Posted by Ramneek S. Bhogal, DC, DABCI on Jan 31, 2020 1:07:06 PM
In the world of health and wellness, we tend to look closely at the physical. How hard you exercise, what foods you eat, and how many calories you take in have become the primary focus of obtaining optimal health. But that’s only part of the picture.
While these physical factors are undoubtedly important, the mind, body, and soul are intricately connected on a deep physiological level. The mind-body-soul connection refers to how your thoughts and feelings affect your physical well-being, and how your physical well-being impacts your thought processes.
Think of it as the term taught in high school chemistry class: dynamic equilibrium, the concept that two forces both oppose and help one another to maintain balance and equilibrium. In other words, the health of the mind, body, and soul take form in different actions and practices, but they weave together to form the basis of health.
Meditation, prayer, and deep breathing to connect with the present moment and recognize the mind-body-soul connection can be profoundly impactful for lowering stress and living a happier life. However, more active forms of mental stimulation are shown to activate portions of the brain that you might not be using and help slow down mental atrophy and dementia.1
The central nervous system is a series of electrical and chemical signals, and you can think of them in terms of their action potential. Essentially, the more we use our brains, the more we trip those electrical charges. This can be thought of literally, figuratively, and even metaphysically. In the most basic sense, if you spend the day sitting on the couch, your action potential is quite limited.
Mentally-stimulating activities can include language learning, crossword puzzles, sculpture, painting, puzzles, learning an instrument, or learning any new task or activity. These sorts of stimulations leverage both action and potential on a cellular level.
The chemistry of the mind-body-soul connection has a lot to do with what we ingest, as it’s the most significant and direct route of toxins and chemicals entering the body.
Ways to improve your health on all levels begins with eating organic whenever possible. When you eat organic, you’re vastly increasing the nutrient density of the foods you eat and eliminating their toxic load. If your body is in a negative mind-body balance — which can result from high stress, physical illness, nutrient deficiencies from depleted soil, environmental and household toxins, and more — what you’re eating and consuming contributes tenfold to that negative balance.
Along with eating organic foods, avoiding food colorings, dyes, and other artificial ingredients makes a significant difference. In a Standard American Diet (SAD), most people are consuming more processed foods than foods that are alive. Opt for real, pesticide-free, low glycemic-load foods that support and regenerate neurochemicals and neurotransmitters.
If cost is an issue, check out the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list to learn more about which produce items are most important to buy in their organic form.
From a mind perspective, the nervous system is nurturing cognitive pathways, innovative thought, and brainstorming. From a physical standpoint, this system sends signals to muscles to contract or for a joint complex to be aware of its movement and protect itself. With exercise, the brain receives different signals that stimulate activity centers that increase heartbeat and blood flow. Consequently, the brain is nourished by cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and the lymphatic system. By staying active, you nourish your brain and create specific neurological pathways.
One problem with exercise in modern society is that we’ve become disconnected with what types of movement and activity actually bring us joy. For optimal health, exercise should make you happy, as this will not only be more enjoyable but also more sustainable. If you don’t like running, choose from any number of other options, such as long walks, hiking, dancing, weight lifting, biking, swimming, yoga, Pilates, or try a new class or group that interests you.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the body can interpret exercise as another stressor. The intensity of exercise should correlate with your stress levels. Otherwise, it has the potential to increase cortisol levels instead of relieving them. For many people, the 30-40 minute mark is the stress “sweet spot” and keeps you from going overboard.
Whether we’re discussing exercise, mental stimulation, or diet, the ways you choose to support and achieve balance and health should feed your soul. Similar to how you can choose from a long list of exercise modalities in order to find what you enjoy, you can also choose from a wide range of health-promoting foods and mind-stimulating activities.
This isn’t purely for enjoyment’s sake, either. Research shows that when the limbic system and the amygdala are stimulated and satisfied, you feel content and fulfilled, and this leads to the process of positive neuroplasticity and positive neurogenesis.2
Just like muscle recovery after exercise, your mind needs time to recuperate. This is where calming practices like meditation, prayer, or meditative movement techniques such as Qigong or Tai Chi come into play. These practices provide a crucial centering component to your mind and body, and they offer time to gather yourself and create a buildup of metaphysical action potential. In other words, it’s necessary to give your brain a chance to regenerate itself, replenish electrical signals, and recharge; sometimes, that’s as simple as rest.
Balancing the mind, body, and soul is largely personal, as it comes down to what you enjoy, what is doable for your lifestyle, and your baselines. However, finding ways to stimulate your brain with new activities, move your body, take in nourishing foods from nature, and recuperate is a general recipe for health on all levels.
1 Gatz, M. (2005). Educating the brain to avoid dementia: Can mental exercise prevent Alzheimer’s disease? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC545200/. Accessed January 23, 2020.
2 Shaffer, J. (2016). Neuroplasticity and clinical practice: Building brain power for health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4960264/. Accessed January 23, 2020.
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