Health isn’t just the absence of disease or symptoms. Health is a state of optimal wellbeing, vitality, and wholeness – what my life coaching clients seek.
The Mind / Body Connection
Our thoughts set off a cascade of cellular reactions in our nervous system that influence all the cells in our body. Many of my life coaching clients understand that thoughts, choices and experiences can influence our tendency to be healthy or become ill.
- Someone in a toxic work environment experiences incapacitating headaches that don’t respond to medication.
- Another person leaves a demeaning relationship, and his debilitating panic attacks “mysteriously” subside.
- A person develops high blood pressure after being promoted at work.
- Someone is diagnosed with a stomach ulcer after the death of a loved one.
Of course, I would never say that all illnesses are “caused” by our thoughts. The relationship between the mind and body is complex, and sometimes things happen at a physical level for which there is no explanation. But I believe we should acknowledge that we do have amazing potential to use our thoughts, perceptions, and choices to feel better – and have a more meaningful life.
How to Cultivate Mind/Body Balance (a.k.a., You Can’t Be Successful if You Are Out of Whack)
Establishing a healthy dialogue between our thoughts and bodies helps us shift from imbalance to balance. When we’re in an optimal state of balance, we naturally tend to listen to our body with love and reverence and make choices that support balance, happiness, and wellness.
The following ten mind-body prescriptions will help you create this positive feedback loop:
Take time each day to meditate.
Meditation is one of the most powerful tools for restoring balance to our mind and body. Scientific research on meditation shows numerous benefits, including a decrease in hypertension, heart disease, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and addictive behaviors. There are some great free guided meditations available on YouTube intended to help with a whole host of issues.
Eat a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Next to breathing, eating is our most vital bodily function. To create a healthy body and mind, our food must be nourishing. Ideal nutrition comes from consuming a variety of foods that are appropriately prepared and eaten with awareness.
Focus on eating a variety of fresh and freshly prepared foods, while eliminating or at least limiting items that are canned, frozen, microwaved, or highly processed. Read my previous post by athlete and wellness coach Leslie Knibb for some practical tips on how to incorporate healthy eating into your everyday routine.
Prioritize daily exercise.
Regular exercise offers incredible benefits for your body and mind. Drs. William Evans and Irwin Rosenberg from Tufts University have documented the powerful effect of exercise on many of the biomarkers of aging, including muscle mass, strength, aerobic capacity, bone density, and cholesterol.
In her book How the Body Knows Its Mind, University of Chicago neuroscientist Prof. Sian Beilock digs into the scientific evidence of the body-mind connection.
“There are clear differences in brain health in fit, older adults compared with their more sedentary counterparts. And these differences carry consequences for thinking and reasoning as well as for memory.”
Personally, I love my morning swim routine and have been known to dabble in kickboxing. I believe the key is to find something you love and look forward to, while not being afraid to mix it up when things get stale.
Take time for restful sleep.
Restful sleep is an essential key to being healthy. When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly, yet good, restful sleep of the proper duration is often neglected or underemphasized. There is even a tendency for people to boast about how little sleep they can get by on. Research shows that inadequate sleep disrupts the body’s innate balance, weakens our immune system, contributes to weight gain and depression, and speeds up the aging process. Here’s an easy test: if you feel energetic and vibrant when you wake up, you had a night of restful sleep. If you feel tired and unenthusiastic, you haven’t had restful sleep.
Release emotional toxins.
Many of us harbor emotional toxicity in the form of unprocessed anger, hurt or disappointment. This unprocessed residue from the past contributes to toxicity in our body and needs to be eliminated. You can begin by asking yourself, “What am I holding onto from the past that is no longer serving me in the present?” A good therapist or counselor can help you start to rid yourself of baggage from your past that you may still be hanging on to.
Sit up straight.
Your posture and facial expressions are not just reflections of your mind — they can influence your mood. Stand tall to help give yourself confidence and to send a signal to those around you that you have brought your “A” game, and be mindful of your facial expressions. Your brain uses your expressions as cues to feel emotions. Smiling can actually make you feel happier.
Cultivate loving relationships.
A good social support network has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It can keep you from feeling lonely, isolated or inadequate – and when you feel good about yourself, you can deal with stress better. Friends and loved ones can be a good source of advice and suggest new ways of handling problems. But they can also be a distraction from what’s bothering you. If your network of friends is small or narrow, think about volunteering, joining an outdoor activities group or trying an online meet-up group to make new friends who might have different things in common than work.
Take breaks from mentally taxing activities.
Take active breaks from work or vexing problems to give your brain a chance to regroup and reboot. Physically walking away from the problem for a few minutes may help you solve it.
Enjoy a good belly-laugh at least once a day.
Laughter has been shown to decrease stress hormones, increase immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, and improve your overall resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Connect with your most deeply-held values.
Another key part of the mind / body balance is achieved by living your life fully in ways that connect with your values. Many of my life coaching clients come to me with a gnawing sense that something is “off” in their lives, but they can’t put a finger on what it is. A simple start is to focus on the things that you are grateful for in your life. Try not to obsess about the problems at work, school, or home that lead to negative feelings. You may want to use a journal to keep track of things that make you feel happy or peaceful. Read about how to keep a gratitude journal – and the many benefits of doing so – here.
Life Coaching for Mind / Body Balance
It’s okay to enlist help when you hit an obstacle in your life. Keep in mind that your family and friends may not be the best people to turn to when you’re trying to make a big change, because they have a vested interest in the outcome. It makes sense to ask someone outside the situation for help.
In coaching, we will together examine where you are in mind, body, spirit and heart. We’ll take a look at what is going on in your life – and, if you’re like most of my clients, we’ll probably uncover some things that will surprise you! Making a commitment to live a balanced, productive, life – one where you are making the important contribution you want to make – can begin with simple changes.
Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.