The body and mind are inextricably linked. What we do to one affects the other. When we care for one, we care for the other. How can we take better care of our bodies to improve our physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual wellness?
First, it’s important to really understand this body-mind connection. As I wrote in my forthcoming book, 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise (coming early 2016!): “The research is clear: our brain, immune and endocrine systems, nervous system, and our body’s organs share a chemical language with our emotional responses. They are literally in communication with one another continually (Gordon, 2000). The mind and body are basically inseparable.”
The fact is that powerful emotions, when unfelt, remain in our muscles and body. Emotions like grief, pain, heartache, fear, anxiety, and sadness can get stuck inside, causing all sorts of physical problems. If we want to be mentally and emotionally well, then we must remember to care for our bodies.
Body-Mind Wellness & Empowerment
Body-mind wellness can begin with either the body or the mind. When we work on one, we help the other. In this article, we’re focusing on caring for the body; that’s why I’m using the term “body-mind,” instead of “mind-body.” If we want to be well–body, mind, and soul–then we must focus on caring for all parts of us.
The beauty of taking care of our bodies is that it can empower us. It not only makes us physically stronger, but it also helps us realize that we have the power. We have the power to make change–to overcome mental and physical distress by working to bring more balance into our lives. As I say about balance, “it’s all about choices.” We each have a choice–to continue to run ourselves ragged, to neglect our bodies and therefore our mental and spiritual health, or to do something. To make choices that empower our physical and mental health, leading to greater health, energy, healing, and to greater joy.
6 Strategies for Body-Mind Wellness & Empowerment
The following six strategies are a great starting place if you want to increase your body-mind wellness and if you want to empower your body and yourself. Start by practicing one of these strategies, and then when you’ve got a grip on that one, move on and practice another. These are all things that can be done at home, and they’re all things that can make a huge difference in your life, so make a commitment to care for your body (and mind) today!
1) Physical Activity (yes, Exercise).
When many people see that word, “exercise,” they immediately run away (pun intended). But the truth is that exercise is the single best thing you can do for your physical and mental health. And it’s not as hard as most people think. It’s really about being physically active–in whatever way you can. It’s about finding activities you enjoy, about moving your body as often as you can, and about taking it slowly, one step at a time (literally.) As I wrote in 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise (coming early 2016!), “Were exercise available in a pill, everyone would take it. It’s that good.” If you want a strong, empowered body and mind, then exercise is the way.
Stretching is crucial to overcoming muscle tension, to keeping us limber as we grow older, and to helping us relax. Try yoga, pilates, or light stretching in the morning, after activities, or before bed.
Cardiovascular exercise, like walking, bike-riding, or even playing with your kids in the yard, not only improves your heart and keeps you in shape; it’s a miracle drug for your mental health. It is one of the best ways to increase energy, mental clarity, and to overcome feelings of depression, and it also increases oxygen flow in your body, which can help reduce stress and tension.
Resistance training, like lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using bands to build muscle and tone up is wonderful for relieving anxiety and tension in the body. If you’re feeling stressed and tense, go lift some weights. (For more on exercise, read: 40 Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Exercise, or Get Mentally & Physically FITT: How to Create an Exercise Program that Works. And visit http://www.exercise4mentalhealth.com for more on my new book!)
Simply put, our bodies and minds need oxygen! When we feel stressed, worried, or depressed, we often hold our breath, or we get so busy in life that we forget to practice breathing in ways that calm and help us.
Deep breathing is one of the best things we can learn to reduce stress, to tackle problems in life, and to increase physical and mental health. This video can show you how.
Quite frankly, most of us don’t get enough sleep. Our bodies need sleep to restore health and wellness, and our minds desperately need sleep to be fresh, energized, and well. Sleep recharges the brain, solidifies memories, increases learning, and gives us the rest we so desperately need every single day. Sleep deprivation builds up over time, and eventually can create or exacerbate symptoms of mental illness, not to mention how it can lead to physical illness, injury, and pain.
Most people need 7-9 hours a night, and if you’re not getting it, then it’s time to focus on repaying your sleep debt. Naps, sleeping in on days off or weekends, and for parents, getting someone to watch the kids while you sleep, are all great ways to get a few more zzz’s. This article, Sleep Better, Cope Better: 6 Insomnia Causes & Cures, can help, too!
Rest and relaxation is not the same as sleep. It might include a nap or some sleep, but resting is really about recharging your body, mind, and spirit. Relaxation may be different for each of us. For some, it
may be going out to dinner with friends. For others, it may be reading in a hammock, watching TV, or playing golf. Whatever recharges you, you need more of that!
Your body needs to rest from its labors, and so does your mind. Focus on what relaxes you and do a little bit of that each day. 10 minutes is a great place to start, if you’re short on time, but be sure to add in an hour or more every week. When we push ourselves too much, our body suffers, as I’ve learned the hard way. And when our body suffers, our mind does too. Make rest and relaxation a priority!
5) Massage Therapy.
I am a huge believer in massage therapy. This entire article was inspired by my Motherhood radio episode, “Body-Mind Connection, Wellness, & Empowerment,” with my extremely knowledgeable massage therapist, Cori Getchell. A couple months ago, I was in a car accident and experienced some pretty intense whiplash as a result. I started tri-weekly therapy with a chiropractor and some intense weekly massage therapy. There’s a difference between the relaxing spa massages you think about and this kind of therapy. This is intense. Painful. But so worth it. Through massage, I’ve been able to heal my headaches, muscle pain, tension, and other aches I didn’t even know I had!
Massage can release the emotions that are trapped inside; I’ve had several experiences where I just start talking and even crying about things I’ve been through because the therapist has hit a powerful trigger point. As she works out the physical pain, I heal emotionally.
I realize massage can be expensive, but it isn’t just for the rich and famous. It’s also not an “indulgence,” like many people believe. In many cases, it’s a necessity; it’s a tool for healing and health, for wellness, and yes, for empowerment. It’s for anyone who wants to heal their body.
Try a massage therapy school, where they have discounted rates. Train your spouse/partner to apply pressure to sore areas or to do myofacial release, or lifting of the muscles to lengthen and heal them. There are home techniques you can try, and you can learn all about them in this episode of Motherhood, so check it out, either by downloading the podcast or by watching the interview on my YouTube channel!
6) De-stress your body to de-stress your mind.
This is what I’ve been working on lately. I’ve had a wake up call that my body is over-stressed. When I sit and type all day, or sit and listen to other people’s problems all day, my body pays the price. When I push myself, fail to get enough sleep, and keep adding to my “to-do’s,” my body pays the price. Extreme pain, illness, and exhaustion are the result of over-doing it, and then, my mental health suffers as a result.
We mustn’t keep piling on to our bodies. We must stop, notice what we’re doing to our body, take a deep breath, and then make change. The consequences are too great if we don’t. I don’t know about you, but I want to live a long, healthy, happy life. That can only be achieved by slowing down and practicing serious self-care. And that starts with the body. What can you do to care for your body today? (Read Stress Management: 15 Proven Ways to Stress Less (& Smile More) and 5 Steps to a Clutter-Free Mind (& Life!) and 10 Ways to Simplify Your Busy Life! for more.)
What is your biggest block to caring for your body? What helps you be physical and mentally well and empowered? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, below!
Be sure to check out my New show, “Motherhood,” on WebTalkRadio.net!
Link for this episode: Body-Mind Connection, Wellness, & Empowerment
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