Mind-Body Connection

Our minds and bodies are intricately connected, and the state of one significantly influences the other. It’s a balancing act between therapeutic nutritional intake, regular physical movements, quality sleep, and preventative healthcare. 

The foods we eat have a profound impact on our energy, cellular function, and overall health. While nutrition fads come and go, certain ways of eating stand the test of time. The Mediterranean diet focuses on whole, nutrient-dense foods inspired by the traditional diets of people living around the Mediterranean Sea. It incorporates fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, unprocessed whole grains, and heart-healthy fats like olive oil. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel to the Mediterranean to incorporate this type of nutrition. Here are some examples of foods to enjoy:

  • fresh vegetables like broccoli, kale, spinach, fennel, tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, carrots, brussel sprouts, and cucumbers
  • fresh and dried fruits without additives, like figs, grapes, citrus fruits, melons, peaches, pomegranates, berries, and apples
  • unsalted and unflavored nuts and seeds
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • natural herbs and spices like rosemary, garlic, basil, mint, thyme, sage, oregano, and capers
  • beans, pulses, and legumes
  • unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains
  • fatty fish, seafood, and fish oils
  • moderate amounts of pasture-raised poultry and eggs
  • small amounts of honey
  • unprocessed or minimally processed organic cheese and yogurt

Foods to Avoid:

  • processed foods
  • added sugars
  • artificial sweeteners
  • sugar-sweetened beverages
  • refined grains
  • factory farm-raised meats and dairy products
  • processed meats
  • trans-fats such as those found in margarine, fried foods, and commercial bakery products
  • refined seed oils like soybean, canola, cottonseed, rapeseed, and sunflower

Exercise is an effective option for improving mental and physical health symptoms. In fact, it’s so effective that exercise can be thought of as a treatment…a daily prescription for mental fitness. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the rewards of exercise. Short brisk walks, using the stairs instead of escalators, or even doing extra household chores can help you get started. As you become more active and reduce weight, the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes also lowers. There are many ways to become more active, here are some ideas you may enjoy implementing into your daily routine: 

1. Take a stroll in a nearby park or nature reserve. The combination of fresh air, sunlight, and greenery can help to lift your mood and improve overall mental well-being. If you’re a dog owner, make it a point to take your dog for regular walks. Gradually increase your pace and distance as you both become more comfortable.

2. Enjoy music? Dancing is a fun way to get moving and increase cardiovascular benefits even inside the comfort of your own home.

3. Short on time? Try a daily 10-minute workout. Design your own circuit and switch exercises to keep it interesting. You can include exercises like jump-and-jacks, planks, leg lifts, lunges, push-ups, and sit-ups.

4. Explore the social benefits of exercising with others. Talk to friends and family about ways you can be more active together or join a fitness club to promote motivation and accountability. 

5. Incorporate yoga and mindful stretching exercises into your daily routine. These practices not only enhance flexibility but also promote relaxation and mindfulness.

During sleep, our brain and our cognition undergo restoration. When we don’t sleep well, our ability to accurately perceive our environment and deal with minor stressors becomes much more challenging. Mental health disorders can make it hard to sleep well and poor sleep can be a factor in developing or worsening a mental health condition. Both aspects are complicated, but most believe that improving sleep can have a positive impact on mental health. Here are some methods to improve sleep quality:

1. Establish a Sleep Routine: Create a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock, promoting better sleep quality.

2. Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure your sleep space is conducive to relaxation. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, avoid excess light and loud noise, keep the room at a comfortable cool temperature.

3. Digital Detox Before Bed: Limit screen time at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production, a hormone crucial for sleep.

4. Mindful Bedtime Rituals: Incorporate calming activities before sleep, taking a warm shower, guided mediation, deep breathing, body scan, and visualization exercises. These relaxation technique signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.  

5. Daytime activities affect sleep: Ensure you get at least 30 minutes of natural sun light, incorporate daily physical movements, limit daytime naps to 20 minutes in the afternoon, and avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.

Adult preventive healthcare typically includes screenings for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, as well as counseling for smoking cessation and balanced eating habits. Preventive healthcare can help you live a longer, healthier life. Preventive care for adults involves screening for chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, as well as immunizations.

Common preventive screenings for adults include:

  • Screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • Screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Screenings/counseling for mental health conditions, tobacco/alcohol/substance use, and lifestyle/nutrition habits.

Here are some more resources to explore regarding balanced food intake, getting quality sleep, staying physically active, and staying up-to-date on your general healthcare needs:

https://heartsandminds.nami.org/articles/get-physical-with-your-symptoms/

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/PDFs/J-J-NAMI-Healthy-Lifestyle.pdf

https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Frontline-Professionals/Public-Safety-Professionals/Wellness-Resources-and-Strategies

https://www.healthcare.gov/preventive-care-adults/

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