Monday, October 13, 2014

The mental and spiritual benefits of health and fitness

We all know at this point in time that healthy nutrition and exercise will help you to lose fat, build muscle and improve your health and fitness. But what we may not know quite as much about are the benefits to mind and spirit from living a healthy lifestyle and exercising. We discuss those benefits here and perhaps today, we'll all be able to learn and apply something new to improve the health and state of our mental and spiritual faculties.

It has been shown (although not entirely proven) that there exists a positive relationship between healthy nutrition, exercise and our state of mental and spiritual well-being. In short, eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, can improve our mood, decrease stress and anxiety, fight depression and also improve our ability to handle stressful situations. It has been shown to be effective to such an extent that psychologists and psychiatrists have been prescribing healthy eating and exercising as supplementary treatments for patients suffering from depression, stress and anxiety for years now.

Stress, anxiety and depression have the potential to lead to serious illnesses and conditions like coronary heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidental injuries and in severe cases, suicide. We don't want this, not when there is so much excellent life to live and to experience! Exercise and nutrition are very effective in improving our quality of life and are powerful weapons in the war against mental and spiritual enemies. Examples of how we benefit from healthy living are explained below.

Mental benefits

1. Increased mental performance.

In other words, becoming smarter. How does it work? Healthy eating and exercising provides vitamins, minerals, nutrients, oxygen and improved blood flow to the brain and body. Exercising increases your cardiovascular ability, as well as your body's ability to absorb clean oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and other wastes. How? By increasing your lung capacity, the performance of the heart and by helping to keep your veins and arteries open and unclogged by cholesterol and other poisonous wastes for improved blood flow. With improved cardiovascular ability and improved oxygen uptake and waste removal, the brain may be supplied by good, healthy fresh streams of oxygen and nutrient rich blood, when it needs it the most.

By giving the brain good, healthy nutrients and oxygen, you effectively increase it's performance, like a high performance sports vehicle running on NOS. That's because when energy is required for thinking and reasoning, there are no problems or obstacles when oxygen and nutrients have to reach the brain for continuous optimized performance.

Your brain does not have to waste time and effort on byproducts and pollution (like in the case of junk food and drink). It'll therefore have an increased capacity for learning and becoming even smarter. Therefore, healthy living will see you obtain improvements in brainpower, memory and calculation capacity. No more misplacing those damned keys! No more looking stupid in front of the entire class!

2. Reduced stress and anxiety.

Healthy living and exercise will improve your mental performance such that you'll be able to reduce exposure to stressful situations. Because your brainpower has improved, you quickly learn when and where stressful situations may pop up. You'll also develop an intuitive skill that enables you to predict where stress and stressful situations will arise. Bring on the Spidey Sense!

In addition to that, your mental faculty will be improved to handle stress better. How? Because you'll quickly learn what to do to diffuse any stressful and harmful situation and with experience you'll be able to eliminate stress almost completely.

In the same vein, I'd like to add that not all stress is bad. There are stresses in live that help us to become better people. A daunting project at work, for instance, the completion of which will make you a smarter person in addition to securing that promotion you've had your eye on for a while now. Healthy eating and exercise will help you to handle these situations better as well. You'll be able to work harder, start earlier, finish later, anticipate changes, make corrections and finish the project with a bang. Bring on the promotion, bring on the celebration, bring on the champagne! (although moderation is key, don't damage your brainpower with booze)

3. Reduced risk of mental illnesses and improvement of mental conditions.

Like I mentioned before, exercise and nutrition have been prescribed for people with mental illnesses and other disorders like depression, anxiety, stress, Alzheimer's, dementia and a host of other disorders, as a supplementary treatment. While it's no cure for these disorders, the mental and spiritual benefits to exercise and healthy eating alleviates these problems significantly and can help to improve the quality of life for those who suffer.

Individuals who start a healthy eating plan and exercise routine early in their lives also have astoundingly low risks of developing mental illnesses and disorders. Take a pro-active approach and get active today. Prevent yourself from developing these disorders and take good care of your brain.

Spiritual benefits

1. Sense of well-being, of being in tune with nature and life around us.

Exercise and eating healthy produce a sense of well-being. This is in part due to the brain chemicals (endorphins) that are released during periods of activity and also part due to some other factors. If you take your jogging outside for instance, or hike up a mountain trail, you may experience a feeling of being in tune with nature. Together the stimulation from exercise and being outdoors induce a euphoric feeling which makes us happy and content.

If you perform your training together with a friend, the friendship and camaraderie will bring you closer together and more in tune with each other. This also induces more endorphins and more feel-good emotions and feelings of well-being.

