Body and mind, mind and body… they’re linked in a myriad mysterious ways and we can’t hope to achieve health in one if we ignore the other. True health flows from the balance and harmony of body and mind.
A healthy mind understands the importance of a healthy body and enjoys nurturing the body’s health. When I was depressed, saw myself solely as a mind; my body was no more than the vehicle that carried my mind around and I neglected it. As a result, I put on five and a half stone, my skin became rough and I went down with a cold or virus every few weeks. Now that my mind is in much better shape, I’ve lost most of that weight, my skin has cleared up beautifully and I get ill only two or three times a year. And I feel much more integrated, whole and, well, normal.
Keeping your body fit and healthy is an act of love that you owe yourself. Your body is you and if you don’t value yourself it can be difficult to give your body the kind of attention it needs. In fact, the tug can be to punish ourselves by eating too much or too little, by exercising too hard or not at all, by overdosing on alcohol or taking drugs, by staying up late and sleeping in the daytime, by failing to wash or groom, even by cutting or otherwise self-harming.
Taking out your misery, frustration, fear and whatever else afflicts you on your body is the opposite of the solution. Even if we can fool ourselves these things make us feel slightly better at the time, over the long term they make everything so much worse. Yes, we have to stop hiding in self-abuse and face the underlying problem but, hand in hand with that, we also have to start treating our body with the respect it deserves. What’s so great about this is that as soon as you really get serious about looking after your body, your mind will begin to reap the rewards and you’ll be onto an upward spiral. Investing in your physical self will pay dividends to your mental self as well, dividends which can swiftly be reinvested in the body and more return generated. The positive result is guaranteed – provided you don’t sabotage the process. If your heart isn’t in it, if your mind is playing games and you’re going through the motions without really meaning it, without putting any love into it, it’s not going to work. In this case, all you’re doing is proving to yourself that the world stinks, just as you knew it did. If this is your secret purpose, don’t bother trying. You might as well stay on the sofa with your whisky, pizza and spliff – or whatever your poison is – because nothing is going to improve for you until you can find what it takes to give yourself a chance.
Once you genuinely start to nurture yourself, the process will gather momentum. Of course, you’ll have bad days and progress will zigzag but it will zigzag in an upwardly direction. Be patient, stick with it. Your new self may take a while to emerge from its chrysalis. But, in the meantime, the inherent advantages of eating well, being physically active, getting enough sleep and so on, should be a constant encouragement. The lift brought about by endorphins, the money you save on medicine and skin-care, the gradual realisation that you’ve got more energy and stamina and that, in fact, life isn’t such a struggle as it used to be, will all lead you inexorably to a permanently better state of mind.