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The Mind-Body Connection Explored

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It was once believed that the mind's problems were separate from the body's problems. It was determined that the way we felt psychologically had no connection with illnesses that our bodies faced. We now know differently and although we have vast bodies of knowledge exemplifying the mind-body connection, there are still many people out there that do not maintain their psychological health in an effort to treat bodily ailments.

Stress can come into one's life from all different sources- work, home life, school, friends, and family. There are two types of stress- eustress and distress. Eustress is commonly referred to as the "good stress" because it is the stress that motivates one to get a job completed and continue working toward goals. Distress is the "bad stress" as it causes us to worry, feel drained, and get depressed about our current situation. Individuals often deal with distress by employing negative coping mechanisms such as overeating, binge drinking, and using drugs. One big problem with employing negative coping mechanisms is that the problem or source of the stress does not get addressed. The problem one faces before binge drinking, for example, will still be present after the drinking episode is over. Therefore, it is imperative that individuals find effective coping mechanisms to deal with stress before it becomes a state of distress for the individual. Effective coping mechanisms yield positive results and include activities such as meditation, talking with a trusted friend, or writing feelings down in a journal.

It is important to have ways to cope with stress when it arises in our lives. When people do not deal effectively with stress, they end up feeling defeated, overwhelmed, sad, hopeless, and depressed. These feelings can impact one's physical health in a huge way. Research has shown that people with chronic stress in their lives are more likely to suffer from a heart attack, stroke, or high blood pressure issues. Therefore, one effective coping mechanism that has been proven to help with chronic stress is regular exercise. Regular exercise helps to maintain weight (which in turn allows the heart to pump more efficiently), lower blood pressure, increase blood and oxygen flow to all parts of the body, improve circulation, increase energy levels, and it also helps to release the "good chemicals" into the brain, such as serotonin. If an individual has a serotonin deficiency, they will likely feel moody, sad, depressed, or hopeless. Many individuals that cannot manufacture enough serotonin on their own may opt for medication from a psychiatrist to alleviate symptoms of depression, hopelessness, and sadness. Some medications that are known to effectively deal with depression, hopelessness and sadness include: Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac. These medications are believed to boost the production of new brain cells which in turn alleviates depression. When depression is alleviated, individuals are more likely to seek out activities that are productive, efficient, fun, and challenging,

Challenging the brain to be creative, think critically and complete activities is essential for the prevention of dementia. In addition, research has shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop dementia. It is believed that regular exercise keeps blood flowing efficiently to the brain, and prevents vessels from hardening. When blood vessels leading to the brain harden, cognitive decline is very likely. The saying holds true, "Use it or lose it". If we don't use our brains, the connections within it die off and our brain begins to shrink in size. As connections wither away, we slowly lose our ability to remember events that have occurred, people we know and places we have been to. We begin to find it extremely difficult to learn new things, and acquire new skills. This is believed to be one of the ways that dementia develops. Many individuals in nursing homes do not spend enough time doing activities that stimulate the brain, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, writing, and trying to learn something new. This results in brain connections slowly withering away and eventual decline in cognitive abilities. Therefore it is crucial that individuals constantly challenge themselves to try new things and test their current abilities. Doing so may be helpful in preventing dementia from developing.

In conclusion, the mind-body connection is clearly present. We must take care of our bodies and our minds in order to perform at our very best. We must be mindful of the fact that negative emotions can steer us away from our optimal health. When we are not healthy, we can easily get depressed about it and the problems we are facing as a result of having poor health. Therefore, a vicious cycle can begin and we can be stuck feeing hopeless, depressed, sad and overwhelmed. Therefore it is important to remember to take care of yourself- both your mind and your body.

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