Mind & Body Overview
Your health depends on many factors. Some factors are out of
your control. For example, women with a family history of breast cancer may be
more likely to develop it because of their genes. However, in many ways, you
can control the factors that affect your health—for instance, you can decide to
take a walk around your neighborhood instead of watching TV for another hour.
It’s important to take care of both your mind and your body
for a number of reasons. Your efforts to live a balanced, healthy life have
long-lasting and far-reaching implications for your personal wellbeing. A
healthy routine can even help you defy your genes and reduce your risk of some
diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. This article provides a
very basic overview of practical measures you can take to ensure you’ll have a
healthy mind and body.
The Mind-Body Connection
Your brain has more influence on your overall health than
you might think. Besides performing millions of functions each day, your brain
can also help you heal. Studies have shown that people who try to make their
self-talk (the things you say to yourself inside your head) more positive have
less depression and better physical wellbeing (Mayo Clinic,
Interest in the brain’s effects on overall health has paved
the way for more interest in “holistic” medicine. Holistic medicine leverages
the power your brain has over your body to improve health, treat illnesses, and
prevent disease. Evidence to support its
effectiveness is sparse. Many types of
activities fall under the “holistic” tent—meditation, yoga, prayer, and guided
imagery are some of the alternative options doctors and patients may try (American
Cancer Society, 2013).
Diet and Wellbeing
The following three basic principles should guide your food
- limit calories
- eat fewer saturated fats
- eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
These guidelines do not cover every healthy-eating topic,
but they are a great starting point for people trying to have a healthy mind
and body. One of the best ways to stick to these rules is to cook for yourself
at home. Restaurant and fast-food menus are often heavy on the fat and salt and
low in vegetables, fruit, and nutrition. Cooking at home helps you control what
you’re eating and what you’re feeding your family.
The average adult female needs between 1,600 and 2,400 calories
per day, depending on physical activity levels and age. Adult males, on the
other hand, need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day, depending on the
same factors (USDA,
2010). Talk with your doctor about determining the optimal calorie level for
you and members of your family.
Eating Fewer Bad Fats
Fat is essential for your body’s proper function, growth,
and healing, but not all fats are created equal. Saturated fat is in dairy,
butter, and meat. It’s been found to increase a person’s risk for heart
disease. Trans fat is a man-made fat
created when hydrogen is added to liquid oil to create a solid fat. This type
of fat has been shown to increase a person’s risk for heart disease and
decrease levels of “good” cholesterol. Try to replace saturated fats with healthier,
unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are found in fish, nuts, and some oils (CDC, 2012).
Eating a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables
The news on what’s healthy and what’s not may seem to change
with the day, but one thing remains the same: fruits and vegetables are good
for you. Be sure to include whole grains, too. These three groups make up a
plant-based diet. A healthy diet does have room for some lean meat and low-fat
dairy, but plates should be built on plants (Mayo
Studies show that physical activity makes you healthier in
many ways. People who get regular exercise are less likely to suffer from a
chronic disease, are able to maintain a healthy weight, and have a higher
self-esteem. The Centers for Disease Control recommend that the average adult
get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic
activity every week. They also recommend adults have a strength training
session at least two times a week (CDC,
Stress has a powerful effect on your body—and not always in
a good way. Stress is a normal response when you’re facing increased demands or
life-threatening situations. However, too much stress over long periods of time
can be detrimental to your health. Studies show stress can increase a person’s
risk for heart disease, sudden heart attack, obesity, and diabetes (Mayo Clinic, 2010).
Manage stress as best you can. Try to find stress-reduction
techniques that help you ease tensions, reduce anxiety, and feel more
comfortable. Popular stress-reduction techniques include meditation, exercise,
Seeking Help for Mind-Body Issues
Good emotional health is a positive, healthy thing. People
who are aware of their thoughts, emotions, and feelings are better able to cope
with the stresses and anxieties that are a part of a normal life. People with a
healthy emotional life are also likely to have better relationships with
friends, family members, and colleagues.
However, it’s not uncommon to experience emotional lows
during your life. Life events, such as the loss of a loved one, job changes, or
financial troubles, can greatly affect your mental health. If left unresolved, bad
feelings can eventually develop into larger problems, such as anxiety or depression.
Be open and honest with your doctor about your life, your stressors, and how
you’re feeling. Your doctor can help you find treatment, which does not
necessarily involve medication.
The same goes for your physical health: If you sense
something is wrong, seek help. Many conditions, diseases, or complications can
manifest themselves in unusual ways. What you think is simply a headache may
actually be a symptom of something more serious.