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This post is an overview on the most common lifestyle factors which can impact on our physical and mental health, and which can boost our well-being. These including positive and quality relationships, physical exercise; eating habits; sleep; listening to music; reading; watching series; challenging yourself to perform well and to grow; and having a hobby, an activity or work that is meaningful to you.
There are many ways in which we all can save, take care of and improve our physical and mental health and boost our well-being. Below is an overview of the most common lifestyle factors, including positive and quality relationships, physical exercise; eating habits; sleep; listening to music; reading; watching series; challenging yourself to perform well and to grow; and having a hobby, an activity or work that is meaningful to you.

Relationships

One of the most common and most helpful way to stay healthy is to have  positive relationships which can be close or can be not so close, but characterized by good quality.

In psychology we consider positive relationship to be a relationship positive influence of which on our life significantly outweighs its negative contribution, and we look at a good quality relationship as relationship that provides us with a safe attachment and place to regenerate, while it also validates our independence and supports our freedom to achieve outside of the relationship and openly it accepts and values our contribution into this relationship. I think it is important for people to have many positive relationships in life – those can be professional or personal, because those stimulate us and give us energy to grow and learn in diverse ways, as well as are important for the quality of our life.

While having positive relationships is important – having at least one quality significant relationship is crucial to our emotional and physical health, as quality relationship

Unfortunately in modern world many people feel isolated. There are many reasons for it, but roughly speaking sadly many people had some sort of negative experience as they were growing up which impacted their confidence and psychological health. Many also find it hard communicate with their families in a way that is emotionally safe and allows them to feel good about themselves. In the last 40 years more and more people are moving to work and study to another country or even live between the countries, and cultural difference as well as leaving own culture as well as their loved ones behind creates a painful experience of intimate isolation. Partially because of these reasons, as well as because there is more and more scientific evidence on the importance of quality relationships for both mental and physical health, psychology is becoming a more and more widespread service, which in many countries is supported and regulated by the government and relevant medical boards.

Luckily, there is also a lot of things that we can do independently to improve our physical and mental fitness and these things include physical exercise, including walking and dancing; maintaining healthy eating habits and diet; improving quality of sleep; listening to music; reading; watching a movie; challenging yourself to perform well and to grow; and having a hobby, an activity or work that is meaningful to you.

We will expand more on the lifestyle factors mentioned above in separate posts, but will give you a very short overview of psychological value of each of those factors below.

Physical exercise

Using our body to move is very important for maintaining our muscle fitness, which otherwise can lose their tone in a way that can lead to many illnesses and disorders. There is importance in the way we use our body to move. The type of movement and which muscle groups are used in it, the use of strengths or movement intensity, movement duration, as well how regular the movement is performed will, as well as the level of fitness of the body, will influence what what kind of impact the movement is having. This is very good, because depending on our needs or wants we can regulate what kind of support we can offer to our body through the exercise. For example, it is not uncommon for our clients to engage with different types of exercise for helping them with different experiences. For example, when clients had emotional trauma from the past which impacted their core strength, engaging with core strengths work can be very helpful. For people who have a habit of internalizing their feelings and in particular anger boxing classes can be very helpful for tension reduction in the areas where the anger is usually suppressed, as well as it helps with overall anxiety regulation in the body and seem to have a very positive impact on their overall confidence levels.

Dancing is a tremendously helpful way to use our body in the way that provides care to our mental and physical health, as it allows for developing strength, flexibility, and balance of our mind and body, in pleasant and engaging ways.

Healthy food and diet

By now we all know that what we eat is important for our health and that eating what is not healthy in big quantities is not good. So from psychological perspective we approach food more from the point of views of “don’t”s rather than “do”s, focusing on minimising unhelpful behaviour of eating unhealthily. To start with we are looking at the eating problem – is it over- or under- eating (eating for fuel, or for fun; not eating for healthy bodily regulation or for getting rid of parts of the self), the degree or amount, how eating corresponds to the level of activity and how much energy is required, what is the specifics of the problem – what does eating or not eating replace or compensate for. A more detailed post of unhelpful eating habits and what to do with them is coming up soon.

Sleep

Quality and appropriate amount of sleep is critical for both physical and psychological health, as well as it can have impact of the quality of our relationships.

From psychological perspective, the quality of sleep depends on two parallel processes – one is an actual sleep process and another one is how relaxed the body is. The more the body can be relaxed and the longer it can stay relaxed – the deeper the process of sleep can be – the better the quality of sleep is and the more healing and recovery can take place during this sleep.

When and how the sleep problems occur can likely tell us what is affecting our sleep.

For example difficulty falling sleep, difficulty staying asleep, having weird and scary dreams, and difficulty waking up too early – all relate to different psychological problems and have to be addressed differently.

Specifically, difficulty falling asleep has to do with either being overstimulated and detached from feeling tired, or with problems with the sleeping routine. Difficulty staying asleep has to do with bodily difficulty to feel safe and relaxed at a deeper level. Difficulty with dreams have to do with difficulties processing emotional material, and waking up too early has to do with a sense of urgency.

To read more about sleep problems press here and to learn more about bad dreams and fearful sleep go here.

Psychological self-care:

Stimulating growth 

Having an activity that is attractive, but challenging for you can stimulate positive growth and is another wonderful way to both to regulate the energy and the bodily flow, to feel more in control of self and the impact of the past on our present and the future, and to feel good about yourself. You can read more about the importance of balancing your challenge with recovery here.

While engaging in meaningful activity allows for a sense of deeper connection with self and the external world. Both meaning and connection are important ingredients of what people consider to be ‘happiness’.

Listening to music

Use of music for management of psychological state and fitness is a topic which our psychologist Valeria Zoteyeva is very passionate about and it is the area in which she did her postgraduate research in. So basically, most people use music to manipulate and regulate their mood, to improve their sense of isolation and to get a sense of belonging that is emotionally meaningful to them, to burst their energy, to distract themselves from unpleasant experiences, to discharge their tension, to and even to relate and to induce emotions, when feeling depressed and numb, to work on improve emotional resilience, and it can be helpful to assist overall bodily regulation at deeper levels. They do it on a daily basis, many more than several times a day. What is important to know is that listening to music is a tool and the way the tool is used determines whether it brings good to our live or whether it is serving in destructive ways. Stay tuned to learn more about music psychology for mental and physical health in our upcoming posts.

Reading books

Reading books is a great tool help our brain to stay fit without getting overstimulated by technology. Don’t get us wrong – we are all for things to be convenient, but convenience can’t replace everything and books are a big part of the human culture which is getting more and more neglected, unfortunately.

Watching good series

Watching good fun series can provide some relief from feeling isolated at night when you are tired (especially in the winter), it can also help person to establish connection to the characters over a relatively prolonged period of time, as well as to stimulate your brain and learn new ways to engage with other people in a way that feels safer following the model of behaviour (as well as learning things not to do!). It can bring positive and humorous experiences in life, in a safe and convenient way and can also serve as a healthy distraction from challenges of current reality– something that many hard-working people are in a huge need for.   Again, similar to music, it is important to be aware of limitations of using series as a self management tool, rather than panacea, and be mindful that they do not replace the opportunities to establish real relationships in life.

Melbourne Health Psychology Centre is currently working on an online Lifestyle enhancement program and we will shortly be looking for people who would like to test it out (free of charge of course). Feel free to contact us to express your interest if it is something that you might want to do.

Valeria Zoteyeva, Health Psychologist,

This post is an intellectual property of the Melbourne Health Psychology Centre (c) 2020

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