Part of my journey that led to TheOptimal.me has been a fascination with psychology throughout my adult life. For most of my childhood, my Mom was unwell. She had her first nervous breakdown after my father was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 38, and she knew she was going to be left alone to raise 5 children. I was just 6 when he died.
Not too long after, she was diagnosed a manic depressive. My mother cycled between fierce, independent, totally competent – an exceptional cook, entertainer, sewer, tennis player, gardener, indispensable secretary – to depressed, unable to get out of bed most days for months at a time. She was medicated to the point that she had pills to make her happy, sad, to sleep, wake up. She was even given electro-shock therapy. It was only when I was already working that a wonderful young psychiatrist understood enough about her condition to prescribe her the lithium that stabilized her.
So I grew up petrified that I would have the same problem. That fear led me to seek out the probabilities and to the door of a psychologist. I had no idea at the time that it would turn into a life-long journey of mental, emotional and spiritual growth. But more about that later.
One of the lessons I learnt as I got older is that physical and emotional wellbeing are intrinsically linked. The mind and body are not two separate entities. And for better health and wellbeing as we age, we need to prioritize our mind-body connection – in other words, the connection between our thoughts, feelings, behavior and our physical health.
And it’s not something we should put off for another day, month, year. Right now we are living through unprecedented times where our emotional and mental wellbeing is going to be challenged on so many levels. For those of us in midlife, the challenges are immense. We’re not only concerned about our kids, their futures, their wellbeing, but also our aging parents. It’s a lot to carry. For many of us, the present – never mind the future – feels overwhelming. Being pro-active about our own wellbeing isn’t selfish – it’s survival.
The mind-body connection isn’t “woo-woo”. It’s real. My personal experience (which you can read about in a previous blog) proved that physical activity made a huge difference to my mental and physical wellbeing – from potential adrenal fatigue (Yuppie flu) to healthy and energized by incorporating regular functional movement classes.
The link between exercise and our mental health is certain. Exercise and movement are the top contributors to your longevity – and it’s never too late to start. In addition to increasing your stability, flexibility and strength – your mental health gets a boost too, with aerobic movement having a profound effect on the brain. It helps prevent memory loss, cognitive decline and is proven to slow down dementia. An added bonus is it just makes us feel good!
Don’t be too busy to pay attention to how you’re feeling. You know you feel good after any physical activity – whether it’s dancing, a walk out in nature, your favorite sport or a good hour of gardening. Experts agree that there are 5 things we need to do to stay active:
- Our bodies were made to move, no matter our age or current fitness level, so get moving! Why not try adding an Integrated Movement Routine (IMR) to your daily routine, if you haven’t already?
- Eat well, and eat less. Fresh foods, eat the rainbow, less sugars, smaller portion sizes
- Keep your mind sharp. Physical activity helps here too, but why not try something new? Learn a new skill, start a new hobby, build a puzzle, craft.
- Stay connected. To the ones you love, and your broader social circle. Plus, you’re never too old to embrace technology so you can keep in touch or reconnect with people all over the globe. Volunteer. Join a social club.
- Find meaning and joy. Without purpose and some exciting goals, it’s far more difficult feel excited and engaged. Connect. Plan some great travel for when the crisis passes. Read inspiring books. Teach.
Plus I’d like to add another. Be kind to yourself – everyday. There is no point beating yourself up.
As we age, we’re generally more comfortable in ourselves. I am beyond grateful I’m no longer 30 – or even 40! With the wisdom of our age comes confidence. When we’re physically and mentally confident, we set the stage for positive outcomes, no matter our age.
Thankfully, we get to choose how we age. Attitude and action matters. So keep your brain busy, your body active and your spirits high. Don’t let life unravel you, let the adventure before you unfold…
Here’s to your physical freedom,