Mental Nutrition: Be Mindful of What You Pay Attention To
18 May 2020
As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, our experts wanted to bring to light the intrinsic connection your mind has with your overall wellbeing. Our ability to control our thoughts and limit what we pay attention to is crucial to our daily physical and mental health.
In the spirit of nurturing our “mental nutrition,” Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, shared how one can easily improve their mood and physical body.
PRACTICE ‘MENTAL NUTRITION’
“One key element of this is mental nutrition. It’s what you let in. What you feed your mind, what you pay attention to. In this period, it’s important to be cautious about how much and what kind of news you let into your consciousness,” said Dr. Weil.
According to the doctor, this simple practice will help decrease anxiety, stress and anger we may feel in tense times. While he suggests always staying informed, your ability to limit things that could cause negative thoughts or feelings is also important to maintaining a healthy state of mind and sleep patterns.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
Limiting negative thoughts frees space to focus on the positive, something the doctor suggests is a good practice to nurture daily and in times of tension, such as with feelings or stresses we may come across while in the era of COVID-19 and beyond.
“Think about what good might come out of all this. There may be some real changes that we are going to be forced to make in our society as a result of this – maybe restructuring business and healthcare,” said Dr. Weil.
Research shows our ability to focus on the positive while maintaining a healthy, realistic perspective not only has effects on your mind but on your body as well. Developing this strengthens your ability to be resilient.
Reinforce the previous steps with exercises that bring you to the present moment. Taking a few minutes to focus on your breath is one act the doctor says can even be practiced while spending time at home with family.
“Breathwork, I think, is so simple and easy. That’s something that parents can do with their kids. Teach them that this is a very useful technique to practice because it will help you if you are in situations that make you anxious or afraid,” said Dr. Weil.
A short but effective practice is the doctor’s 4-7-8 method which acts as a “natural tranquilizer” for the mind and body.
For those who find meditation difficult, the doctor suggests going outside and connecting with nature, spending time with a pet or even cooking. These are simple acts that will allow you to become centered and mitigate any negative feelings while having a powerful effect on your body’s responses to stress, helping develop positive practices for your daily life.
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