The way we think about something can positively or negatively affect how healthy our body is. Also, how we treat our physical body, including what we eat and how much we exercise, can affect how we think. Research shows that there is a complex connection between our mind and body, suggesting that the journey to better health should be a multi-system approach which can be supported positively or negatively by lifestyle choices.

For example, when you are sick, it doesn’t just impact your immune system. It impacts your entire body and your mind, the way you think, act and feel. It influences your digestive system, endocrine and respiratory system as well as your nervous system and circulatory system. This shows that the systems within the body are interconnected and that no one system works as a single entity.

In medicine, it used to be that the mind and body was treated as a whole. During the 17th century, the mind and body began to be treated separately, no longer considering the emotional impact that surgery or medications had on one’s mental well-being. In the 20th century, the importance of the mind body connection re-emerged with many therapies and practices like yoga, dance, tai chi and qigong.

The mind is so much more than just the brain. It is the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that influence our actions and reactions that directly impact our physical well-being. Because all the systems of the body share a common chemical language and are in constant communication, it is necessary that we use a holistic approach to improve our health.

In order to be healthy, the body needs to be in a constant state of balance. General healthy living practices are a good way to achieve this with your mind and body. Every part of your body functions better together when you practice consistent healthy habits such as eating fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding smoke, alcohol and processed foods.

The thoughts you have eventually show in your actions and can even present themselves in the physical body. Practice by shifting from negative thoughts and emotions to more positive ones. Be mindful of your body as it moves, and pay attention to how your body feels when you eat certain foods or are exposed to certain situations. Coping skills to manage stress can also break through the barriers to better health, helping you work with your mind and body.

Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at mcorrigan@ymcasumter.org or (803) 773-1404.

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