FOCUS ON: Healthy from Head to Heart to Toe

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by: Susan Hopkins, Ed. D, Executive Director of Safe and Caring

“Healthy mind, healthy body,” my mom would always say. I often catch myself echoing old adages my mother still sprinkles throughout her everyday conversation: “When it rains, it pours,” “a picture is worth a thousand words” and yes, “healthy mind, healthy body.” The original Latin version of this actually reads: “Mens sana in corpore sano” or “a sound mind in a sound body.” It’s the “in,” or the idea of a holistic perspective on wellness that has my attention today.

As I looked over the infographic that Safe and Caring created for Mental Health Week with the ATA and CMHA – Edmonton (snapshot included in this bulletin), I am reminded of the interconnectedness of physical and mental health. Adequate sleep, daily exercise, time outdoors and healthy eating all support stronger mental health. Consider for example the impacts of stress on our body and brain, and how both work together to protect us throughout our lives.

Just as physical health means more than freedom from a specific physical illness, when I talk about mental health, I mean more than avoiding or overcoming illness. The anti-stigma movement has made huge strides for those suffering from mental illnesses, but there is still an “us” and “them” feeling around mental health. We accept that conversations of physical health apply to everyone, why not mental health? I look forward to the day when the term “mental health” does not require clarification that we are speaking about being healthy from head to heart to toe, and that what is happening in our brain is inseparable from what is happening in our body.

So this month, use the reminder of Mental Health Week to nurture and celebrate “Mens sana in corpore sano,” physical and mental wellness. Spend time with loved ones, take a walk in nature, go to the symphony, star-gaze, go for a bike ride, take a yoga class, get a good night’s sleep by turning off your electronics at least two hours before bed, eat your veggies, laugh. But most of all, recognize the brain-body connection as you take care of your health, and find ways to give your brain and body what you need to feel healthy inside and out.

This article appeared in our May 2015 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!

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