Physical Fitness = Mental Fitness aka Your Mind is Your Body
Best Average Self: Part One
Most people don’t mind discussing how often they lift weights or go for a run. You may even have a friend who is a bit too eager to discuss their cross-fit regime. We are comfortable discussing our efforts to improve our bodies; as long as our focus stays below the chin.
I don’t hear as much boasting from people working on their minds. We’re still a bit weird about ‘above the chin’ fitness. People don't humble-brag about regular sessions with a psychologist like they do cycle-fit classes. The stigma associated with mental illness can prevent people from talking about their attempts to improve their mind.
To discuss being in a state of ‘lacking’ can make you feel vulnerable. Talking about areas of your mind that you need to improve can be risky professionally and socially. It’s no fun being ostracized, or passed over for a position.
To explain my terms - I am differentiating between the body, the brain and the mind. The mind is attached to the body via the brain. The brain is the part of the body that we can see. It controls all vital human function. But the mind is your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories. It's actually more than that but we don't have time to go into the gut biome.
Considering the general populaces' attention span I'm surprised you're reading this far. I'll get to the point. Trust me in saying that very smart people know that the mind permeates every cell of the human body.
Scientists used to believe that the mind is simply the product of brain activity. Now we know things are more complex than that. The mind is the captain and the ship. The brain and the body are the deck hands. Feel free to fact-check me on that metaphor.
By addressing health in a more holistic manner we can become more effective with our efforts. No more wasted energy differentiating between physical & mental health. Now that we know the body and mind are connected; the pathway to healing is clearer. By working on your body you are also improving your mind.
This shift in thinking will allow us to move past the stigma attached to having a mental illness or poor mental health (it's a spectrum). The stigma prevents people from reaching out for support from their social networks and decreases the likelihood of seeking treatment.
Many people benefit from talking about their problems with qualified professionals and a lot of illnesses require use of pharmacological treatments. But you can also go for a walk. Walking is a basic physical activity that improves your health with very few negative side effects. If you can go outside to get that physical activity - even better.
Turn off your phone and go for a walk outside. [Not silent or vibrate. Off.] I'm not putting a timeframe on this suggestion. Some amount of active time outdoors is better than none. Don't aim for perfection. Aim for the middle. I'm not asking you to run a marathon. I'm not even asking you to run. Just go outside and go for a walk. Your mind and body will thank you.
best average self.
Want to learn more about mental health and fitness? The Unison Benevolent Fund provides mental health counselling for Canadian music-makers in need of help. Register with Unison and call 1-855-9UNISON to access counselling. For more information about the help provided, please visit our Counselling & Health Solutions page.
About the Author
Zac Crouse (M.Ed, CTRS) is a recreation therapist, musician & expedition kayaker who delivers keynote presentations and workshops focusing on mental health, recreation and leadership.
Zac has a unique ability to discuss sensitive topics with respect and humour. His presentations are designed to engage and entertain the audience through stories, film and live music.
Zac has worked for over 17 years as a frontline practitioner with at-risk youth & families. He specializes in working with individuals who have mental health and substance use issues; and has an extensive background in adventure therapy and eco-therapy.
Zac has instructed at St. FX University for the Faculty of Education and at Dalhousie University for the Faculty of Health & Human Performance. Zac is a contributing author to Quality Lesson Plans in Outdoor Education (Human Kinetics). He has also acted as a consultant in Belize on a national citizenship curriculum for youth. Zac is currently an instructor at the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Health Sciences.
In 2013 Zac released the film Paddle To The Ocean – a documentary about Zac’s use of recreation therapy as part of his treatment for PTSD. He uses this film as part of his work as a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator on the topics of mental health, leadership and recreation therapy.
In addition to paddling class IV+ white water in Uganda, Mexico, the USA & Canada; Zac has circumnavigated the islands of Newfoundland (2006 – sea kayak) and Cape Breton (2002 – canoe) and travelled from Ottawa ON to Halifax NS using only self-propelled transportation (2011 – sea kayak & bicycle).
Zac is extensively certified in water-based sports through Paddle Canada [canoe, kayak, paddle board]
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