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Mini Update

Yikes. It’s been a while since I last posted…life (aka, Fellowship) has gotten in the way. I’m happy to have gotten started with the training year, but still feel like I’m in a transitional period, since we are still looking to move soon.

I’ve been able to keep up with my training plan (relatively) though, which I’m pretty happy about. Lots of foam-rolling and hip/glute work too, which I think has definitely contributed to my awesome training run today. Although I my time wasn’t where I wanted it to be, the run was pain free, for the first time in a long time! I still have about 7 weeks to train, so hopefully I can improve on the speed. I’m just happy that there was no pain =).

New Name, Same Mission

This will be a short post, but I just wanted to explain the name change. As I wrote before, one of my favorite mantras was shared to me by a good friend of mine. Like naming babies, naming blogs can be pretty personal, so when I realized that “Sound Mind, Strong Body” was really important to her too, I decided to rename the blog. The mission is still the same: I believe that working on your mental health, fitness, and nutrition simultaneously will help to foster an incredible, meaningful, fun life. Thank you all for following and helping to support this baby blog! More substantial stuff to follow =)

Pursuit of Happiness: An Elusive Chase?

The United States was founded on the principle that we all have the right to pursuit happiness. And so we have been pursuing happiness, with all our might, but do we really ever get there?

Invariably, people always say “to be happy” when I ask them what they want in the future…what they want to work on in treatment. So I have to ask, “But what does that mean? What is happiness? What makes you happy?” When I ask them to elaborate on their visions of life and what would make them happy, the answer of what happiness means to them become clearer. Time with family, health and financial stability, mental wellness, and so forth.

If you do a google search on “how to be happy” you will get a lot of hits. There are tons of articles and blogs out there that tell you what to do to be happy and what happy people do to be happy. There are a million (ok, I exaggerate) tips that people have given on ways to be happy: don’t hold grudges, dream big, don’t sweat the small stuff. The list goes on and on- if you do X, Y, and Z, you’ll be happy. But honestly, if it were that easy, we’d all be happy, right?

In the documentary “Project Happiness” (you can find it on Netflix), George Lucas describes his version of happiness: a combination of pleasure and joy. He states:

“…Happiness is pleasure and happiness is joy. It can be either one, you add them up and it can be the uber category of happiness. Pleasure is short lived. It lasts an hour, it lasts a minute, it lasts a month. And it peaks and it goes down. It peaks very high. But the next time you want to get that same peak you have to do it twice as much. It’s like drugs, you have to keep doing it because it insulates itself. No matter what it is, weather you’re shopping, or weather you’re engaged in any other kind of pleasure. It all has the same quality about it. On the other hand is joy and joy is the thing that doesn’t go as high as pleasure, in terms of your emotional reaction. But it stays with you. Joy is something you can recall, pleasure you can’t. So the secret is that even though it’s not as intense as pleasure the joy will last you a lot longer. And people who get the pleasure they keep saying “well if can just get richer and get more cars.” You’ll never re-live the moment you got your first car, that’s it that’s the highest peak. Yes, you could get three ferrari’s and a new gulf stream jet and maybe you’ll get close. But, you have to keep going and eventually you’ll run out. And you just can’t do it, it doesn’t work. If you’re trying to sustain that level of peak pleasure, you’re doomed. It’s a very American idea, but it just can’t happen. You just let it go…pleasure is fun it’s great, but you can’t keep it going forever. Just accept the fact that it’s here and it’s gone, and maybe again it’ll come back and you’ll get to enjoy it again. Joy lasts forever. Pleasure is purely self-centered. It’s all about your pleasure, it’s about you. It’s a selfish self-centered emotion, that’s created by self-centered motive of greed. Joy is compassion, joy is giving yourself to somebody else or something else. And it’s the kind of thing that is in it’s subtly and lowness more powerful than pleasure. If you get hung up on pleasure you’re doomed. If you pursue joy you will find everlasting happiness.”

As George Lucas alludes to, it seems to be a Western/American value to seek material things (e.g., big home, flashy car, etc.) thinking that those things will make them happy. Additionally, it seems that most people I’ve worked with are hell-bent on NOT experiencing anything perceived as negative, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, or feel uncomfortable. They get stuck in this elusive chase of trying to find “happiness” and avoiding “negative” emotions and experiences at all costs. In the more extreme cases, it’s lead to substance abuse and dependence, loss of work, family, and other relationships.

(Image Source)

This is my own stance: happiness is like an emotion, like sadness, anger, and so on. Emotions come and go, rise and fall, and are sometimes more intense at times than others. As human beings, we are not one-dimensional or robots: so why try to always “be positive” and “choose to be happy”? Being human means to experience a range of emotions and experiences. To me, what matters more is find things and life experiences that bring richness, value, and meaning to your life. When you are engaged in things that matter to you, doing things in ways that are authentic to who you are, then you will feel more fulfilled and satisfied, regardless or how much money you might have or “success” you might obtain. When you stop avoiding things that previously scared you or made you uncomfortable, opportunities will open up for you.

Have you ever found yourself stuck in the chase for happiness? Are there things that you’ve avoided that’s kept you stuck from living the life you want to live? What activities/things would bring value and meaning to your life? 

 

Weight Loss: Not just for your physical health

The mind-body connection is a pretty powerful thing and the research proves it. While we often focus on weight loss as a tool to increase our physical health and change the way our bodies look, did you know that exercise and weight loss also can change our minds/brains as well. Here are two examples (just to share some of the recent research coming out):

Photo Credit: Reigh LeBlanc

Results from a recent study presented at the 2013 Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting showed that weight loss was associated with memory improvement in older, overweight women (Pettersson, Olsson, Nyberg, & Olsson, 2013). More specifically, the researchers observed increases in brain activity in brain regions that are associated with facial identification and recognition, as well as an increase in memory retrieval efficiency. In short, the researchers found that the participants who lost a significant amount of weight (i.e., average BMI decreased from 32.1 to below the cutoff for obesity), the brain becomes more active in terms of new memory storage, while also becoming more efficient at retrieval.

Even a short yoga practice can change your brain functioning. In a small study conducted by Gothe and colleagues (see reference below), participants did significantly better on cognitive tests of memory and inhibition control after 20 minutes of yoga practice compared to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise.

Photo Credit: Jamie J Gray (2013)

Bottom line, researching is showing more evidence to the mind-body connection: improving your physical health can also improve the functioning of the mind. All the more reasons to get up and moving…not that you needed more!

What are other changes or improvements you’ve noticed with exercise and/or weight loss? Share your thoughts! 

References

Gothe N, Pontefex MB, Hillman C, McAuley E. (2013). The acute effects of yoga on executive function. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 10, 488-495.

Pettersson, A., Olsson, C., Nyberg, L., & Olsson, T. (2013). Diet-induced weight loss improves episodic memory and alters activity in overweight postmenopausal women. Presented at the 95th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Francisco.

The Mantra and the Mission

Sound mind, strong body. That was my mantra that got me through my very first 10k. It was probably about mile 5 (I was a pretty new runner at that point) and I recalled one of the mantras my running buddy told me: sound mind, strong body. I truly believe that the mind can be stronger that the body; sometimes the body says, “No, I can’t run another mile,” but the mind says, “Yes, yes you can.” And I did.

The mind is truly a powerful thing; what and how you think can impact your life in tremendous ways. I believe that when you have a sound mind (i.e., mental wellness), you can create a strong body and thus, live a healthy life. That’s the mission of Sound Mind, Strong Body: helping those on the road to recovery, health, and wellness by integrating fitness, nutrition, and mental health.

Photo credit: © 2005 My Yoga Online