Healthy Body, Healthy Mind by psychologist Monique Phipps
I met Monique when she booked her daughter into one my recent Healthy Kids Cooking Classes. It’s always a pleasure to meet like-minded parents, and I was so impressed to hear that Monique, a mum and clinical psychologist, felt similarly frustrated that the value of proper nutrition was almost disregarded as a contributory factor in her line of work. She considers a proper diet of utmost importance in helping to guide her clients towards wellness. Hear more about what Monique has to say in this wonderful post she has shared with us. Image Credit: www.iamgratefulhowareyou.wordpress.com
It is a commonly held belief that our bodies and minds are two very separate entities, functioning independently of each other. This is unfortunate, as well as being counterproductive to good, holistic health because it could not be further from the truth. In reality, our bodies and our minds are closely linked and are very much co-dependent.
As an experienced clinical psychologist, I have spent many years helping people manage any mental health issues they may face. I have always emphasised to my clients that a healthy mind cannot be achieved without a healthy body, but it wasn’t until I began my own journey into truly healthy eating that I realised just how important it was. It was at this point I realised that purely addressing mental health issues is a limiting exercise.
By way of example, bring to mind an event from your life that has a strong emotion attached to it – it could be anxiety, sadness, joy, anger – now hold that image in your mind and tune into the sensations within your body. Now notice where that emotion exists in your body and how it feels.
Emotions do not exist only in our minds, they live in our bodies. Anxiety, depression, anger, trauma, they all reside in our bodies and it is usually the sensations within our body that are the most distressing parts of these experiences. Think of common phrases we use to describe emotional experiences – ‘gut wrenching’, ‘broken hearted’, ‘like a weight being lifted off my shoulders’ – they all describe sensations within our bodies.
When we aim for overall wellbeing, we need to consider both physical and mental health. You can’t have one without the other. If we are trying to manage and heal mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, even bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, we will be most successful if we combine some form of therapy (always with someone registered, qualified and suited to your individual needs) with a diet that ensures our bodies are well nourished and functioning optimally (and yes, therapy may include medication).
Poor nutrition and consuming additive-laden processed ‘foods’ (though some barely warrant that description) add an extra burden to our bodies that are already struggling to cope with the issues that we are dealing with. These food choices can contribute to lethargy, insomnia, anxiety, mood problems, headaches and hyperactivity, to name just a few. In short, building from a shaky base is counter-productive, and unlikely to produce best results.
When we choose unprocessed wholefoods, good quality fruit, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, avocado etc) our bodies and brains are comprehensively nourished. It’s no surprise, then, that they function better, which improves our sleep, our immune system, our energy levels, and ability to cope more readily with anger, anxiety or stress.
We can be proactive with our own mental health by controlling what we put into our bodies and noticing how it makes us feel (energetic, focused, anxious, lethargic). We can certainly observe the behavioural changes in our children based on what they have eaten, while recognising that their formative years are crucial to their future physical and mental well being. We need to make sure they are equipped with the solid foundations of health that give them the best opportunity at a long and enjoyable life.
Irrespective of our past diets, upbringing and experiences, we need to recognise there is a lot we can be doing immediately to ensure that our minds and bodies, and those of our children, are working as nature intended – cohesively rather than combatively.