A Healthy Mind and Body
When it comes to overall health and well-being, your mind and body are the main contributors. The quality of your health can be measured in direct proportion to the state of your mind and body.
Most of the time when we hear about health, it tends to be centered around how well your body is functioning. However, the mind and body are integral to each other. If one is neglected, the other suffers.
When the mind is discussed, it is typically being examined from a mental health standpoint. Most times, it’s starting from the idea that something is broken and needs fixed, as opposed to improving it for optimal performance and resilience.
Our view is that something doesn't have to be inherently 'broke' before we make efforts to improve it. Like the saying goes:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
We want to encourage you to take on the mentality that you have more control over your health than you may realize. Also understand that the body knows how to heal itself (if we will care for it properly and get out of it's way).
It's also important to remove any hindrances that may be holding it back from healing and recovering effectively.
Keep in mind that small changes build up overtime. Please don't underestimate the power of small simple positive habits, and don't wait around to implement them. Start today and stay consistent.
With that, we will be covering four specific areas, or pillars, of a healthy mind and body.
These are the areas where you can start implementing these small simple habits immediately. We have provided actions you could take, starting with small simple tips and building up to more advanced options as well.
These four pillars are Sleep, Nutrition, Fitness, and Mindset.
Pillar 1 - Sleep
The first pillar of a healthy mind and body is quality sleep. But why is quality sleep so important?
You’ll notice a difference that day.
When you begin making healthy changes in your life, it’s important that you actually feel the impact of those changes immediately.
This is exactly what happens when you improve the quality of your sleep.
Since you’ll feel these benefits soon after taking action, your brain will connect the dots between the two. This creates a positive feedback loop that encourages you to continue making changes for the better.
Why is quality sleep so important?
The quality of your sleep directly contributes to both a healthy mind and body.
Benefits for the Mind
Quality sleep improves:
- your mood
- your memory
- your focus & attention span
It basically reboots your mind, giving you a fresh start for the day.
Benefits for the Body
Quality sleep improves:
- muscle recovery
- immune function
- your energy levels
It basically increases your overall stamina & vitality.
It’s important to remember that quality sleep is not just about the quantity of sleep. There are 3 major factors in addition to the length of time spent sleeping.
The 3 Factors of Quality Sleep
These factors are Light, Sound, and Temperature.
Light is often overlooked with regard to the quality of your sleep. Exposure to light decreases (or even halts) your body’s melatonin production, leading to poor quality sleep.
It can also disrupt your natural sleep cycles, reducing the time spent in the deeper, more restorative, stages of sleep. This means you are more likely to wake up during the night and have trouble falling back asleep.
Sleeping in total darkness will go a long way towards improving your overall quality of sleep.
The next factor is sound, which is more about the disruption it can cause to your sleep. The less interruptions you have during the night, the better.
You can improve this factor by either reducing the noise level (typically by using earplugs), or by cancelling out the noise with a white noise generator or air purifier.
Uninterrupted sleep equals better sleep.
The first two factors will help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night, but this last one will help you get deeper (and more rejuvenating) sleep.
While personal preferences for the perfect sleeping temperature will vary, a good rule of thumb for the optimum sleeping temperature hovers around 66°F (19°C).
If you can lower your sleeping temperature, or even just increase the air circulation of your bedroom, you will feel the difference between sleep and quality sleep.
Your Circadian Rhythm
You’ll need to take all of these factors into account when optimizing your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
You can do this by:
- avoiding electronic devices 2+ hours before bed
- not consuming stimulants after lunch
- not eating within 3-4 hours before bed
- wearing a biofeedback tracking device
You may even need to take some ‘sleep supplements' when you start making changes to improve your sleep quality.
These might include magnesium, melatonin, or choline. Try to limit these sleep aids to this first phase (or when travelling), so you don’t become dependent on them to fall asleep.
Your Sleep Routine
The easiest way we’ve found to make changes that improve your sleep is by building them into a routine, since a routine is really just a collection of habits that stack well together.
When you build all of these new habits into a routine, your brain will treat it as though it were a single habit.
A routine will help you build these practices into effortless habits. Remember, these may seem simple, but stacked together (and being consistent!) will yield maximum benefits.
