/365 hustling world, it can be easy to put your blinders on and focus on the tasks on your plate. But one way to improve your complete health is to simply show kindness to others. Being kind can decrease blood pressure levels and stress, lead to healthier living overall, improve your mood, lead to a longer life, reduce loneliness, improve relationships, reduce depression and anxiety, increase serotonin and dopamine, reduce pain, and increase your self-esteem, compassion, and empathy.
It’s fun to do acts of kindness for others, and not only will it make them feel better, but it can’t help but make you feel better too. What act of kindness will you do today? Even smiling at that stranger in the store, saying thank you, or giving someone the benefit of the doubt—like that person who pulled in front of you in traffic—can make all the difference!
Feeling grateful works, and it helped change my life. On my mental health journey, I started a gratitude practice nightly where I go outside to “reconnect” and I stay there until I FEEL a deep sense of gratitude for any one of thousands of blessings I’ve been given on this journey through life…even on days when it feels like the world is collapsing around me. Those days are the hardest to feel it, but they’re also the days I need it the most.
Simply listing things to be grateful for is good, but to receive the full impact and benefit of the practice it’s important to focus on FEELING grateful for these things. It’s okay to take a moment on each thing until you truly FEEL it. The benefits of gratitude can be pretty life-changing too: Improved relationships, greater happiness, improved health, increased ability to deal with problems, higher optimism, fewer physician visits, improved sleep, lower levels of inflammation, more consistency, increased life satisfaction, and more.
Being grateful only takes a few seconds, and it can also make you more aware of what you have to be grateful for. After all, you find what you look for.
Spend some time outdoors.
The rays from the sun not only give us vitamin D, which is crucial for complete health, but viewing the sun’s rays early in the morning (outside—no windows) has been shown to be one of the strongest influences on setting your body’s circadian rhythms, which impacts your sleep, which leads to a plethora of other health benefits. While excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and vision issues, too little time spent in the sun can actually increase the risk of some cancers, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Time in the sun can also help release serotonin, and it can also decrease depression and anxiety, increase bone strength, and help with some skin conditions as well as potentially help with other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. And let’s be honest: Being outside on a sunny day just makes you feel better, right? What do experts recommend for sun exposure? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of 5-15 minutes of sunlight 2-3 times a week. If you live somewhere where sunlight is hard to come by, or if you simply want to add more light to your day (or if you live in an environment where sunlight is rare), a light therapy lamp can help.
Focus on sleep.
Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night can be tough for many of us, but if you want complete health, it’s important. Why? Sleep can help you achieve your weight goals, improve your workouts, help with depression and anxiety, improve heart health, decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve your immune system, improve concentration, decrease inflammation, improve relationships, improve empathy, decrease loneliness, improve concentration, and more.
Follow a mindfulness practice. It can be so hard to not get caught up in all the stress life throws at you. When this happens, your adrenals are cranking out cortisol and adrenaline, which can intensify the negative feelings you’re feeling.
Not only is serving someone else a nice thing to do, but it has both physical and mental benefits too:
- Stronger immune system
- Decreased depression
- Longer life span
- More positive life perspective overall
- Decreased anxiety
- Increased self-esteem
- Potential benefits to blood pressure and inflammation
And when you’re serving someone else, it takes the focus off of you and your struggles, and it might even put what you’re dealing with in a better and more proper perspective. Serving doesn’t take a lot of time or effort either. It can be as simple as smiling at someone, saying “thank you” more often, giving someone the benefit of the doubt (especially in traffic!), and so on. But it can make a world of difference for you as the one who serves and to those you’re serving.
Get your body in movement.
Even a few minutes of movement can make a big difference. Like I shared before, moving your body can help both your physical and mental health. In the darkest times on my mental health journey, walking outside was one of these few ways I could actually feel and reconnect with my emotions. So, if you don’t feel like you can work out, walk. If possible, walk outside to also get the benefits of sunlight. Walking is actually a great form of exercise, and I think we don’t give it the credit it deserves.
Now it’s your turn: Which of these things I’ve shared will you try first? And while anything I’ve shared might feel strange and possibly a bit uncomfortable at the beginning, don’t give up.
You might be on the brink of discovering something crucial that will help you achieve complete health. And that’s what we’re all striving for!