Your body is a mirror

You know that old saying, “You are what you eat?” Well, you can also say, “Your body mirrors your mind.” Your body really is a mirror of your mood and emotions.

Unexpected effects on your body

Your mood and emotions can affect your physical health in ways that you may not expect. You may experience pain, inflammation and even chronic illness as a result of continuing depression. Depression can deprive your body of its natural ability to fight off disease.

“Mental and physical health are linked. When the brain is out of balance, it can affect our body’s response to fight off illness,” says Dr. Munther Barakat, a psychologist at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wis. When our mental health is compromised, it can lead to increased pain sensitivity, slower healing, weight gain or loss, increased inflammation, even a weakened immune system. When our immune system is compromised, it can lead to autoimmune diseases like arthritis or fibromyalgia. It can even cause abnormal cell growth which can lead to cancer. Your body is a mirror of the bad as well as the good.

Tips to fend off bad moods and depression

Some exercise can be fun - like crunches on the stability ball. If it's fun, and your body is a mirror of your emotions, then you'll be smiling inside and out.

Dr. Barakat recommends developing habits to fend off bad moods and depression, like physical exercise! I’ve written before about how that “exercise high” is more than a myth. After an intense workout, I know that I feel more optimistic and happier. Even when I don’t feel like exercising, I do it anyway, and then afterward I’m glad I did. It could be the increased oxygen. It could be the tingly muscles. I just know that I feel better and more optimistic after I exercise.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is another great habit to start or continue. Research has shown that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and complex carbohydrates has a positive effect on brain function and mood.

Relaxation techniques also calm your mind and body. Yoga and meditation are practices I follow. Hatha Yoga has the double (triple?) benefit of increasing your flexibility, exercising and stretching your muscles as well as calming your mind. You don’t have to be a yogi to benefit from a yoga practice. If you’re not able to do any particular pose, there are plenty of modifications and substitutes. If you take a class, mention to your instructor that you have certain limitations and more often than not, he or she will demonstrate terrific modifications. 

Meditation eases stress

Acording to Psychology Today, mental health does benefit from meditation. A study in Psychiatry Research revealed that people who meditated for 30 minutes a day experience stress less intensely than those who didn’t meditate. The study also showed that the part of the brains involved with empathy and compassion of people who meditated grew. People who meditate care more – and that’s a key component of growing your resilience.

So if your body is a mirror for your mood and emotions, and if you’re in a great mood more, your body will be in better shape. Not only will you be more fit, and more able to do the things you want to do, but you’ll be more resilient and better able to tackle the challenges of life. That’s my definition of “fitness.”

Do what makes you happy

Do what makes you happy. Put a smile on your face.

At least once a day, do what makes you happy. Do something that will put a smile on your face.

Yes, these are hard times. We’re physically isolated from others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be happy.

Happiness increases optimism. Optimism increases resilience. Only with resilience will we be able to survive this bleak period in our existence. With resilience we’ll be able to undertake new challenges. We’ll be able to resume pastimes that we can’t enjoy now. We’ll be able to go to restaurants, to movie theaters, to parks, to the mall.

So, how can we embrace happiness? For one thing, turn off the news. Take a break from social media.

Have a virtual conversation with a friend. We all have wonderful devices with built-in ways to make this happen. Even just call a friend on the phone. To hear a friend’s voice can be joyous.

Watch a favorite video. Or, go on a virtual tour of a museum or art gallery. There are plenty of those.

Catch a live stream from a facility that’s closed now. Lots of zoos are offering live streams. There’s a “Donate” button on many, but it’s not mandatory. On the other hand, if you can afford it, those facilities could use your donations. They’re not getting the admission fees or concession sales now that they were used to. A reduced staff has to be there, to care for the animals, but there are no actual visitors.

My favorite is the daily live stream from Dolphin Research Center on Facebook. Every day at noon my time (1 pm Eastern Time), they’ll go live with a session with dolphins or sea lions. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on my face.

Or, as I’ve said before, put on some favorite music and start to dance. There’s no one to watch you, so get crazy. You’ll enjoy the music, get some moves on and be happier.

So, for just a little while every day, do something that makes you happy.

Increase optimism, grow resilience

Yoga helped me regain my balance and increase my optimism today. That will help to grow my resilience.

In these uncertain times, we’re scared, we feel lost. The only way we’re going to get through this is to grow our resilience. One sure way to do that is to increase our optimism.

Most of the country is sheltering in place now, to try to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 virus. There’s no cure, it spreads like wildfire, and it’s dangerous to many who catch it.

The economy has come to a standstill, since many businesses are closed. Restaurants and theaters are closed. People aren’t buying anything (except, perhaps toilet paper and hand sanitizer). We’re told to maintain “social distancing” – stay at least 6 feet away from others.

It’s scary and we don’t know when it will end.

But it will end. One day, hopefully soon. And to get beyond this time with anything approaching normalcy, it’s crucial to grow our resilience. To come out stronger and happier.

How do we grow our resilience? One sure-fire way is to increase our optimism. When we’re optimistic, we feel happier and more able to look forward.

So, how do we increase our optimism? One sure-fire way is to exercise. The endorphins that are released help, and the increased oxygen and blood-flow are supporters too. I know, personally, that I always feel better after a workout.

Today I did a Yoga practice. Nothing too strenuous because it had been a while since I did Yoga, and I didn’t want to feel it for days afterward. But it sure felt great today.

Another way to feel happier and more optimistic is to put on some favorite tunes and move. Just get moving. The music and the movement all contribute to feelings of optimism and well-being.

Go for a walk. Pet your dog. Read a good book. Make your favorite meal (not too calorie-laden, though!). You’ll feel better.

And every time you do, you’ll increase your optimism that much more and grow your resilience.