Mind health often gets passed over in discussions about health and well-being. We talk about nutrition, exercise, sleep, hydration and other keys to self-care. But we tend to have those discussion in relation to physical health. Even though they support whole-person health.
“True enjoyment comes from
activity of the mind and exercise of the body;
the two are ever united.
~ Wilhelm von Humboldt
Where would our body be without our mind? Right. That’s a horse of different color, now that we shine the spotlight on it. Let’s explore mind health.
You may have heard the adage “move it or lose it,” a phrase that encapsulates the importance of moving our bod. Moving our body is a top health support, as the three main threats to our health are:
- The Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)
- Unmanaged chronic stress
- A sedentary lifestyle
My guess is you know this. Makes sense, in relation to body. But what about our mind? Let’s get clear on mind and brain, and then explore how to support mind health-brain health.
Mind health: Mind and brain are different
“What on earth is a ‘mind-brain?’” you might ask. In my book Wild World, Joyful Heart, I define it in this way:
Mind-brain: A term used in contexts where we’re unclear on what is associated with mind versus brain. It’s often difficult to separate mind function from brain function, as they’re deeply interconnected and interdependent.
The brain is the organ in our head; you can think of this as a metaphorical radio.
Mind, many would argue, is the seat of our human-ness. It includes the felt sense of self, thought, our ability to be aware of the world and of our experiences, memory, as well as faculties like intuition.
The mind is not a physical aspect of our human existence; you can instead think of it as metaphorical radio waves that are received by the radio (brain). This simple metaphor frames the different-yet-related aspects of mind and brain. And therefore mind health.
I will use the term “mind” here, to keep things simple, but keep in mind that we’re talking about mind-brain.
Mind health is supported via a similar approach to supporting physical health. Most anything—from a muscle to a habit to a mind—becomes stronger with continual use. Exercising and challenging our mind is imperative in keeping it nimble and healthy. How might you do that? I thought you’d never ask.
Top 5 ways to support mind health
Interestingly, physical movement is a powerful protector of mind health. Intentional exercise—like running, fitness classes, dance, swimming, biking and walking—are oh-so-good for our whole being. Some resources claim that physical movement is even better for our mind than our body!
If you don’t regularly move your sweet bod, maybe start with some daily walking or yoga. If you already exercise, try switching it up once in a while. You might pepper in some different types of exercise, in addition to your movement-of-choice. All movement helps, and variety further challenges and strengthens our mind.
Some simple ways to move more in everyday living? Walk around when talking on the phone, park at the far corner of the parking lot instead of close to the door, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Research also clearly shows that learning something new strengthens our mind health. We can think of this as direct exercise for the mind, as opposed to the physical movement that benefits the mind as mentioned above.
Potential areas of mental exploration are endless. You might learn a new language, participate in a program like 28toGreat®, read a book, play chess, take a painting or cooking class. Or maybe you get on your gear head and learn about car maintenance. Find something that feels fun and intriguing to you, and enjoy the process of expansion.
Again, like our body, our mind needs some downtime. An important part of mind health is honoring chill-time with restful sleep (at least 7.5 hours per night), meditation, mindfulness and reflection. I’ve found that just sitting outside with a cup of tea does wonders to re-set and energize my mind.
Food Sass®, baby! Your brain is the second-largest organ in the body, yet uses more than 20% of all our energy. So, feed your brain, which is intimately intertwined with mind.
New to Food Sass®? Here’s the short story. Increase your intake of whole, nutrient-dense foods; organic where it matters and as close to their original state as possible. Reduce sugar; increase veggies; drink 80-120 oz of water a day; get yo’ health-building fats (pastured butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil); and amp up your intake of omega-3 fats (fish, walnuts, flax seeds, pastured eggs).
Want more info? Check out THIS post.
There’s plenty of research (and good sense) that shows us that healthy relationships and intimacy contribute to our health and joy. We are social animals and thrive on connection. Even more, these relationships and connections help to improve our neuroplasticity—the ability of our brain to change, grow and adapt—as well as to preserve its cognitive abilities.
Our mind health thrives on positive connection with others. Including our four-legged friends!
Feelings of loneliness and isolation deeply undermine the health of our mind. Some approaches that promote connection are to schedule regular get-togethers with friends and family, engage in volunteer work, adopt or foster-care a pet.
Voila! Your mind health toolkit.
The fact that we’re here on this beautiful, abundant and resilient planet is magical. Honoring our physical vehicle for getting around (our body), and tending the faculty that runs our show (our mind-brain), makes darn good sense. I invite you to choose one new habit from above and get started today.
Keep Your Mind Savvy®!
Create Vibrant Health: BodyMindSpirit®
With love and spring joy,