Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

A healthy mind can lead you to a healthy body – and a much happier life.

“We feel emotions in our bodies,” wrote Dr. Arthur Barsky, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in his book Worried Sick: Our Troubled Quest for Wellness.

“We ‘burn’ with anger, ‘tremble’ with fear, feel ‘choked up’ with sadness; our ‘stomachs turn’ with revulsion. Everyone tends to experience unpleasant emotions as unpleasant bodily symptoms and thus to feel physically distressed when emotionally distressed.”

“By changing our minds, we really can change our lives,” asserts Dr. Arvon.

That’s the bad news, teaches lifestyle experts like Dr. Coral Arvon, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida.

The good news is that we have the power to change negative thoughts and feelings into positive, rational, motivating thoughts, and in doing so, help create a healthy mind in a healthy body.

This transformation, which is part of emerging fields in psychology focused on mind-body health, is very important because it can greatly boost our chances of achieving what we want in life, including a fitter, healthier lifestyle.

“By changing our minds, we really can change our lives,” asserts Dr. Arvon.

The Healthy Mind and Body Connection

Mind-body medicine originated more than 4,000 years ago, when physicians in China noticed that illness often followed periods of frustration in their patients’ lives. Today in western societies like the U. S., medical professionals also share the view that emotions, life events, and coping skills can have a very strong influence on health.

Healthy mind-body medicine is now part of exciting new fields such as psycho neuroimmunology and behavorial cardiology.

Psycho neuroimmunology focuses on the relationship of our thoughts and emotions to our brain chemistry and immune system.

Behavioral cardiology is the application of psychological and social factors in the assessment and reduction of cardiovascular risk. It is an important field for a number of reasons, including reducing recurring heart attacks, helping patients recover sooner, and improving family support.

Chronic stress can make us fat – and sick

It is the long-term consequences of an anxiety-filled existence that are particularly troubling. Over time, chronic emotional and psychological stress can:

  • Promote fat storage
  • Retain salt in the body
  • Destroy the body’s resistance to cancer, infections, and illness
  • Cause infertility and sexual dysfunction
  • Exacerbate diabetes
  • Deposit cholesterol in blood vessels
  • Accelerate heart rate and increase blood pressure, and thicken blood so it clots more readily, which makes you more prone to suffering a heart attack or stroke

Calming the mind

To guide people toward healthier states of mind, emerging throughout America are major medical centers with wellness divisions offering stress management, relaxation training, guided imagery, and cognitive therapy techniques.

Guests at Pritikin are also introduced to and practice many of these techniques. “Add them to healthy eating and exercising,” encourages Dr. Arvon, “and you maximize your control over your well-being.”

Stress Hardiness: Attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that are linked with healthy body and mind

A key goal of mind-body techniques is achieving an overall approach to life known as stress hardiness. Stress hardiness is associated with four important personality traits that buffer the impact of stress and improve coping. These characteristics of the “stress resistant ” or “healthy” personality are identified as:

  • Commitment

    An attitude of curiosity and commitment to yourself, your loved ones, your work, and the world.

  • Control

    The belief that you can respond effectively to situations that arise in your life, rather than feeling hopeless and incompetent.

  • Challenge

    The ability to see change as exciting and an opportunity for growth rather than viewing it as frightening and fearing failure.

  • Connection

    The enduring assurance that you are understood and validated by those you are closest to.

Other attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that are linked with good health include:

Social support

Social support, explains Pritikin psychologist Dr. Arvon, is protective against the effects of stress and has been found to be associated with longevity.

Emotional disclosure

By keeping a journal or speaking with others, emotional disclosure helps people cope with events. Also, people who use these strategies have lower blood pressure and report fewer health problems compared with people who don’t.

Humor

Humor has been demonstrated to have “stress-busting” qualities and reduces the body”s physiological response to stress.

Healthful Choices

Healthy behaviors, such as developing and maintaining the Pritikin nutrition and exercise program, are crucial for optimal health.

Healthy Mind-Body Education at the Pritikin Longevity Center

To maximize emotional well-being and the ability to make positive changes, Dr. Arvon guides guests at Pritikin through a five-seminar series, entitled:

  • Healthy Mind, Healthy Body
  • New Thoughts, New Behaviors
  • Taking Charge of Stress
  • Listening and Being Heard
  • Managing Your Moods

“The seminars help our guests develop the valuable skills needed to take charge of their emotional lives,” explains Dr. Arvon. “That’s so vital because a healthy mind can lead you to a healthy body – and a much happier life.”

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