New Year's is about examining your lifestyle and considering the mind-body connection. This guide provides definitions and examples for a happy and healthier 2021.
The Mind Body Connection
The medical industry is beginning to understand the importance of treating the whole person rather than just the disease. Holistic therapy uses thoughts, attitudes, physical health, and behaviors to affect overall well-being and longevity, otherwise known as the mind-body connection.
Scientists understand now that emotions can contribute to the recovery rate of sick patients. Many researchers note that depressed or overly anxious patients typically have longer or harsher recoveries than those with adequate support and comfort. While some people may write such findings off as a placebo effect, several studies are suggesting otherwise.
Science Behind the Theory
The brain, as the body's command center, is a complex piece of biological machinery. It is responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of all physical and psychological elements of being, and as such, it intertwines with all aspects of health.
Researchers know that emotions produce increased levels of specific hormones and neurotransmitters that directly correlate with physical responses. When someone is frightened or stressed, doctors may see a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Emotions can also lead to trouble sleeping or a loss of appetite.
David Spiegel, director of the Psychosocial Research Laboratory at Stanford University, helped usher such speculations away from fringe science and into mainstream thinking more than 30 years ago with his studies. Spiegel created a study of breast cancer patients. One group practiced group mindfulness plus typical treatments, and the other group only received the medical treatments. Spigel's result showed that patients practicing mindfulness in addition to their treatment experienced less pain, improved quality of life, and many lived longer than patients in the second group.
Since the publishing of Spiegel's results, numerous other reports and experiments seem to show similar results. The findings demonstrate the reality of the mind-body connection.
Effects on Health
If you adhere to the belief of the mind-body connection, which research supports, there is no denying the adverse health effects of stress and anxiety. While stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, are not harmful in the short-term, providing stamina to get away from dangerous situations, prolonged exposure to these chemicals can lead to digestive problems, a weakened immune system response, and slower recovery from injury or illness.
While there is a clear line between high levels of stress and health risks, people often underestimate the threat of negative thought patterns. Self-criticism, pessimism, and assumptions can lead to stress hormones or a misguided sense of acceptance. For example, suppose a patient knows of their family history with diabetes. In that case, they may look at a diagnosis of prediabetes as an inevitable progression toward a foregone conclusion despite the condition being reversible.
If you are a pessimist and naturally think the worst in every situation, it is essential to change your behavior for a happier and healthier life. There are several ways to make lifestyle changes, and not all must be difficult.
How To Make a Lifestyle Change & What To Consider
What do you consider your bad or unhealthy habits? Do you smoke, overeat fast food, or worry and stress about everything? Making lifestyle changes can seem overwhelming, especially if you always fight with your inner critic.
If you are committed to making a change in 2021, make sure you are ready for the changes. You need to identify the habits you want to change and specify a motivation for it. For example, you may want to lose some weight so you can play with your kids.
Once you create your list, make sure to eliminate triggers. If junk food is the trigger, remove any evidence of it from your life. Clear out the cupboards and refrigerator.
Next, focus on incremental and measurable change. It is not enough to say you want to lose 50 pounds. How do you intend to do it, and how much can you healthily lose every week or month?
Finally, understand that setbacks are part of the process. You will have days that you give in to temptation. The objective is not to let one setback turn into complete failure.
Small Lifestyle Changes You Can Make
Too many people falter when making lifestyle changes because they aim too high. If you have never tried to change habits before, do not assume you can change them easily. Instead of focusing on significant changes first, aim for something small.
- Set aside an hour to be tech and phone-free every day
- Spend 15 minutes a day meditating or doing breathing exercises
- Do something spontaneous once a month
- Volunteer for a local charity
- Restrict fast food to once or twice per week
- Take a break and go outside at least once per day
- Try something new
Improving Mental vs Physical Health
People will often talk about improving mental or physical health, but the two are not mutually exclusive. The same is true of positive mental activity, like meditation. By meditating, you reduce stress hormones in the body, leading to lower blood pressure and fewer health risks. The mind-body paradigm is not only a holistic approach to medicine; it is the way the body works. You cannot consider physical health without additionally focusing on mental health and vice versa.
In 2021, try to focus on the whole person when considering your health and wellness. Take time to assess your goals and truly understand what will make you healthier and happier because the answer is different for everyone.