Why to approach health from a whole-body perspective
We each inhabit a miraculous machine, known as the body. We can control and train our bodies to perform in a huge number of daily tasks. As well as all the conscious things we put our bodies through, there is a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work in our subconscious mind occurring every second of every day to make these machines work to the best of their ability.
Traditionally the body and mind were viewed very separately by health professionals. Not only this, but various areas of the body were treated by different specialists. Just look at a hospital; if you have a problem with your back you go to the chiropractic department, if you have a diagnosis of cancer, you go to the oncology department, and any issues with your heart you go to a cardiologist (you get the picture… the list is lengthy).
A much more recent approach to medicine and wellbeing is that the body and brain are all interlinked via neural pathways made up of neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals. These allow signals to be sent between the body and brain controlling everyday physical functions such as digestion, breathing, and movement, as well as the psychological functions of thoughts, attitudes, behaviours and feelings.
This communication system between the body and mind is a two-way process, and therefore suggests our mental health impacts our physical health AND our physical health influences our mental health. If our body and minds are in balance, we have great overall health. Therefore, the emphasis should be on a holistic approach treating an individual as whole person, and not simply treat the symptoms that manifest.
One of the forefront scientists in this field was David Spiegel. As director of the Psychosocial Research Laboratory at Stanford University just 30 years ago, he found that women with breast cancer who participated in group mindfulness therapy had less pain, improved quality of life and lived longer than the ladies that received simply the traditional medicine. Since then, numerous studies have shown how linking emotional and physical wellbeing can benefit many people.
More recently, the Australian SMILES trial (2017) was the first study in the world to demonstrate that dietary modifications can have a significant progress in improving people’s mental health with clinically diagnosed depression. The dietary support group received regular recommendations of a modified Mediterranean diet over a 12-week period. In this group 32% of participants achieved full remission, meaning they were no longer considered depressed, just by changing their diets.
There are many therapies available to link the body and mind connection such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, art therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and many more.
As a health coach, my philosophy is to get to the root cause of ill health- find out what is really triggering the dis-ease the body is experiencing. I set up the health coaching business DR ME based on the acronym for diet, resilience, mindset and exercise. I fully believe that we can hugely impact all areas of our lives by focusing on:
- what we eat
- how we prioritise sleep
- how we view ourselves and the wider world,
- and how we can move our bodies more.
How we do one thing, is how we do everything is an ideal that springs to mind. If we start eating more colourful plant-based foods in our diets, we often find ourselves having more energy and seek ways in which to move our bodies more. By exercising more, this tires us out and encourages us to go to bed earlier in the evening, and therefore people to wake up more refreshed and have a more positive outlook the following day.
Through my experience to date it is obvious that our minds control the desire to implement these actions and behaviours. The aspiration to want to change is imperative as ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. Therefore, clients who get the best and longest lasting results are those which really focus on the mindset element of DR ME. By getting people to increase their self-worth and self-belief and find ways to make habit changes achievable, people’s health improves exponentially.
Not only this, but our actions have a ripple effect to the people that surround us. It has been said that we are most like the 5 people we spend most of our time with. If our friends and family are inactive, obese and smoke, then we are much more likely to be inactive, obese and smoke. This is because we have an inbuilt system within us to be accepted and be part of a group. When our cavemen ancestors were alive, it was impossible for an individual to survive on their own, and hence we have a need to be accepted in a group (this is why some people are night owls and others are morning larks as then within a group they minimise the danger time when all within the tribe are asleep). Therefore, can I suggest that you choose wisely who you spend your time with and find people who are healthy, positive and uplifting!
With all the ongoing research into the body-brain connection, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What is becoming evident is that the combination of the mind and body working together are the best tools people poses to achieve positive wellbeing.
If you are interested in finding out more about how working with me to improve both your physical and mental health by working on you as a whole being, please visit my website www.drme.uk or book a call to discuss just what is possible. Remember you only have one body and one life, love it and live it.