By Jessica Hegg, Vive Health
George Michael once said, “You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.” You might add on there listening to your back, head, arms, legs and feet too. It may be no surprise to hear that a healthy mind is fueled by a healthy body, but what does that really mean? There is actually science behind the body-mind connection, and ample empowering activities and steps you can take towards embracing it.
Daily exercise at any age is a vital tool in promoting mental and physical wellness. Not only does exercise feed your strength, coordination, and endurance, but it helps you maintain a healthy weight which boosts confidence and self-esteem. Routine fitness amps up endorphin production in the brain as well – endorphins are chemicals your body releases that interact with receptors in your brain to reduce your sensation of pain and boost feelings of positivity. You don’t have to be training for a marathon to feel these effects either. Moderate, regular exercise from brisk walks and jogging to swimming, cycling, dancing, you name it, can power a healthy body and mind.
The pain-stress-pain cycle can be hard to break, but understanding the links between your body’s physical pain and the stress and anxiety your mind feels can help. Stress, anxiety, and depression often manifest themselves as physical pain through tense shoulder and neck muscles, inflammation in your lower back, and headaches. Giving in to the exasperation and frustration associated with feeling poorly can lead to unhealthy decisions like remaining inactive, eating a bad diet, and isolating ourselves from others. By recognizing and tending to your physical pain, you can make the first step in addressing mental distress. How do you do this?
Start by incorporating a daily care routine that focuses on self-care and treating your aches and pains. New guidelines from the American College of Physicians  (in regards to addressing lower back pain specifically) encourage people to try exercise, yoga or massage before they even think about taking painkillers. Slow, repetitive stretching like in yoga helps your body’s muscles, joints and tendons relax, it fights inflammation and boosts blood circulation that helps with healing.
Additional self-care actions that can transform your mind-body connection for the better include practicing mindfulness, meditating daily, decluttering your environment, as well as welcoming healthier foods into your diet. A new era in medical science has dawned illuminating vast connections between “gut flora” or micro-biota  and the beneficial interactions it has with our immune system and metabolic processes. Your gut flora is comprised of trillions of microbes (tiny organisms including bacteria) that live in your intestines – based on what you eat, how and where you were born, and your environment, your gut flora is proving to have a symbiotic relationship that can affect your health both positively or negatively. Early anecdotal evidence shows powering your gut flora with a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and foods like greek yogurt (with live active bacteria cultures), as well as cutting back on sugars, carbonated beverages, and trans fats can help prevent disease, combat obesity, and promote mental wellness.
Your ability to fuel a healthy mind through actions and practices that energize a healthy body is incredible. Knowing the scientific and medical connections, embracing daily exercise, self-care routines, and a healthy diet is a great place to start.