10 Simple Sleep Improving Tips
- Have your last meal at least 3-4 hours before bed
- Avoid electronic devices 2 hours before you go to sleep
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time
- Try a sleep enhancing supplement if needed
- Wear blue blocking glasses a couple hours before bed
- Use dark curtains
- Try using ear plugs
- Wear an eye mask
- Turn on a white noise generator or air purifier
- Lower your sleeping temperature to 66°F (19°C)
And if you’re really looking to take you sleep to the next level, try these advanced sleeping tips below:
Pillar 2 - Nutrition
The second pillar of a healthy mind and body is nutrition. It focuses on being mindful and intentional about what we are fueling ourselves with.
You’ll notice a difference that week.
Once we have established good sleeping habits and are feeling the results of quality sleep, we are naturally going to be primed to incorporate more healthy habits.
When we are feeling rested and refreshed, our mind is more clear, and we make better decisions overall.
We also begin to depend less on sugar or caffeine to give us a boost because we got what we needed from a good night sleep.
This means that the vicious cycle of stealing energy from tomorrow (by drinking coffee to stay awake, not being able to sleep well because of the stimulants, thus needing more caffeine the next day and so forth) can be nipped in the bud before it begins.
We can now rely on our healthy food choices to give us the fuel and energy we need to get us through the day.
Why is quality nutrition so important?
What we consume becomes the fuel source that powers the mind and body. The higher the quality, the better we operate.
What we put into our body has a larger impact than we may realize. For instance, many of the top causes of death can be prevented (or managed) by making the right food choices.
Factors That Contribute To A Healthy Diet
We have identified three specific factors that contribute to a healthy diet and ensure your mind and body are getting what they need to thrive. These factors are Hydration, Food, and Optimization.
The average adult body is said to be made up of more than 50% water. A lot of us have heard this before, however some may be unaware of the effect hydration, specifically quality water, can have on the functions of the mind and body.
Water is the body's filtration system. It helps move stagnant toxins and waste out of our body, and assists our kidneys in this process as well. It also plays a crucial role in transporting nutrients between our major organs, as well as regulating our body temperature.
Because water is the way our body can cleanse and filter out impurities, it's important that the water we consume is free of these impurities as well.
When we are properly hydrated with quality filtered water, our mind and body can run optimally. Proper hydration is known to improve cognitive function, increase energy levels, as well as lubricate muscles & joints.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure you are getting enough water throughout the day:
- Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go
- Switch from soft drinks to fizzy waters (or naturally sweetened drinks)
- Invest in a water filtration system for your home
'Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.'
In other words, what we consume throughout the day is going to determine how well we feel and function.
When we become more aware of the foods we choose to fuel ourselves with, we should pay attention to not only what we put in, but also what we avoid consuming as well.
With that, when focusing on building our diet, the best thing we can do is eat for the energy and healing properties food can provide us.
When we think about making choices that offer our mind and body the nutrients needed to thrive at optimum levels, that is going to look like a lot of fresh produce and clean proteins.
Think about choosing options that contain less than 4 or 5 ingredients, ideally. Opting for as many whole foods as possible is even better!
If we do consume packaged or processed items, the next best thing we can do is avoid as many of the low quality oils as we can, and choose organic when possible.
Our mind and body expel a lot of extra energy to process and eliminate hydrogenated oils and pesticides, which can make us feel sluggish and slow us down.
Here are a few simple tips to ensure you are getting better nutrition throughout the day:
- Consume less processed food/Increase the amount of whole foods
- Avoid low quality oils, pesticides, etc/Choose organic when possible
- Shop at Thrive Market for healthy/high quality non perishable items
Optimizing takes things to the next level. It is about personalizing everything specifically for you. It's designing a diet and supplementation regimen that is tailored to your specific needs.
We are all going to have slight differences in the needs and requirements of our unique physiology. We can optimize our mind and body through testing, tracking, and feedback.
This starts with being aware of nutrients we may be lacking from our diets, and even paying attention to how well our body is processing and assimilating certain foods. This gives us an opportunity to make adjustments where necessary.
It is also a good idea to be aware of any allergies or food sensitivities we may have so we can eliminate them from our diet.
