Man practicing yoga to help with mind/body connection

Practicing What I Preach

Happy 2021 everyone! Throughout my training as a psychologist, one of the most important things we learned to teach our patients was the importance of exercise. We were taught not only how exercise makes us physically healthy, but mentally healthy as well. It was through countless graduate discussions on exercise that I was able to recognize further what the mind/body connection really was.

The mind/body connection serves as one of the major foundations to the work that I do with my patients. I come from the school of thought that if our bodies are unwell, so are our minds, and vice versa. Working with many patients who suffer from a variety of physical diseases, I see firsthand each day how our physical health impacts our mental health.  

The idea is this. Let’s say one is given a diagnosis such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This comes with a variety of physical issues that can include trouble walking, holding objects, and other disabilities. This also comes with depressionanxiety, and other mood issues. We often see these mood issues in MS patients due to the fact that they have to cope with the loss of ability in their bodies. On the contrary, let’s say you have a person who exercises five times per week. This often comes with better physical health overall, which is certainly more relative to happiness, an increase in positive relationships, and overall achievement in mental health. These two examples demonstrate the mind/body connection.

For years, I would preach to my patients and encourage them to exercise. “Go to the gym.” “Run.” “Join a pilates class for exercise and the social aspect.” These are all examples of what I would say to patients in an effort to help them achieve mental health as their psychologist.

This year, I finally realized that I was not practicing what I preach. I realized that I was encouraging patients to do things that I was not willing to do myself.

It was during the ever-so-famous COVID quarantine where I did some self-reflection. Some self-reflection got me to a place where I asked myself what changes I could make during quarantine, and the first thing that came to mind was exercise. 

Not only was this decision going to help me lose that COVID 20, but also help me feel better emotionally at a time where it was so much needed. This began with me doing simple things for myself like getting a mat for my hardwood floors to do at-home exercises. It turned into me going to the gym once it reopened again, socially distanced and masked of course, and working with a personal trainer who provides me with exercise and nutrition knowledge that are essential to meeting my fitness goals.

Engaging in an active fitness lifestyle (mind you this has been a less than 6-month thing) has already taught me so much about myself personally and professionally. Not only does it allow me to move away from depression, anxiety, and all of the other emotions that come along with a COVID world, but it also makes me physically feel better, allowing myself to prevent a variety of physical health issues as I age. Making this part of my daily lifestyle has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life thus far, not to mention all of the amazing, healthy foods I am learning how to prepare for myself. 

How do you find this type of motivation you ask? Here are some helpful tips to follow:

  1. Assess your COVID anxiety. Obviously, if you’re a person who fears infection within a gym or training setting, the right place for you to be exercising is home. Personal trainers will often say the best way to lift weights is to use your body (i.e. push-ups). This means you might actually spend $0 on a new fitness lifestyle and YouTube videos instead of purchasing overpriced equipment.

Read the Full Article on Psychology Today