2. Happier feelings and sense of euphoria and having fun.

Exercising with friends is always a pleasurable and fun experience. And what's even better, if you exercise with your spouse or significant other, you'll both start to get lean and slim. That means sexier bodies and improved libido's. Something that leads to even more fun and euphoria..........

3. Better, deeper rest and sleep.

Exercise and nutrition resets our circadian rhythm. That's our natural sleep cycle.  We'll go to bed at night when it gets dark and wake up again early when it's light again. Activities tend to fatigue the body which means come night time, you'll be tired and ready for bed. Healthy nutrition will stimulate the correct sleep hormones at the correct time which will ensure for deep, relaxing sleep and rest. You'll wake up the following morning refreshed and ready to take the world by storm!

4. Improved self-confidence and self-esteem.

Naturally, exercise and good, sound nutrition is going to help you lose fat and build muscle. Your body is going to look better, leaner, sexier and more muscular. This will improve your self-image and make you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself definitely improves your self-confidence and self-esteem. With better self-confidence and esteem, you'll to do better in relationships, earn more respect and admiration from others and have good times with friends and significant others more often.

Not only will you develop the physical capability to keep up and participate in all the fun stuff friends and family do when they get together, but with increased brain performance and the release of endorphins comes a greater capacity to have fun and experience euphoria. Consequently more satisfaction, more happiness and a better quality of life!

All of these mental and spiritual benefits are not only possible for younger people but has been shown to significantly increase mental performance, quality of life and benefits in the older generation as well. There is thus no reason for you to start eating healthy and exercising today!

But how exactly does it work? Why all of these benefits from exercise and nutrition? I'm glad you asked.

Exercise stimulates the release of feel good hormones (endorphins) and also norepinephrine, an adrenalin hormone which helps the body to deal with stress. Endorphins like dopamine and serotonin have been shown to decrease pain and stimulate feelings of euphoria which are incredibly effective at combating stress, anxiety and depression.

But apart from endorphins, exercise and nutrition works against stress, depression and anxiety because it may put you in a social situation with others who are trying to do exactly the same thing as you. This instills a feeling of camaraderie and friendship, and provides and ear to listen and a buddy to talk to. People giving each other support and encouragement. Even if you just walk around a couple of blocks with you wife, children, a good friend, etc. the feeling of togetherness and just someone to talk to while participating in moderate activities are powerful weapons against mental and spiritual ailments.

Setting goals (losing fat, building muscle) and achieving them creates a feeling of being in control of your body and of overcoming the odds and of victory. Control is amazingly effective against anxiety, because there is less unknown to be worried about. And overcoming the odds and achieving victory boosts motivation, determination and willpower by huge amounts. These are all good feelings and make you more inclined to take on greater challenges and overcoming them which will make you even more immune to mental and spiritual disorders. Also, having a sense of direction and an end point takes away stressful feelings, depression and anxiety, once again because there is less unknown to be concerned about.

Physical activity serves as an outlet for stress. Usually, when we get stressed we keep all of that inside. I mean we can't just go and punch the difficult boss or co-worker, that'll get us fired. And yelling at your children or wife or partner will screw up relationships fast! So what can we do? Well, exercise is the perfect outlet for getting all that built up stress and rage out of your system. You can hit the weights with a vengeance, they won't care or complain and they'll take the beating gladly, of that you can be sure. After a good session, you'll feel relaxed and your stress-meter reset to 0.

So you see, proper nutrition and exercise is not only good for the body, but for the mind and the soul as well. Healthier bodies lead to happier people, and that's a fact. One word of caution though. In order for exercise and nutrition to be effective, you have to take it in moderation. Suddenly jumping into an intense training program and dieting like crazy will not help, it'll actually worsen feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. You should not set a standard that's so high, reaching it instills feelings of stress and anxiety. Also, I suggest you not take part in competitive sports, since these may instill feelings of embarrassment, poor performance and a feeling of not being good enough. This in itself will lead to more stress and anxiety. If you want to improve your mental and spiritual states and improve your quality of life, participate in moderate activities in which there is no expectation of winning or losing.

Finally, by making sure your children stay active and healthy, you protect them from developing stress, depression or anxiety related problems and/or disorders. Keeping them active will make happy little chappies now, and for the rest of their lives!

Are you feeling stressed, or tired, depressed or anxious today? Do you want to break out for a while? Do you want to feel happy and do you want to start having more fun in life? Well it all starts with a little bit of health and fitness.

What are your thoughts on the mental and spiritual benefits of health and fitness? Do you perhaps have first hand experience of an instance where nutrition and exercise improved your mental capacity and spiritual state? Please share with us by commenting below.

Until next time friends, STAY TRUE AND TRAIN HARD!

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