“Mind over Matter”- we’ve all heard it before, but is it true? In a world where health is thought of mostly in the context of the physical rather than the emotional, this quote could easily be dismissed. It not only equates our mind and thoughts with our physical abilities, but actually suggests that internal well-being can supersede external well-being. Plenty of people might say “forget it,”. In the era of social media and online fitness trends, the pressure to perform a certain way on the outside far outweighs the pressure to take care of ourselves internally. If the world is so focused on external appearances, how can you motivate yourself to prioritize your internal, emotional well-being too?
Most medical professionals agree that when you put your mental health first, your physical health is much more likely to follow suit. When actually looking at health in its complete form, the World Health Organization defines it as, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being,”. There’s no question that physical activity improves your emotional state. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which ultimately make you feel happier. But is the reverse relationship true too? Does emotional well-being have the same level of impact on you as your physical health? The short answer is yes!
Ever get a stress headache? Or maybe a stomach ache when you’re nervous? Those are two basic examples of the ways that your thoughts and feelings have physical impacts on your body! But emotional well-being doesn’t just affect your body when you can feel it- it’s constantly working alongside your physical self to either aid or stifle your body’s progress. Research has shown that, “emotional distress can lead to physical illness by affecting the immune response,”. Not only can neglecting your mental health lead to annoyances like a headache, but it can literally limit your immune system’s ability to protect you.
Such research has led to claims that health, “initiatives which aim to promote physical well-being to the exclusion of mental and social well-being may be doomed to failure,”. Health must be viewed holistically, not just physically.
Even beyond the scientific ways in which emotions impact our bodies, our mindsets also determine our likelihood of success vs. failure. A person beginning their health & fitness journey would be remiss to lay the foundation of this journey on thoughts of self-hatred and insecurity.
Workout goals fueled only by negative emotions won’t work because if you don’t love yourself enough to believe that the uphill climb is worth it, you will always find an excuse to avoid doing the work. You should strive for health and well-being not because you’re insecure about your appearance, but because you love who you are and want to achieve the best version of yourself, for yourself.
All that being said, negative emotions aren’t always bad. Utilizing negative feelings as motivation can actually be very powerful! Prioritizing emotional well-being is less about “being happy” all the time and more about recognizing when you’re in a bad head space, sitting in those feelings as long as necessary, and then moving forward from them. Negative emotions are not the enemy- clinging to them is.
Looking at well-being holistically is the key to your health journey. Your emotional well-being is just as important as your physical well-being, and oftentimes serves as the foundation from which you can achieve your physical goals. Health is a whole beast in and of itself, and while compartmentalizing which aspects of it you want to tackle might make it feel more manageable in the short term, it will ultimately hinder your potential in the long run.