Improving Your Health ~
I talk a lot about improving health, but what exactly does improving health mean? When we hear the word "health" we usually think of physical health. However when I talk about health, I'm not just referring to physical health, I'm also referring to mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
We all know the importance of physical health. We know that eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep all contribute to maintaining optimal physical health. As well as not that, not smoking, drinking in moderation, and wearing sunscreen, also contribute to strong physical health. In fact, these are some of the first things we think of when it comes to health. Of course these are not the only contributing factors to being physically healthy. They're also not the only contributing factors to being healthy overall. Maintaining optimal physical health is only one aspect of your health.
Maintaining mental, emotional, and spiritual health are all equally as important as maintaining physical health.
Each of these areas needs to be cared for and attended to. They all work with each other; when one is being neglected, it affects the others. Striving to "be healthy" requires so much more than just eating well and moving your body. While physical health is important, just as important are all other areas of health. So even if you're working hard at maintaining strong physical health, if you aren't working on the other areas of your health, your physical will suffer.
Improving Health ~
Mental health has been talked about A LOT since the global pandemic, and for good reason. However, it isn't just during challenging times that you need to be aware of mental health; being aware of your mental health is important everyday. Mental health as defined by MedicalNewsToday is cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It's all about how people think, feel, and behave.
Mental health affects your physical health, relationships, how you manage difficult situations, and day-to-day living.
Here's few suggestions to help you maintain optimal mental health:
Meditate: A regular meditation practice has SO many benefits! Including, helping to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, increasing mental clarity, encouraging feelings of calm, and helping to keep you in the present moment (so important in our ultra-busy world). If you still aren't meditating, start today! Click here for tips to help you get started.
Move Your Body: We know that daily movement is fantastic for physical health and did you know that it's also fantastic for your mental health? Physical movement helps you clear your mind which greatly helps reduce stress and feelings of depression. It also helps boost memory, focus, productivity, and creativity. For more on the benefits of moving your body, click here.
Connect with Others: As humans, we're social. While using social media and technology to connect with those we love wonderful, it's not the same as connecting face-to-face. Connect with those you love and those who inspire you and make you feel good as often as you can. It's a great boost for your mental health!
Sleep: The amount and quality of sleep you receive is fundamental to your mental health. Not only does lack of sleep make it difficult to make decisions, it also causes forgetfulness and irritability. Further to that, lack of sleep greatly reduces your ability to manage daily stressors effectively and unmanaged stress hinders mental health. You need to prioritize sleep! For more on why and how, click here.
Enjoy Nature: Get out and enjoy nature every single day, regardless of the weather. Even in the rain or on a cold winter day, you can still benefit so much from being outside. Even better, walk in nature. Not only will this help increase your movement, studies have long shown that walking in nature helps clear your mind, improve your mood, and stimulate creative thinking. It’s also very effective at reducing stress and depression.
Play: Despite what you might think, you're never too old to benefit from playing! And play greatly helps your mental health. Every time you engage in something fun, you help boost your feel-good hormones. Engaging in good old-fashioned fun and games helps reduce stress and depression, provides the opportunity to relax and forget about all those adult responsibilities, enhances emotional well-being, and brings joy, to list only a few of the many benefits. For more on why you'll want to increase play and how to do it, check out these related blogs: How Play Makes You Feel Better and Play Isn't Just for Children
I think the importance of emotional health is greatly misunderstood and undervalued. Most people are emotional disconnected. Many people are very good at suppressing their emotions and have been taught to do so from an early age. Perhaps you're one of them. Think about how often we tell children to, "stop crying, ' or we don't allow them to fully express their frustration or anger. Think back to when you were a child, were you taught that it was OK to fully express what you were feeling?
It's been proven that unexpressed emotions stay in the body. Every time you ignore your emotional state and suppress your tears, frustration, or whatever it is that you're feeling that you don't want others to see, know this ~ Your emotions don't go away because you've pushed them down. They don't just magically disappear just because you don't allow yourself to feel them. They remain in your body, they live in your cells, they stay stuck.
It's been proven that unresolved emotions make us sick and cause dis-ease in the body.
Emotional health is your awareness of your emotions (fear, disgust, anger, surprise, happiness, and sadness) and how well you're able to manage these emotions. When you're emotionally healthy, it means you're aware of your emotions and you know how to effectively manage them. Those with strong emotional health also know when they need help with their emotional state. This could be reaching out to a trusted friend or loved one or seeking professional help. Note that strong emotional health doesn't mean that you're always happy and carefree. It's about how you manage the good times and the not so good times. Knowing how to manage your emotions helps you to better manage stress, feel better about yourself, cultivate a deeper relationship with yourself and others, helps you have more energy, and greatly improves your physical health.
