Subtle Lifestyle Changes Impact Mental and Physical Health
It’s not enough to say “you are what you eat.” The truth is, the human being is a product of his environment, and that’s not only counting what he puts his body, but also what constitutes his thoughts, what actions he takes, and what lifestyle he chooses. It’s an elementary truth that somehow we lose sight of, in light of genetic speculation, political correctness, and perhaps even irresponsibility—that you are the product of your self-chosen environment.
Therefore, all of the things that we dislike about ourselves are the direct result of the actions that we take and the thoughts that we think—and that’s what we really hate about ourselves. The body, the vessel, is a tool and hating a vessel for the way we shaped it is absurd.
Let’s consider the most extreme example. Seniority and aging. When a person ages, a great change takes place in the body. These intimidating changes are enough to scare people into total retreat; we’re talking no sex drive, no social activity, no exercise or any particular passion. Obviously, a person with these negative lifestyle will live a decaying, shorter-than-average life. It’s just aging, right? Wrong.
Lifestyle Influences Mental and Physical Health
According to a report from the British Medical Journal (1999 August 21; 319), the health benefits of physical activity—even in senior age subjects—has been observed. Socially active seniors lived longer than average, over the thirteen years of observation. Even among those who were not physically active or healthy (in itself, another life-lengthener) increased social activity did improve longevity.
Meanwhile, over at The American Psychologist (October, 2011) it was reported that unhealthy lifestyles can influence multiple psychopathologies. Not only can lifestyle lead to obesity, cancer, diabetes and other physical ailments, but anxiety, depression, anger, lethargy, and many other emotional/mental problems can be traced to lifestyle.
So while we cannot escape our bodies or the limitations life gives us, all indications point to the fact that we can influence our bodies, our lives, and our happiness, by changing our environment.
What Can I Do To Change My Environment?
Naturally that behooves the question, just what environment means, in this context, considering that we can’t change the fact that we age. We can’t change our region, our genetics, or our economy overnight. What we can change is our lifestyle; the way we interact with the slow changing environment itself. The ability to choose our own interactions with the environment allows us to decide such elements as:
- Time Investment (How much time we put into a hobby, cause, duty)
- Nutrition and Diet (What we eat and how much)
- Exercise (Physical activity)
- Relationships (Whom we associate with)
- Recreation (What we do for fun, excitement, relaxation)
- Stress Coping (What we do to relieve stress)
As long as we have control over our own bodies, so too do we have the power to manage all of these elements.
What Are the Most Commonly Recommended Lifestyle Changes?
While we certainly would not advocate self-diagnosing yourself instead of talking to your family physician, we can tell you the most likely changes he/she will recommend right now. The good doctor will warn you to reduce or eliminate smoking, junk food, excessive alcohol, and other vices. More to the point, good dieting and proper nutrition will be emphasized, as will the reduction of blood cholesterol and keeping blood pressure stable. Health habits will help individuals to manage or ward off threats like heart disease and diabetes, not to mention the underestimated killer of constant stress. We do know that stress has been linked with coronary heart disease, and can increase a person’s risk for stroke or heart attack.
Periods of inactivity, as well as long hours in front of the television, will also be criticized, in favor of performing active tasks outdoors, as well as brain games involving mathematics or strategy, as well as crafting.
A Lifestyle, Not Just a Practice
While exercise could rightly be called a practice or even a regimen, a lifestyle change involves more than just a series of movements.
For example, in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, the main approaches involves finding ways to reduce stress. This not only involves creating opportunities to exercise, but also discovering the source of stress. A lifestyle change means changing one’s daily schedule, intentionally uprooting the current auto system of coping, working and resting. This will includes restructuring priorities to focus on what matters, what makes you happy and energized, and filtering out stressful wastes of time, except what is absolutely necessary. Discussing feelings are another part of lifestyle change, as is finding methods of relaxation—just as important to healing the mind as exercise is to relieving tension.
Finally, a lifestyle change must make room for the positive, as perspective helps to build an internal environment of peace, one that can make the external environment bearable—even with its ugly peripherals. Staying positive is not merely focusing on positive things and ignoring the negative, but also means reversing negative ideas enough to achieve positive goals.
You always have power over your own mind and within that capacity lies the ability to control your changing body. When a product is bad it goes back to the manufacturer. It’s never too late to improve your personal “product” and improve mental and physical health.