At the turn of the holiday season, a new year waits expectantly. Most of us are contemplating goal setting or even changing a habit or two. While we think and plan our next few months, we consider our decision to make a change. We might start with taking down our decorations. Then we move to the next task, which might involve cleaning the house, especially dusting the areas we never clean. With each decision, we take one more step towards a solution. Moreover, our decision to do is preceded by the most complex universe that is found inside us. Our mind is the universe composed of interconnected conscious and unconscious thoughts that make-up our will, the decision to do.
Elements that Make the Mind Healthy
A healthy mindset is a general term that describes making good decisions with a root based health. First, there are biological components that make a healthy state such as genetics, neurological balance, microbiome, and overall functioning of the body. Each biological component causes the human body to go in a direction that is increasing in health or decreasing in health much like a pendulum. Let’s look at the application.
Did you know that a healthy temperature for the body is 98.7 o Fahrenheit? Well, what do you think happens to the body if that temperature is elevated a degree or two? Even a small increase in temperature indicates a fever, a physiological process that invites the immune system to protect that body by producing an inflammatory response. This can mean several things, but it’s most likely that your body is fighting off an infection. When you are sick with a fever, do you feel like you are in your best state of being? The answer is most likely no. Moreover, the state of our health can determine the state of our mind.
Biological Factors that Affect the Mind
The term “medicine” is not technically reduced to the measure of a pill. The etymology of “medi” reveals this meaning, “a thoughtful act to create order.” Remember when we talked about how our microbiome can help our body in the article How Infections Lead to Disease? It’s no surprise then to know that our microbiome’s health can shift by major changes in the body. For example, stress can alter our microbiome’s integrity in the body. Research suggests that stress can cause a change in the intestinal mucosa which then changes the community structure and activity of our microbiota in the gut (The Institute for Functional Medicine, 2021). You see, most of our microbiota (bacteria) live in our gastrointestinal tract. Nevertheless, within the last ten years, researchers have deepened their understanding of the connections between the human gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota and the brain (2021).
“The enteric nervous system (ENS) is able to operate GI function independently of the central nervous system (CNS); however, many of the pathways and neurotransmitters are similar between the nervous systems in the brain and the gut.” (2021)
These are some examples of how the gut microbiota play a role in regulating stress in our body:
- Episodes of anxiety and depression are experienced in people who have GI disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Life events, negative emotions, and even personality traits (neuroticism) are associated with colitis (inflammatory bowel disease)
Relieving stress from our body can take minutes or even years. However, did you know that it starts with our mind? Many self-help authors teach on the ways to help you will your mind over the problem. What if I told you that your mind is permanently connected to the biology of your body? Therefore, the state of your mind will always affect the state of your health!
Mindful Habits, Multiple Victories
Author, James Clear, once said, “breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change (Clear, p. 22, 2022).” Let’s take in that statement for a moment. Our life is built on moments. Moreover, habits are results from micro decisions made in light of knowledge. In short, the decisions we make are either taking us towards a better outcome or a worse outcome, but how do they take us? It’s simple. Our habits take us towards a predetermined outcome. Once our system is fixed, then we can experience better outcomes.
Moreover, we have to take control of our mind such as taking authority over our thought life. There are different ways to do this such as meditating. More specifically, transcendental mediation involves focusing on a mantra or word. In other words, what are you listening to? Every word that is spoken directly and indirectly to you will affect you, but we can control how it does. If we spend time every day reviewing in our minds what “words” we want to hear, or the ones that might bring healing and freedom, then we will change our thought life. Changing our thought life will change the outcome.
A healthy mindset does not come naturally. From the beginning of our youth, we were conditioned and confined to “think” and “act” as our caregivers expected. For example, some people experienced poverty at some point in their life. Their expectation, thought life, and mindset will most likely be different than someone who experienced wealth. However, we all have this in common- the mind! Once our mind is elevated, our thought life is healthy, we will experience better outcomes. In other words, it starts with our thought life, which are the millions of unconscious and conscious thoughts we possess. As we rewire and reprogram those thoughts to submission unto our authority, then we will begin to make good decisions. These decisions will be carried by our habits. Finally, our habits will take us to better outcomes. Most importantly, the process is far greater than the outcome since undergoing the process is where our mindset becomes healthy.
Clear, J. C. (2022). Atomic Habits (Hardcover) Book & Journal and Workbook for James Clear’s (Paperback) 2021. Generic.
The Institute for Functional Medicine. (2021, July 28). The Microbiome, Stress Hormones, & Gut Function. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/gut-stress-changes-gut-function/