Lifestyle is all about choice, remember that those genes give us about 1/3rd which is written in stone, and then we have about two-thirds to play with. So how do we choose to live that’s a lifestyle, and how to eliminate the one that affects our mental health.
So in this article, we will look into the choices that are unique to us by both gender and by age. We will also look into some of the different concerns and options that might be considered by men vs. women, and younger people vs. elder people.
We’ll also look into how our mental health and our physical health are interconnected. And as we take care of one, the other one will benefit.
So let’s start with a very big topic that I mentioned earlier:
Working with Mental and Emotional Stress. Finding ways to create more space in a very crowded and noisy world. We talked about the importance of being mindful in our eating, in our exercising, and even in our aging.
So let’s see what Mindfulness, the word means?
Mental health and stress reduction are very important in this concept, there is a very strong relationship between mental health and physical well-being. There is what we refer to for many decades as the Mind-Body relationship.
The goal is to minimize both mental and physical wear and tear into optimizing the result in well-being. They are very well-established stress reduction techniques, they have been time tested to improve the quality of life and health.
And make a note that as we move along I may refer to meditation, relaxation, and stress reduction techniques somewhat interchangeably. There are a lot of overlaps in the definitions we use in these subjects. People choose to explore stress reduction techniques mostly to:
- Intensify their ability to focus
- To increase their creativity
- To gain self-awareness and insight
- And then to become relaxed and calm especially in their mind
(Also Read: Breathing Exercises: A Practical Guide for Beginners)
Quieting the mind:
Quieting the mind allows us to become proficient at selectively focusing attention without becoming distracted or scattered.
So we will start by taking a look at the science behind these techniques that reduce mental stress. Medical research suggests that as a society as a whole, we are spiraling into more and more stress-related illnesses. It’s often very vague and difficult to define and diagnose into measure but what is stress to one person, might be an inspiration for another.
We live in what is popularly known as the Age of Distraction. It’s almost impossible to be anywhere without the intrusion of the noise of music, of chatter, of lights. Tv sets are everywhere from gas stations to taxi stands to airports.
We can’t get away from them, and we can’t turn them off in most of those places. And I know that many people pride themselves on multitasking, and in some areas, for better or for worse we can all do it quite well, but not in all areas.
For example, listening to teaching lectures as we drive or exercise or watching movies while we are on a trade mill. However, we all have our limits as to how many things receive our attention fully at a time without sacrificing something else.
Multitasking has its limitations
So multitasking has its limitations, and it exacts a toll. And this is why many stations no longer allow new younger drivers to have friends in the car, and while many states ban cellphones use while we are driving. There’s just more and more evidence that mental and emotional stress is taking a greater than ever toll on both mental and physical health.
So how can we constructively deal with the massive incoming data, sensations, sights, sounds, smell, and touch, without allowing it to overwhelm us? So we are to talk about the physiology of the brain, we’ll speak more about brain function later on, but just for the moment let’s look at one area, and that is what’s called the Prefrontal Cortex.
It’s the part of our brain that lies right between the temples in the forehead, and just above the level of our nose, right about the same plane as the eyes.
It’s the brain’s planning center, and it
- Orchestrates thoughts
- It coordinates actions to achieve certain specific goals
- Serves as a center of executive function
- It sorts out conflicting thoughts
- It distinguishes between good and bad, between same and different
- And it also measures the consequences of what we may do or what we may be planning to do
We can also measure the activity of the prefrontal cortex in simplest terms, using its Gamma Waves activities which form the focus attention. And thankfully, we can’t anyway measure or know what somebody is thinking, and I hope we never learn to do that.
Mental Health and Relaxation Practice
But what we do know is that people who have established a meditation or relaxation practice have increased their abilities to focus in the face of distraction. And this occurs very early in the course of developing this practice.
We have also found that relaxation techniques create a response that changes the patterns of genes associated with stress. Now, this is really hard science and has a cellular level and a molecular level that we have never gotten to before.
One study compared the gene pattern of 19 long-term practitioners of several different relaxation techniques against 90 individuals who have never used any stress reduction techniques.
That was the controlled group that had no stress reduction training, and then they took an eight-week training course on initiating relaxation techniques.
All the evidence, in the end, showed that:
Relaxation response techniques improved gene expression relating to inflammation, cell death, and free radical cell handling by the body.
Things that we could never dream about that we could influence just by our minds. Physicians and scientists have initiatively known for a long time that things like Yoga, Meditation, Prayer, all over stress and boost the immune system.
We have seen in our practices, and we have also observed its outcomes, and now it’s becoming a science. Science support and claims that there is this mind and body connection, and I think we are going to discuss more these connections as we go along.
So getting back to the data on stress reduction studies, it doesn’t seem to matter whether people use meditation, Yoga, Prayer, Mindfulness, breathing techniques, they all seem to have a strong positive result. And when they are effective in reducing one’s stress, the whole body benefits.