3 simple ways to improve your mental health

05.19.16 |

The brain is very much a physical entity

In casual conversation, we often separate the mental from the physical. When I talk with clients or patients, I myself talk about health in terms of these two silos because it makes more sense to most people. Some Habits of Health impact our physical health more than they do our emotional health while other Habits of Health do the reverse.

Our emotions have powerful physical components.

Our brains, however, are very much physical entities even if we might think of our minds and bodies as being distinctly separate somehow. This is why our emotions have powerful physical components. When we are nervous, or happy, or sad, our bodies experience very tangible sensations—butterflies in your stomach, laughter, or feeling lethargic.

The mind-body connection

It turns out that the connection between our emotions is not a one-way street. In fact, you can impact your mental health with some minor physical habits.

For example, you probably know that regular exercise has been found to reduce stress levels, elevate your mood, and facilitate restful sleep. The physical activity itself is good for our emotional health, so just as our mood can make us feel good physically so can our Habits of Healthy Motion make us feel good mentally and emotionally.

That’s a powerful tool to harness!

Habits to transform your health

Here are some simple Habits of Health that you can use to transform your health, leveraging the two-way street between your mind and your body:

  • Be more confident. In one of the most popular TED talks to date, Amy Cuddy talks about how “power posing” for a few minutes at a time (Think Wonder Woman or Superman) can improve your confidence when you don’t feel confident at all. The posture itself affects testosterone and cortisol levels in your brain, leading you to actually feel more confident.
  • Improve your memory. A study published in Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy found that individuals with poor posture were more likely to recall on negative memories while those with good posture had more balanced and fair recollections. So add an upright positive posture to your habit of power posing.
  • Feel more powerful. The effort you put into your physical appearance can “change the basic way we see the world” according to a professor of psychology at California State University. If you wear formal clothing—or put time into your appearance in general—you can get a mental edge in your self-confidence and your ability to approach information with a more thoughtful, critical eye.

So to review, you can get a big return on your mental health by striking a pose, sitting up straight, and putting some care into your physical appearance. All of these sound completely accessible, right? That’s the idea! You can start doing these things right now and start to transform your health. As small as the changes might seem, they make a very real, very visible impact on our health.

And then, when you’re feeling better about yourself and thinking more clearly, you are better equipped to make another round of small changes. And then another. By the time you’re two months in, you’re sitting up straight and taking care of your appearance out of pure automatic habit, making that benefit a near permanent part of your healthy lifestyle.

Harness the power of your mind-body connection today!