Our mental and physical health are intimately connected, with our mental health impacting our physical wellness… and our physical health impacting our mental wellness! Here are 5 simple ways to support this mind-body connection in both directions.
Note: This post is sponsored by iHerb though all thoughts and opinions are of course my own. I love partnering with this fantastic company and longtime Body Unburdened sponsor. Thank you for supporting the companies that make the work I do and this website possible!
There’s no doubt about it: the body is one complex and interconnected system. So it makes sense that mental health and physical health are intimately intertwined, and that this connection runs in both directions: your physical health impacts your mental health, and your mental health impacts your physical health.
This is called the mind-body connection, and it’s so important that we keep this connection healthy and nourished in order to be our healthiest and happiest selves!
Here are 6 simple ways to support your mind-body connection (in both directions!)
1) Give your gut a little extra TLC and attention!
The GI system and the brain are much more intimately connected than you may think. In fact, “the gut-brain axis” has been well-studied and found to be a key aspect of mental health.
Many hormones and neurotransmitters are produced in gut, which actually has its own nervous system. Fun fact: the small intestine alone has as many neurons as your spinal cord and the gut contains more neurotransmitters than the brain! The gut also produces 95% of the body’s serotonin — a.k.a. “the happy hormone” — which helps regulate mood, social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire.
Here are some simple ways to support a healthy gut for far-reaching wellness benefits, from improved digestion to mental health.
Include a daily probiotic supplement into your routine
The gut microbiome plays an especially important role in mood and mental health. Researchers have stated:
“Dysbiosis [an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut] and inflammation of the gut have been linked to causing several mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, which are prevalent in society today. Probiotics have the ability to restore normal microbial balance, and therefore have a potential role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression.” (source)
One review of 15 human studies found that supplementing with probiotics for 1-2 months can improve anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and memory to boot!
When it comes to probiotics, quality is very important! It’s key to look for both quantity of bacteria and probiotic strains. I recommend looking for at least 20 billion live cultures and 8 different strains. For example, Renew Life’s Colon Care Ultimate Flora Probiotic (one of my more recent favorites) has 80 billion live cultures and 14 different strains, which is fantastic.
Remedy microbiome imbalances / dysbiosis like candida
In more severe cases of microbiome imbalances, it’s important to not just repopulate the gut microbiome with probiotics, but also get rid of unhealthy pathogens, bacteria, and yeast.
One of the most common causes of dysbiosis is candida overgrowth. A supplement like RenewLife’s CandiSmart can be extremely helpful and effective for bringing the gut microbiome back into balance.
Include some gut-healing superfoods or a supplement into your diet
These include coconut oil, cabbage, probiotic-rich foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, gelatin, and collagen.
This last one is one of my favorites since powdered collagen like Neocell’s Unflavored Super Collagen also doubles as a single-ingredient protein powder that can easily be added to smoothies, coffee, or matcha. Or if you’d prefer, collagen also comes in capsule-form — Neocell’s Marine Collagen Capsules also contain hyaluronic acid for extra skin-supportive benefits. Bonus!
A supplement like Renew Life’s IntestiNew Intestinal Lining Support Formula can also be extremely helpful in supporting digestive health and wellness. It’s made with ingredients that help to soothe GI distress and support a healthy gut lining.
2) When feeling overwhelmed or stressed, turn to one of these simple relaxation techniques
Not only is stress no fun, but it’s unhealthy too!
Studies have found that chronic stress:
- Impairs digestion and can lead to digestive distress
- Raises blood sugar levels and increases the risk of diabetes
- Increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack
- Can lead to hormonal imbalances
So for the sake of our sanity and health, it’s key that we try to destress as much as we can.
Some simple ways to stress less:
Legs-up-the-wall yoga pose
Exactly what it sounds like, this very simple yoga pose helps push the body from “fight-or-flight” to “rest-and-digest” mode a.k.a. its ultimate relaxed state. It can also help you fall asleep, which is why I suggest getting those legs up for 3-5 minutes in the evening before bed.
Deep belly breathing
This simple breathing technique not only helps to calm you down in the moment, but also causes the release of endorphins, happiness-boosting chemicals in the brain.
Breathe deeply, allowing your belly to expand with air, for 5-7 seconds, then exhale for the same. Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
3) Boost your magnesium intake
It’s no wonder why one of the most popular magnesium supplements on the market is called “Natural Calm.”
According to Healthline:
“Research has found that magnesium may help with brain functions that reduce stress and anxiety.”
A 2010 review of natural treatments for anxiety found that magnesium could be a treatment for anxiety, and a 2017 review that looked at 18 different studies found that magnesium did in fact reduce anxiety!
But here’s the thing: it’s estimated that around 80% of all adults are deficient in this key and mood-boosting mineral!
This is why supplementing with magnesium can be very helpful. As mentioned before, Natural Calm is one of the most popular magnesium supplements on the market. I like to drink it in the evening, since it can also be very helpful to falling asleep. There are so many delicious flavors, but raspberry lemon is my favorite.
4) Find time for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day… even if just while watching your favorite TV show
Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers, improve sleep, and reduce stress.
If exercise isn’t yet a part of your daily routine, start small — just 10-20 minutes, 2-3 days a week at the beginning. YouTube has a ton of great routines for you to follow along with and get inspired!
5) Prioritize sleep!
OK so this one may be easier said than done depending on your schedule and family life.
But getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night is so incredibly important for all aspects of our health… including mental health.
Because when we don’t get enough sleep (which, yes, is considered less than 7 hours each night!) levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Some of the tips we’ve already discussed above in this blog post are also helpful for falling and staying sleep:
- Adding a magnesium supplement like Natural Calm to your daily wellness routine, particularly in the evening before bedtime
- Practicing the legs-up-the-wall yoga pose before bed
- Practicing deep belly breathing before bed
I also recommend setting a bedtime alarm in your phone! That will remind you that it’s time to close the laptop or turn off the TV, and get ready for bed.
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