Here's few suggestions to help you maintain optimal emotional health:
Awareness: First, become aware of your emotional state. So many people have become used to numbing out what they feel. If you're one of those people, here's a exercise to help you connect with your emotions ~ Keep a journal of how you feel. For two weeks, without judgement, jot down what you feel and what is happening to contribute to that feeling. This exercise will help you become more aware of your emotional state. Once you become familiar with your varying emotions, you'll be better able to manage them.
Mindfulness: Practice being mindful often. Mindfulness is a proven way to help regulate emotional reactivity. Begin by choosing a few daily activities that you can commit to being mindful while doing. Such as brushing your teeth, washing your hair, doing the dishes, eating a meal, folding the laundry, going for a walk, or getting dressed. These are things that you are more than likely doing mindlessly. When you notice your thoughts wandering away from the task at hand, gently being your attention back to what you're doing. Like most everything else, being more mindful is challenging at first and becomes easier the more you do it.
Mindset: Think about what your attitude is about your life. Do you think and feel positively about your life? Or, do you think and feel negatively about your life? This is your mindset. What and who you're surrounded by, and what you do with your time and energy contributes to your mindset. For example - If you have negative people in your life, their negativity will contribute to you feeling negative. If you're working in a job that you don't love, that will contribute to a more negative mindset. Keep in mind, you're influenced by all that's in your life and by what you do in your life. The more positivity you have in your life, the more positively influenced you're going to be. For more check out this post titled Mindset Matters.
What are you consuming? Many use alcohol, food, and other substances to numb their emotions. Are you really enjoying that glass of wine every night, or are you using it to numb out the day? What are you really feeling when you're eating comfort food? Once you become more aware of your emotional state (see above), pay attention to what you're consuming and when. While these might taste and feel good in the moment, long term they could be hindering your emotional health.
Spiritual health refers to your health outside your mind and body. It's a knowing that there's so much more to you than just your physical body and your mind. It can be described as a connection to your true self through a belief in something beyond the physical. You can seek spirituality through a belief in a particular religion, or through various other practices such as a yoga practice, gratitude, connecting with nature, art, music, meditation, or prayer, to name just a few.
The connection that you have to your spirit is very personal and you may find that you vacillate between many different practices. There is no right or wrong with it comes to connecting with your spirit. How you grow and maintain spiritual health is up to you and when you do it you'll notice a stronger sense of purpose in life. Those with a strong spiritual connection are generally more positive and optimistic. Furthermore, maintaining your spiritual health greatly helps you cope with daily stressors.
Here's few suggestions to help you maintain optimal spiritual health:
Journal: There are SO many benefits to writing out feelings in a journal. A regular journal practice is a great way to connect with the deepest parts of yourself. Your journal provides the space to fully express yourself, making it an easy way to learn more about yourself and increase your self-awareness. Journaling is also a practice that helps to alleviate unnecessary stress and anxiety caused by consuming thoughts or worries. Click here to learn more about journaling.
Meditation or Prayer: Meditation, as discussed above, is not only fantastic for your mental health, it's also a fantastic way to connect with your spiritual side and the higher power you believe in. For those who practice religion, prayer is also a fantastic way to connect with yourself and the higher power you believe in.
Inner Exploration: Give yourself time to reflect on your purpose, your hopes, and your views on life. Sitting quietly with yourself and reflecting on the deeper meaning of your life helps you further connect with your spiritual self. Your hopes, your views on life, and what you feel your purpose is can change as you move through life. Therefore, it's necessary to do this inner exploration as often as you feel. For more click here.
Gratitude: Gratitude is a powerful practice that helps you stop searching outside yourself to find your value. Being grateful for what you have right now helps you cultivate happier and healthier relationships, feel more content and fulfilled, and live from a feeling of abundance rather than lack. All of this helps contribute to your spiritual health. For more on the incredible benefits of this easy practice and ways to do more of it, click here.
As you can see, all of these areas of health help to improve your physical health. You might also notice that many of the same practices help more than one area. For ex: Meditation greatly supports your mental health while it also greatly supports your spiritual health. Sleep is absolutely necessary for optimal physical health and it's also fundamental to your mental health. What you consume not only affects your physical health, but your emotional health as well.
We are interconnected. Every part of us is connected. Your mind isn't separate from your body, your body isn't separate from your emotions, and so on. As mentioned earlier, every area of your health needs to be cared for and attended to. When one area is being neglected, it will affect the others.
What area of your health are you going to commit to improving after reading this? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!
If you love this blog, I'd greatly appreciate you sharing it so that others can benefit from reading it as well. Thank you.
Looking for more tips to help you live well? Check out Your Live Well Journey - The Podcast, every episode offers ways to help you improve your self-care.