Here are a few simple tips to help you optimize your diet for maximum benefits:
- Track what you eat (Apps we use: My Plate and Daily Dozen)
- Basic Supplementation: Daily (high quality) multi-vitamin
- Get a food allergy/sensitivity test (then eliminate these from your diet)
For more advanced optimization tips, consider these options below:
- Get lab work done (Check out the Boundless book for in depth info)
- Advanced supplementation based on your lab work
Pillar 3 - Fitness
The third pillar of a healthy mind and body is fitness. If you’ve been working on these pillars in order, your mind will be clearer, and your body will have the fuel it needs to get fit.
So how long is this going to take?
You’ll notice a difference that month.
By working on your sleep and nutrition first, you will have trained your brain to accept that small changes will have big benefits in the future.
This will keep you moving forward in the month it will take to improve your fitness level.
Why Is Your Physical Fitness So Important?
You only have this one body to carry you through this life. And it’s easier to maintain a healthy body than to build one. The sooner you improve your body’s performance, the faster you can move into the maintenance phase.
Creating and then maintaining a healthy body will give you lasting benefits throughout your life such as:
- Better sleep
- More energy & stamina
- Faster recovery from injury or illness
- Being more capable in your older years
Remember, you have almost complete control over your body. Some people associate the aging process as synonymous with your body breaking down, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
The 100 Year Lifestyle is a fantastic resource for a well rounded / balanced approach to overall health.
The 3 Main Factors of Physical Fitness
These factors are Strength, Flexibility, and Recovery.
Building strength has so many benefits. Things like:
- an increased metabolism
- stronger bones
- better heart health
- deeper sleep
Your muscles are like armor that protects your body, and resistance training will also give your cardiovascular system a good workout too.
While becoming stronger happens quickly, looking stronger takes a bit more effort. You don’t have to become a bodybuilder or take loads of supplements to gain the benefits listed above.
There are plenty of ways to build muscle, and many of them require little to no equipment.
A good starting place would be with a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) app, or using some basic home equipment like dumbbells, resistance bands, and even a pull up bar (check out Perfect Fitness for some examples).
You can even join a local gym, many of which offer a few sessions with a personal trainer as a signup bonus. Often, being in a room with other people working out is more motivating than working out alone at home.
The key takeaway is that you start somewhere and do a variety of exercises. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that walking or jogging is all you need to get (or stay) fit.
Increasing your flexibility is the next key factor to focus on. Becoming more limber will help you:
- increase your range of motion
- decrease muscle tension and soreness
- use better posture
- reduce your risk of injury
While strength training gives your body a greater capacity, working on your flexibility allows you greater mobility. Both are equally important.
Two of the more popular and long standing disciplines that can help with your flexibility are Pilates and Yoga. There is a lot of overlap between these two, but Pilates tends to emphasize core strength whereas Yoga focuses more on flexibility.
As with strength training, you can get started with little to no equipment, and can practice at home rather than a studio, if you prefer.
If you improve and maintain your flexibility, you’ll reap the benefits for the rest of your life.
The last important factor to consider is giving your body time to rest and recover.
Sometimes what you do after a workout can be as important as the active work you’re doing to improve your health.
Allowing your body to recover helps you:
- prevent soreness
- reduce injuries
- lower your heart rate
- lessen your adrenaline
This is especially important after doing physical exercise, but can also be beneficial to ease the stresses of everyday life.
Ways to Recover
After doing physical work or exercising, some things we’ve found helpful are:
- Using a foam roller after workouts
- Visiting a chiropractor or getting a massage
- Spending time in a sauna
- Exposure to a red light therapy device
- A Yoga practice or stretching routine
Basically, just pick any activity that helps you unwind. It’s important that you allow your body to relax & recover after physical activity which also helps your mind relax and dissolves stress.
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Pillar 4 - Mindset
The fourth and final pillar of a healthy mind and body is your mindset.
A healthy mindset is focused not only on how we treat the physical mind itself, but also the thoughts, habits, and overall attitude/outlook we hold about ourselves & the world around us.
You’ll notice a difference that year.
Mindset takes the longest because it involves a shift in your views, as well as your usual reaction response. You may find there is a lot to unlearn/relearn. It's your entire life's accumulation of habits and beliefs.
