René Descartes once said, “I think, therefore, I am,” and while he may have been speaking philosophically, there’s some truth in how that phrase relates to your health. That’s because a positive mindset and a mental health practice can have a significant impact on your overall health. Here’s how your mental health can impact your physical health, and vice versa – plus, how you can build a positive mindset for your everyday life.
The short answer: mental health and physical health are completely connected. For example, people with mental health issues are more likely to have a preventable physical health conditions, like heart disease. This may be due to genetics, a lack of motivation, or an unwillingness to see a doctor regularly.
Similarly, the gut microbiome has been called the “second brain,” and the gut can impact mental health as some types of bacteria can produce neurotransmitters. Other studies have linked poor gut health to depression.
Finally, if you’re not feeling physically well, your mental health is likely to suffer. Injuries, illnesses, and chronic pain can all lead you to live in a heightened state of stress – and ironically, being in “fight or flight” mode for too long can have an even worse effect on your health.
To start making changes to your health today, you can easily implement a few mental health practices that will help you cultivate a positive mindset. Here are a few suggestions.
Create a gratitude practice: Feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity to improve your physical health. Plus, practicing gratitude can also decrease depression, reduce anxiety, and ease difficulties with chronic pain. To start a gratitude practice, list three things you’re grateful for at the start or end of every day. Want to take it one step further? Write a gratitude letter to someone who’s positively impacted your life.
Reframe hard thoughts and challenges: In stressful moments, try flipping your perspective for a mental reframe. For example, your heart might be racing and you might be sweating before a major work presentation. Instead of thinking to yourself “Wow, I’m so nervous,” try saying “This is an exciting opportunity for me, and I’ve prepared a lot for this moment. This rush of adrenaline is going to help me succeed.”
Intention setting for each day: Add some purpose and mindfulness to your day by setting an intention and writing it out in a sentence (for example, “Today I will be generous,” or “I’m seeking balance”). You can come up with intentions on your own, or pull a card from a mindfulness or intention deck each day.
Practicing mindfulness throughout the day: Ditch the multitasking in favor of single-tasking. As you’re doing small tasks or chores, try to focus only on that. For example, if you’re doing the dishes, notice how the water feels or the smell of the soap. One helpful exercise we love for mindfulness is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can physically feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Breathwork: Breathwork has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder. Start with the 4-7-8 breathing technique, which has been called a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system”: inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and exhale slowly through a pursed mouth for 8 counts, making a “whoosh” sound.
At Wild Health, we offer whole-you healthcare to treat your physical and mental health. Plus, we include personalized recommendations and suggested lifestyle changes for both physical and mental health in your Wild Health Personalized Report. Learn more by booking a free coaching call.