For the mind to be in optimal health, so must the body.  Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are divinely aware of this.  But many of us focus on just one or the other, falling short of making a true connection between our minds and bodies.  And we often forget how having a healthy body and healthy mind nourishes and cultivates our spirit.

Does a lethargic body make for a lethargic spirit?  Does a strong body create a strong spirit?    We intrinsically know that when we are active and engaged and moving we feel good, do more, and are healthier and think more clearly.  We also know that when we feel bad or depressed, we often sleep more, do less, and are prone to illness. 

There are many ways we can work to get our mind into optimal health:  good relationships with family and friends, counseling, therapy, religious practices, support groups, and prescription medications.  There are many ways we can work to get our bodies into optimal health:  sound nutrition, exercise, and regular visits to health care providers.  With so many choices and options available for improved physical and mental health, the path to optimal wellbeing can be overwhelming as we reach for the right tools to support us on our paths.

More often than not, we focus on doing the things we perceive as being the easiest or most do-able and resist those we perceive as hard or time-consuming.  Simply put, our brains are designed that way.  Exercise is often high on the list of activities we perceive as hard, time-consuming, and a lot of effort, most especially since our lifestyles have become more and more sedentary.  Barriers such as not knowing what to do, who with, where to start, how often, how to fit the time into our routine, or learning something new or different can be daunting and bewildering.  Everywhere you look there are advertisements, articles, and information about the next best thing to do to get healthy.  It’s easy to look outside ourselves for the answers with the wealth of information and resources available.  When we do this, things begin to become more and more complicated.

I’ve worked with many people in various stages and on various paths in their journeys to improved health and wellness.  While all of them have expressed a similar desire, it has become clear to me that each person’s steps towards improving their wellbeing are as unique as they are.  Some are able to get right into a regular exercise routine and stick with it.  Some have to work a bit harder to build that momentum.  Some have obstacles that make taking those first or continued steps more difficult.  And some have remain convinced that they just can’t do it.

One of the things people often do when looking to make changes is set goals.  Recently, I came across what I believe is some very useful information about goals: that, frequently, those goals are so big and/or so unreasonable (i.e., I want to lose 100 pounds in 6 months) our subconscious mind is already made up to perceive that we cannot accomplish the goal.  We may want to do or have or change the thing we’re focusing on but the failure has already occurred in the subconscious mind.  The good news is there are a few things we can do to overcome this obstacle.  First, we can break the goal down into smaller parts and focus on them instead of the bigger goal.  For instance, if the goal is to lose 100 pounds, try focusing on losing one pound a week.  If the goal is to eat healthier, find one thing in one meal and change it.  If the goal is to begin exercising, start by taking a short walk - even just five minutes - and go from there.  Or even start by scheduling that five-minute walk in your calendar on a regular basis.  One of the most effective keys to unlocking the door for change is to keep trying, keep practicing.  Anything that’s mastered didn’t happen in a day or a week or a month or “21 days.”  It happens through practice, practice, practice.

Another effective tool for looking into the happenings of the subconscious mind is to work with someone trained to help you overcome old beliefs and move you forward.  Hypnotherapy is a very effective tool and one I have used several times myself.  Getting past old issues is not only freeing but helps to restore your spirit.  Having support in place is helpful as well - friends, family, and health and wellness practitioners can also provide needed guidance and care in making positive changes to our minds, bodies, and spirits.

The benefits of exercise in improving overall wellbeing are numerous, such as

Relieves symptoms of depression and prevents them from recurring
Reduces stress
Reduces anxiety
Boosts self-esteem
Improves sleep
Increases energy levels
Decreases blood pressure
Improves muscle tone and strength
Reduces body fat
Strengthens and builds bones
Boosts immune system
Improves confidence
Increases blood flow to the brain
Increases oxygen flow to tissues and cells
Increases nutrient delivery to cells and tissues
Boosts mood
Starts to work right away

If exercise is so great, than why aren’t we doing it?  For years, the old adage “no pain, no gain” has been associated with exercise and gives it a negative connotation.  “No pain, no gain” is an outdated, badly applied concept with narrow relevance to a specific type of athlete looking to reach abnormal development of muscle for body building.  It has become distorted and misunderstood when applied to general fitness and is in fact contradictory to many exercise programs and modalities that strive to reduce pain. While there can be some positive discomfort in challenging yourself, exercise will increase tolerance as the body becomes more resilient.  Gradual, consistent progression will get you there.  More often than not we get motivated, hit the gym hard, hurt ourselves, and then reinforce why we weren’t exercising in the first place.  A slow and steady approach to beginning an exercise program will set up a better foundation for incorporating and building upon a solid foundation of fitness.

In the five years that I have been a fitness professional what I’ve come to know is this:  I have the most amazing job in the whole wide world, and I tell everyone so.  I get to witness the magic workings of the body as people begin to move more and at the same time watch their spirits light up brighter and brighter as they get healthier and stronger.  There are times when people come into the studio feeling down and drained because of things life has tossed their way, and each time they walk out brighter, holding their heads higher, and feeling lighter because they’ve let go of some of the stress they were experiencing.  This is simply due the divine way our bodies are designed. 

Just like a garden needs water, sunshine, and food to grow rich and bountiful, taking care of our mind, body, and spirit allows us to live rich and full lives.  When all three are cared for and cultivated together, optimal health and wellness can be achieved.  A strong body is an ideal host for a strong soul, and makes you feel as though you can tackle anything.  Who wouldn’t want that?