If you change too drastically or abruptly, you may feel social pressures around you from the people who know you as acting in a certain way. More importantly, you need to accept and see yourself in this new way as well.
12 'Must Read' Books for Living a Balanced Life These are the books that have had the most notable impact on our lives. We have hand selected 12 titles that will provide direction and insight for all areas of life.
However, once you have energy and self confidence from working on the other 3 pillars, the opinions of others will matter less to you as you change and shift your attitude/personality. You will already be growth focused.
Why Is Your Mindset So Important?
Even as your body may slow with age, you still have your mind. Taking care of your mindset will also affect how you interact with the world and the people in your life.
A healthy mindset can also get you through any hardships you may encounter. You will begin to realize it's more about how you judge a situation than the situation itself.
Factors That Contribute To Our Mindset
There seem to be three important factors that contribute to and help shape a healthy mindset. These factors are Rest (mental sleep), Inputs (mental nutrition), and Training (mental fitness).
Rest (Mental Sleep)
Just like with sleep for our body, rest offers our mind a chance to recover and reboot.
Throughout our day, there are so many things vying for our attention. If we aren’t being mindful or intentional about where we put our focus, we can quickly get bogged down.
It is very easy for our minds to get caught up in social media, spend too much time worrying, or succumb to information overload.
This over stimulation of our minds is not inherently bad, if it is kept in check. When we are bored or aimless it is easy for our minds to look for something to get caught up in.
However, if we instead took this downtime to shift our focus to our breath, calm our mental chatter, maybe even shut our eyes/minds to over stimulation, we will be giving our minds a chance to reboot.
Taking even just five minutes to do a short meditation can do wonders.
Inputs (Mental Nutrition)
In other words, what we are 'feeding' our minds. This is everything from what we watch, listen to, read, and even the conversations we have with ourselves and others.
What we feed our mind can have an effect on how we feel. Our mood will shift, upwards or downwards, depending on the quality of our mental diet.
When we are fueling our mind with negative news, gossip, or even watching an abundance of media with excess violence or dark messages, we are eventually going to notice a downward shift in our mood.
Being aware of our social circle and the amount of time spent consuming negative media can help us clean up our minds. When we spend time with positive uplifting people, reading encouraging books, or listening to a motivating podcast, we fuel our minds with information it can use to thrive.
Training (Mental Fitness)
This is about keeping our minds active. Just like you would exercise your body to build stamina and endurance, you should do the same for your mind as well.
Training your mind means keeping it in the mode of growth. This might look like: working on your self-image, setting goals for yourself, or establishing the values and ethics you live by.
It's all about your personal growth.
Training your mind helps you break the barriers of self imposed beliefs you may have accumulated throughout your life.
Habits And Tips For A Healthy Mindset
Listed below are some habits to include in your daily routine to help you develop a healthy mindset.
- A daily journal or gratitude practice
- Meditation (Try these apps: Headspace or Insight Timer)
- Consistent reading routine (Personal growth focused)
- Setting Attainable Goals and working towards them
- Seeking out a positive social circle (Meetup is a great resource)
Maintaining A Healthy Mind And Body
Now that we understand the importance all four pillars play in building up our overall health, it's going to be about staying on top of those healthy habits over time to keep our body and mind functioning at an optimal level.
Remembering that leaving one (mind or body) neglected will indirectly affect the other. It's taking on that 'holistic approach' mindset to our health.
Our goal here is consistency & progress. Think ‘momentum’… not ‘perfection’.
The Slight Edge is a book I would definitely recommend if you want to explore this topic further. It completely changed my perspective on 'simple' daily actions.
It's about those little improvements that add up. And it's about feeling the best we can with the body we have, and caring for it with intention.
It's not so much about getting more years of life, but more life out of your years.
We also continue to encourage you to keep in mind the 'big' impact of 'small' efforts. With time you see the lasting results. It's important to just start somewhere, but start now.
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago-the next best time is now."
What small habit are you going to start incorporating into your daily routine? Which pillar above do you feel could use the most attention in your life?
About The Author
Krissy is a writer and lifestyle blogger. She is passionate about health & wellness, the joys of simple living, and overall life balance.