Tips for Taking a Holistic Approach to Mental and Physical Health
Most people tend to build something of a psychic barrier between their physical and mental health, thinking of them as two relatively separate entities. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, your physical and mental health are closely linked. Either can make the other better or worse. That’s why taking a holistic approach to your well-being can be so effective.
Here at the Hope for Healing Foundation, we pride ourselves on helping people heal their relationship with themselves and unlock a healthier, happier future. Here are some tips for how you can address all aspects of your health each and every day:
Exercise is one of the absolute most effective tools for overall health. For starters, it keeps your body working at its best. Regular exercise strengthens and protects your heart, lungs, muscles, and skeletal system. Moreover, exercise improves digestion and gut health, which more and more research is linking to a variety of full-body wellness benefits. Finally, staying active reduces the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders and can make existing disorders less intense and more manageable.
These benefits are especially important for seniors since strength and balance go a long way toward lowering risks of serious slip and fall accidents. If you’re on Medicare, see if you qualify for the Silver Sneakers program. This gives you access to many different gyms and exercise classes all over the country, which can make exercising more appealing and effective.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Adults need 7–9 hours of sleep each night, but many of us don’t manage to reach that. Inconsistent or poor-quality sleep doesn’t just make us feel tired during the day; this type of constant fatigue leaves us more vulnerable to mood downswings and less capable of the coping tools we need to keep ourselves stable and at peace.
There are several things to remember when it comes to reaching your sleep needs:
- The minimum won’t work for everyone. If you’re getting seven hours a night and still feeling less than your best, consider adding an hour — or even two — to your sleep schedule.
- A screen-free hour before bed gives you time to indulge in a soothing pre-sleep routine, which can make falling and staying asleep easier.
- If these interventions don’t make a difference, a sleep study can help you achieve the sleep you need.
Being in poor physical health leaves you more vulnerable to mood disorders, but poor mental health can have devastating effects on your body in turn. Some of these come down to the damage stress does to the body, but some boils down to the lack of self-care in many people with mental illnesses. It’s hard to take good care of yourself when your brain is convincing you that you don’t matter or that you’re not worth it.
Turn this around by rebuilding your relationship with yourself. Start by learning how to recognize your inner critic. This can be challenging as our inner critics are often quite cruel. Try to notice the moments you say things to yourself in your mind that you’d never say to a loved one. Then, rather than fight those thoughts or indulge them, simply note to yourself, “That was my inner critic.” The act of just noticing that’s what’s happening can rob that voice of a lot of its power.
You must then replace that voice with a kinder, more compassionate thought. It can be hard to generate these on the fly if you’re out of practice, so pick a couple of positive mantras you can say to yourself upon noticing your inner critic. It will take time, but eventually, this type of thought pattern replacement will change your mind’s habits and improve your day-to-day experience.
Ultimately, the mind is a function of the brain, which is simply a part of the body. When we recognize that mental health and physical health are inexorably linked this way, we can start to heal both together, feel better, and treat ourselves with the kindness and care we deserve.
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