‘Every organ in your body is connected to the one under your hat.’
So said B.J. Palmer, an early proponent of chiropractic, and I couldn’t agree more. The stress of modern day living can take its toll on all of us, so it’s good to take a holistic view of our own well-being. There’s a curious affinity between mind and body – the two are very much intertwined.
You know the feeling when peeling an onion that invariably leads to a torrent of tears streaming down your face? Are we saddened by the untimely demise of our poor, vegetable friends, sliced down in the prime of life? Well no, of course not. The rather more prosaic truth is that cutting onions releases a gas that irritates the eyes and brings on the unstoppable waterworks. And, joking aside, there are real examples of the physical affecting the mental and vice versa. They occur every day, often without being realised or recognised, particularly the mental side, in that mysterious brain of ours.
Nerves and anxiety play a part in all our lives, even if we don’t always realise it. And they both manifest themselves in the body as well as the mind. Most will have experienced clammy palms during an exam or had their stomach do its finest impression of a washing machine on spin cycle during a job interview. There is an evolutionary reason for these unwarranted symptoms of course, but they are rarely welcome.
A few years back (and by a few I mean several thousand), our ancestors had to cope with the thorny issue of trying to feed the family while at the same time trying to prevent large wild animals feeding theirs by way of a tasty human snack (box of Neanderthal nuggets anyone?). Yes, life had more urgent pressures back then, and consequently, there was a pressing need to be able to react to dangers quickly. Whether it was fight or flight that was the order of the day, our bodies had a way of preparing for action by sending round chemicals that upped our heart and breathing rates, as well as getting our muscles tensed and ready to move.
In the modern world though, with its general lack of highly dangerous animals, our bodies still react in a similar way, but to far more mundane stresses on the whole. The clammy hands are a result of adrenaline, and the knotted stomach is thanks to those muscles being tightened, ready to run away. But sat squirming in an interview, you don’t benefit from these unconscious responses, you just get the sweat and the belly churning.
This link between the physical and mental has been known about for a long time, but it seems we’re only really starting to understand and appreciate it. What is clear though is that they are connected. Boost one, and you can boost the other. Damage one and the other can suffer.
I’ve talked about sweaty palms and the like, but there are more significant physical effects that can be felt as a result of your mental health taking a dip. Almost anyone who’s been anxious, stressed or depressed will know that this can affect sleep in a serious way, for example. And a lack of sleep can serve to make you less equipped to cope and so feel worse still. A truly vicious circle.
For a long time, the reasons to take part in sport were for fun, for your physical health or to compete. But it has been shown that increased exercise can also have a tangible effect on your mental well-being. Exercise increases the production of chemicals in the body that affects our mood in a positive way, with studies suggesting that both anxiety and depression can be reduced through getting moving more often.
Anecdotally, you certainly hear people talk about the ‘buzz’ of exercising, and many would testify, me included, to the mood enhancing effects of getting your heart rate up.
If taking care of your body is one of the keys to having a healthy mind, what else can we do to help ourselves? Exercise is certainly one ingredient. A good diet is another, as eating the right foods can improve your mood and increase mental well-being. Healthy foods are high in substances that help our bodies to have more energy and operate at top capacity, whereas fatty, processed foods leave our bodies short of goodness and sapped of energy.
So, looking after yourself on a daily basis is critical, but we can benefit from some expert assistance too. Chiropractic is a branch of medicine that is not necessarily familiar to everyone but is one that has the potential to improve your physical health and well-being without medication. There is a feeling among many in the medical profession that we are an over-medicated society, so the ability of treatments like chiropractic to help get your body in good shape can complement a healthy lifestyle and give your mental health a welcome boost too.
I think we should be doing more than just ‘getting by’ and try to live as well as we can. Regular exercise and a balanced diet, combined with a little friendly help from expert practitioners can give you the best chance of having not only the body beautiful but the brain beautiful too.