July 5, 2011 at 2:58 pm EDT | by Kevin M. Norris
Hand in hand for health

The shoe company ASICS is Latin for “A sound mind in a sound body.” Which I think is brilliant and an overlooked and neglected connection and perspective. The mind is equally as important as the body. What’s more is that stress reduction is critical to overall health and well being.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than one-third of Americans say they have had an illness that was primarily caused by stress, which is linked to the six leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide, according to Lyle Miller and Alma De Smith in “The Stress Solution.”

When I was writing my last column and from the content of my recent interviews, I was taken by the notion that mental and emotional health is as crucial to one’s well being as is the physical. And I have come to believe that if you can’t be fit in the head you can’t be fit in the body. Emotional health goes hand in hand with physical health. And while focusing on our bodies, we should be focusing on our minds and hearts as well.

There is no question that the mind and body are connected and one might philosophize that they are one, interconnected and bound. I would argue that perhaps a great deal of our time is spent on our bodies and on exercise to the neglect of our mental fitness and emotional well-being. And the mind/body connection is overlooked and underappreciated. Health is a conglomeration of several elements and a balance of these elements creates balance in life – the Yin and the Yang.

While I am by no means a mental health practitioner, I recognize for myself that focusing on my mental and psychological health is just as important as taking care of my body, in fact I often believe emotional health is more important and that one without the other creates an imbalance and a very incomplete realm.

Creating a successful exercise program, while physical in nature, entails a positive mindset and prevailing attitude and without them you will fall short.

I have written numerous columns on improving your physical health, but how do you affect your mental health? What exercises can be done for your mental health?

Familydoctor.org provides some useful guidelines:

Express your feelings in appropriate ways

Keeping your emotions inside only makes them worse and can lead to a litany of physical problems and ailments. Let your loved ones know what is going on and engage a professional to discuss your emotions and improve your emotional health. Getting whatever it is that is consuming you out of your head can make you feel a whole lot better and healthier.

Live a balanced life

This one almost always seems to be challenging. Try not to obsess and worry so much about issues and problems — focus on the positive aspects of your life. While you don’t have to pretend to always be happy, your outlook will have a positive impact. Keeping a journal is an effective tool and finding ways to let go particularly of those things you can not control can be essential to your emotional health.

When I am journaling I often write a gratitude list to help me remember all the good I have in my life and not overly obsess about the not so good. Journaling helps keep my life in perspective and allows me to create balance.

Develop resilience

People with resilience are able to cope with stress in a healthy way. Resilience can be learned through having social support, maintaining a positive outlook, accepting change and keeping things in perspective. This is where learning not to sweat the small stuff or make too much out of the big stuff comes in handy.

Calm your mind and body

Exercise and relaxation techniques are quite effective in calming the mind and soothing our emotions. These techniques help bring emotions into balance. Yoga and Pilates are two very helpful disciplines that focus a great deal on breathing and relaxation.  Other simple things like sitting on the beach, going for a walk or a hot bath can also soothe the mind and re-energize you. If you find meditation challenging, simply sitting with “yourself” for five minutes each morning can be a great way to start the day fresh and rejuvenated.

Take care of yourself

Exercising regularly, eating well and getting enough sleep are also important components of mental health. Avoiding excesses like overeating, too much alcohol, drugs, caffeine and nicotine weigh in as important as well. Here is where moderation is essential and remember to care for yourself is to take time for yourself.

Overall health in general is attained through balance and your body is limited only by your state of mind. An unhealthy state of mind will lead to an unhealthy body. Create a well rounded and balanced life that includes emotional fitness and you will be on a continued path towards overall health and enlightenment.


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