Mental and Physical Health
Let’s talk about mental health; Mental health is something I am extremely passionate about and that I hold very close to my heart. Oftentimes we undervalue the role that our mental health plays on our day to day life and we direct our energy towards other facets of life which can leave us feeling drained. Without an ongoing effort to maintain our mental health, we can easily lose focus on our direction and foundation. It is the equivalent to having the best ship in the sea but no captain to sail it. I am grateful for the experiences and hardships I have encountered earlier on in my life’s journey as they have helped me to realize the importance of maintaining my mental health above everything else.
From a hormonal standpoint, science shows that there is a direct correlation between mental and physical health. When we are in a state of stress, our body releases a hormone called cortisol that elevates our blood pressure, tenses our muscles, and puts us in either a ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ mode. Although cortisol is essential and helpful in our lives when in certain situations our bodies should not be in a constant state of stress. An excess amount can cause us to not only be counterproductive but also damaging to our bodies. Excess amounts of cortisol is referred to as “catabolic” which means promoting breakdown. With this being understood, we know that with excess amounts of cortisol in our bodies, we cannot possibly benefit from the healthy stresses of fitness, self-development, and other avenues. Cortisol also has been observed to have an inverse relationship with testosterone, an anabolic hormone responsible for many of humans’ healthy bodily functions. It has been shown that low levels of testosterone can be detrimental for the growth of lean muscle mass. Excess amounts of cortisol can also wreak havoc all over the body by even elevating your blood glucose levels, putting you at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
When we engage in any type of fitness, we release endorphins, which are a neurotransmitter in our body that are referred to as our natural ‘painkillers’ because they help relieve pain and stress by providing a natural sense of ‘high’. If we adhere to a consistent fitness routine, we can naturally increase our daily endorphin levels and have much lower stress levels in our day to day lives. Our bodies also release a chemical called dopamine, which is referred to as our “achievement” hormone because we feel content and confident in ourselves after working out and bettering our health. Just by an increase in your dopamine and endorphin levels, you are bound to live a much happier and fulfilled life through the beautiful gift of fitness. Hormonal science is a broad discipline that goes much more in depth than the surface level information touched on in this article, but these are just a few examples of what can happen when the body is in a constant state of stress.
Something I’m sure we have all noticed when we are stressed out is our lack of concentration, discipline, and motivation. Empirical evidence demonstrates that when we are stressed our body and mind tend to shut down in a sense by secluding ourselves, becoming lazy, and feeling challenged to do daily tasks. Since fitness is so heavily revolved around concentration, discipline, and motivation, one can imagine how detrimental stress can be to one’s fitness journey and overall well-being. If we cannot concentrate, we will have a hard time mastering perfect form, having a great mind-muscle connection, and staying focused on the task at hand. If we lack discipline, there is no way we can build the habits necessary for creating a successful future for our physical health and goals. If we cannot stay motivated, then it will be easy to not stay the course because the end result is not at the forefront of the mind.
Now that we collectively understand how stress can affect us negatively from a hormonal, psychological, and physical standpoint we can better make decisions on developing a consistent fitness routine and practicing some other habits that promote good mental health such as yoga, meditation, journaling, cold showers, and rest, just to name a few. We must un-condition our minds from viewing the body and mind as two separate entities, but rather a singular vessel that work together to achieve our best state of optimal health, peace, and happiness.