No. 5 – Healing Mind Series
Of the 10 things that promotes a healing mind, exercise is number 4 on my list.
It increases heart rate we all know but did you know that by sending more oxygen to the brain, it aids the growth of brain cells by releasing hormones? In other words, working your muscles builds your brain bulk! I don’t mean that your head will explode but the tiny membranes and connectors.
There is a lot of science about increasing connectivity in many cortical areas of the brain and so on. You can read about this in detail if you like, but the bottom line is that exercise makes your brain work better, aiding in decision making and solving problems.
However the mental benefit is what is most fascinating. There are antidepressant-like effects due to a drop in stress hormones due to exercising. A Stockholm study tells you more about this. The main point is that exercise has effects on your mind that enables it to heal and be more capable. A mind that is more whole and functioning better is also one that enables the body to heal better.
Here’s a bonus. Exercise slows down the aging process of the brain by enabling the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory. How’s that for another reason to exercise if you are getting up there in age? Exercise your way to a longer and fuller life! We tend to view exercise as beneficial to getting that summer body or bulking up to impress the girls (or guys, hey everyone has needs) Now we, that is all age groups, can see exercise with a more profound benefit, the well being of our minds, our brains! It’s a beautiful cycle. A healthy body is a healthy mind, while a healthy mind fosters a healthier body. By a healthier mind, we are referring to the physical and mental states of the mind.
In today’s world where social networking and unrelenting connectivity is producing a population plagued by anxiety and depression , exercise is once again the answer. How? Well I am no expert but there is ample information online which I will share with you.
The benefits are related to neurogenesis (the generation and creation of new neurons) and europlasticity(synaptic plasticity, or alterations to the strength of already existing synapses) I have no idea what all this means, I am not a doctor but there are studies to back this up.
Many of these benefits are due to the ability to reduce insulin resistance and inflamation. (Goldman, 2014) You can read more on this here.
When you witness a sunrise, you are normally aware of a feeling of euphoria, of hope, of a greater power, a feeling of awe. The same goes for a sunset. Also accompanying this feeling is a feeling of calmness. This calmness is what’s good for your health.
“There are now several lines of research suggesting that our mental perception of the world constantly informs and guides our immune system in a way that makes us better able to respond to future threats.” Studies show that optimistic people are less likely to get sick. We know that a positive outlook has unexplained healing benefits. Look at the effects of placebo application where they are shown to bring about a healing effect in patients simply because they believed that they would be cured.
Just the feeling of optimism and gratitude that tend to accompany these moments of sunrise and sunsets is what puts your mind in a state that promotes the healing and immune system abilities of the body.
– Love Yourself Series
It is very tough to wake up early and go on a hike to see sunrise or nature in its best light. As a photographer who previously photographed professionally portraits, weddings, quinceñeras, and other events, my favorite type of photography was that of capturing nature. Sometimes just the process of leaving early in the morning, fighting the urge to slip back within the comforting caress of a warm soft bed is a battle. But I can tell you without any hesitation that I have never regretted waking up early to venture out into nature. Even if I didn’t get any great shots, which is rare, because of that beautiful light, I would still feel the euphoria of being up early in the solace of the early morning when nature comes alive in its unabashed glory.
However, being in nature appeals to deeper instincts within us that affect our mindset, our creative wheels, releasing our mental faculties to function without the constant noise. In a 2012 study, a scientist by the name of Strayer, found that given our environment plays an important role in how we function mentally and intuitively, exposure to nature increased our ability to function cognitively and creatively, including our problem solving skills. He found that there is a unique effect of being immersed in a natural setting on our mental capacity.
But nature does more. In a 2015 study by Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, he found that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. There are numerous studies that support the positive effects on a person’s perspective and outlook towards life.
From experience I can tell you that I experience an exhilaration from my encounters with nature. When you are in nature, for example when I am kayaking, you have to stop thinking about worrisome thoughts and pay attention for your very survival. Nature with its beauty brings threats which require you to be attentive and alert in your surroundings. This state of being is what allows us to escape the noise of modern life.
This removal from negative thoughts into basic instinctive almost primeval state is what fosters the removal of stressful weights of life, the relentless schedule of making a living, a social life, preserving status, impressing others and so on. All this is discarded allowing room for unrestrained unprescribed thinking. When I return home, I am tired physically but mentally refreshed.
Nature with its innocent routine devoid of ego, conflicts of personalities, goes about business as usual without judgement. It is an environment that appeals to your better “nature”. It reminds you of the need to embrace life more fondly. A healthier state of mind fosters self appreciation which is the root of self love and a more robust and resilient self esteem.
Try it. Wake up early. Go for a walk in the park, by the beach, near a lake. Experience the company of birds, animals, the sounds of nature, the pleasant natural order of life. Bathe in this and feel your heart swell. Do it alone. Do it with your loved one, with your family, just do it regularly for the love or you! It works! Science says so.