How Your Mindset Sets Your Physiology

The connection between the body and mind is undeniable. Modern medicine agrees with the benefits of mindfulness therapy and cognitive techniques to reduce anxiety, chronic pain and depression. 

Techniques such as yoga, meditation and some martial arts have risen in popularity in the last 10-20 years. But do they really work? What is actually going on here? 

As a Medical Doctor, I see a lot of the negative consequences that can come as a result of not taking the time to reduce stress, relax or practice self-care. Heart failure, low immune systems, and chronic illnesses become what results from lives lived at warped speed, where exercise, nutrition, sleep and healthy habits have taken a back seat. This is a huge problem. 

The funny thing is, most doctors don't practice what they preach.  The number of overweight doctors is on the rise as the workload becomes more grueling and competitive. The truth it, it is extremely hard. So let's take a moment to think about the negative effects of how poor mental strength adversely effects our health.

Neglected mental health and well-being produces negative effects on the body. The mind and the body are incredibly interconnected. The way you think can determine the way you physically feel, and the way your thinking patterns form over time can actually alter your physiology.

Here are a few ways:

Your State of Mind Affects Your Heart. When you are under conditions of stress, blood pressure increases as well as your heart rate. As we know, illnesses related to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other heart diseases are among the leading causes of death in the world. Taking time to use techniques that include relaxation, meditation, mindfulness or self-care will help you reduce stress and in turn reduce your blood pressure and also reduce your likelihood of other stress related illnesses such as obesity.

Your State of Mind Affects Your Ability to Fight off Cold and Flu. Believe it or not, being in a place of high stress or when you are not taking care of your mental health, can leave you susceptible to those nasty viruses that are floating around you in your environment. How does this work? We believe that it has to do with inflammation; when your body is in a state of stress or are in a state of negative emotions, your body weakens its ability to fight off inflammation, and your immune system isn’t as effective.

Your State of Mind Affects Your Weight Management. Maintaining a healthy weight is a key to a healthy life, we all know that. Recently, it was proven that there is a significant connection between our mental health, stress and our appetite. Cortisol, what is released when we are stressed, can negatively affect our appetite, leading us to choose unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and fats, which of course have a direct link to our ability to maintain a healthy weight.

Shift workers who do the graveyard shift will agree that in states of fatigue, our ability to control our cravings can seriously go out the window. There is no simple answer here, it is down to good planning and disciplined sleep hours during the day. 

Your State of Mind Affects Your Overall Health. In America alone, a country known to be one of “high stress”, over 90% of people recognize the link between their stress levels and their likelihood of developing a major illness. In modern society, people deal with the stressors associated with money, work, family responsibilities, personal health concerns, relationships, and their general ability to “keep up” with the demands of life. 

To put it blankly, the way you think IS the way you feel. Your mindset or state of mind can have direct affects on your heart, immune system and overall health.

Do you take care of your state of mind and mental health like you take care of your physical health?

Take time to truly consider this question for yourself. When you feel a pain in your chest, or you break a bone, you will take the time to visit a doctor. When you know you need to get more exercise, you will get a gym membership with the intention that you will go on a regular basis.

When you feel stress, do you actually take the time to de-stress? Do you seek relaxation by practicing yoga or another mind/body related practice? When something is going on in your life that may be negatively effecting your mental health, do you seek help through therapy or coaching to guide you through?

Neglecting our mental health is easy. It’s too easy. This busy world rarely allows us the time to take care of our mental health, never mind our physical health with the responsibilities that continuously get thrust upon us.

I would like to consider another question for yourself. In fact, I consider this a challenge I would like to pose for you. Ask yourself this: What is one thing I can do today to take care of my mental health?

Here are some ideas:

·       Go for a walk to release some positive endorphins

·       Use a reflection journal to get some thoughts and feelings down on paper about significant events

·       Take time to go out with friends and enjoy yourself – for once, let yourself off the hook!

·       Try a new relaxation technique you haven’t tried before such as yoga, reiki or guided meditation. You may surprise yourself!

Throughout this blog, I’ll discuss various ways that you can manage your mental health, including stress, and the ways we handle the things that happen to us in our lives. I’ll continuously encourage you to reflect on various aspects of your life, recognizing that you have the tools within you to help yourself be better to yourself and your mental health.