Busy lives, stressful schedules, poor diets, inadequate sleep, not enough down time and lack of energy are all too common in our society today. With all of life’s obligations, something has got to give, and often it’s your fitness regimen. It can be challenging to find time to work out, but the long- and short-term health benefits make it a necessary aspect of achieving optimum health. It may help to view exercise and fitness as tools not just for the physical body. They are for the mind, body and spirit as well.
Just as physical exercise maintains body tone, strength and endurance, mental exercise has positive conditioning affects as well. The National Institute of Mental Health, Duke University and the National Institute on Aging support the findings that “mental and physical decline with aging is not inevitable.” Today I see more and more patients, ages 30 and older, who complain about short-term memory loss, difficulty focusing and concentrating and sluggish thinking. We need to re-energize and exercise our brain.
Eating six, small, well-balanced meals a day helps to maintain blood sugar levels and enables us to think clearly. Relief of stress, balanced biochemistry and healthy lifestyle changes promoting optimal health are foundations for mental fitness.
The first step is to take action! Overcome monotony and routine in your life as it generates mental and emotional lethargy and resignation. Our brains are wired to be curious, but sometimes our busy lives stifle or deny our natural curiosity.
- Laugh–Laughing helps reduce stress and breaks old patterns. It can be a “quick-charge” for our brains.
- Remember–Spend time with your positive memories.
- Play–Take time to play. It is a great way to exercise your brain.
- Learn something new–Whatever you decide to learn can be light, fun and distracting. Exercise your brain by learning and enjoy the increase of endorphins!
- Exercise–Physical activity brings more oxygen to the brain.
- Feed your brain–Essential fatty acids, EPA/DHA, good nutrition and supporting supplements will provide you with a clear head.
- Rest more–Your brain works well with adequate rest and sleep.
Schedule these activities on your iPhone. Your brain will thank you in the form of new ideas, greater stamina and more passion for your life.
Stress can be thought of as a message from our central nervous system. It’s telling us that enough is most definitely enough, and if we don’t provide some relief, it is going to take other systems down with it! Physical exercise is good for developing a lean body, strong muscles and a strong heart, but is has also been shown to help maintain emotional fitness as well! In fact, researchers at Duke University studied people suffering from depression for four months and found that 60 percent of the participants who exercised for 30 minutes just three times a week overcame their depression without using antidepressant medication.
Even more surprising, one study found that workouts as short as eight minutes in length could help alleviate feelings of sadness, tension and anger, along with improving resistance to disease in healthy people. Keep in mind that exercise also boosts confidence and reduces anxiety and stress, all of which contribute to psychological health and well-being. For example, Yoga participants often say they feel more centered and calm in addition to the physical benefits of stretching and building strength.
Emotional fitness starts by remembering what is important. Most of what stresses us are things that don’t matter in the long run. Being cut off in traffic, breaking a fingernail, not being able to buy the newest gadget and someone else’s rudeness are just not worth worrying about. Our family, our friends and our health are what really matter.
Daniel Goleman, author of the best-seller, Emotional Intelligence and his more recent book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, emphasizes that the stronger we are in our self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills, the more successful and healthy we are likely to be. That said, keep these tips in mind when maintaining emotional wellness:
- Nurture your relationships–Spend quality time with the people you love. It doesn’t matter how busy you are.
- Ask for help–It isn’t in the nature of a lot of people to ask for help, but you’ll be amazed when you do.
- Cry–Go ahead, get it over with. You’ll feel better.
- Accept and Embrace–It’s okay that you can’t do everything and that you aren’t perfect.
- Breathe–Take deep, calming breaths often.
- Take a nice long bath–Add one cup of Epsom salts and you’ll feel like you’re in Heaven.
- Go to the spa for a weekend–This isn’t pampering. This is good health.
In the past two decades, the proportion of children and teens in America who are overweight or obese has tripled. Nine million kids are carrying excess weight, with millions more at serious risk. Television and computer games have taken the place of physical activity for many American children; with more kids playing football on their PlayStation than they are on the playground.
If the trend continues, this generation of school children may be the first in modern times to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, an eight-year study of 13,000 people found that those who walked 30 minutes a day had a significantly lower risk of premature death than those who rarely exercised. In fact, a regular walking program can help reduce blood cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase cardiovascular endurance, boost bone strength, burn calories and keep weight down. Best of all, walking is simple, free and convenient. If you are just beginning a fitness plan, walking is a great place to start:
- Walk short distances–Begin with a five-minute stroll and gradually increase your distance.
- Forget about speed–Walk at a comfortable pace. Focus on good posture, keeping your head lifted and shoulders relaxed.
- Swing your arms naturally–Breathe deeply. If you can’t catch your breath, slow down or avoid hills.
- Be sure you can talk while walking–If you can’t talk, you are walking too fast.
Everyone can use help getting fit. Work with professionals who can support your path to health and fitness. All you have to do is begin, keep trying and remember that small steps bring big rewards.
Are your Mind, Body and Spirit fit?
- You feel alert most of the time;
- You read or study regularly;
- You engage regularly in mental exercises;
- You are stimulated by new problems;
- You play and you rest.
- You feel good about your life;
- You feel confident about your abilities and are aware of your weaknesses;
- You feel comfortable whether alone or in the presence of other people;
- You can handle change and challenges with a positive attitude;
- When you feel frustrated, you believe you can change things for the better;
- You remember what is important.
- Your weight is within the suggested healthy limits for your height, sex and age;
- Your body feels good;
- You exercise regularly;
- You have an annual physical exam and appropriate diagnostic tests regularly;
- You eat lots of vegetables and fruit, drink plenty of water and avoid fatty foods or those high in sugar;
- You have stamina and flexibility.
- You have a sense of meaning and purpose in your life;
- You take time to be in nature and take notice of it;
- You spend time developing your creative side;
- You feel connected with the world;
- You love the mystery of life!