Eat right, be active, sleep well seem to be the ultimate health mantra these days. Yet, when we look around we find people having the most nutritious diet and doing the right mix of cardio and strength training exercises along with well-balanced polarities of activity and rest; and yet end up falling ill or having some or the other lifestyle disease thereby reducing their life span eventually.
Most people then end up blaming their genes, lower immunity levels or toxic environment in general as the main cause for all the diseases. One rarely looks within to find the cause. The issue is largely about the way one thinks and feels. Yes, our ‘Beliefs create our Biology’!!!
Does this seem complicated to you? Let me explain this with the analogy of a car.
Good food is like quality fuel. The exercise we do to build stamina and muscles is akin to the strong car tyres or the car body. And sound sleep is like the idle engine or off road time of the car. Just as diet, exercise and sleep are essential for our health and well-being in the same way for a quality car to perform well requires fuel and maintenance. Just as the car requires a good driver to manoeuvre it, our body too requires a good functional brain and nervous system to run it smoothly.
I am sure everyone is wondering why we are taking you back to your school days telling you about the nervous system but, it is essential to understand how a good nervous system goes a long way in keeping one healthy and happy.
It is very important to understand the way the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in our body works.ANS regulates the pulse, blood pressure and our breathing apart from being responsible for controlling the functions of internal organs and glands which secretes hormones. It is also involved in our ability to experience emotions.
ANS is made up of these 2 different branches…
- Sympathetic Nervous System–it prepares the body for any action – increased blood flow to the muscles and other responses known as “fight-or-flight (just like the gas pedal in a car).
- Parasympathetic Nervous System – it functions when the body is at rest and helps the body store energy for future use. (just like the brakes in a car)
For smooth functioning both these components of ANS operate in sync, example during exercise the sympathetic increases heart rate whereas after exercise the parasympathetic helps to slow down the heart rate.
However emotions like anger, anxiety or worry can cause the signals going to these two parts of the ANS to get out of sync with each other. (It’s like we have our foot on accelerator and other on brake pedal at the same time which causes jerky rides and burns more fuel) This disharmony can lead to stress, wear and tear of our body and depletes its energy.
Continuing with the car analogy; the car definitely will not run longer if the fuel line is leaking or ruptured. Same way if the nutrients are not properly absorbed from the food we eat then even the most nutritious food will not make us healthy. This is exactly what happens when we are stressed. The brain is unable to distinguish between physical threat and mental tension. Body’s reaction to both is either flight or fight. The body prepares itself for flight or fight by supplying extra blood to our limbs and less to the visceral organs. This extra stimulation and inadequate blood flow causes improper digestion of even the most nutritious food.
Immunity levels also decreases when we face stress for prolonged period of time. During such times the focus is to fight the external enemy or situation and not the virus attacking the body within. At most times it so happens that we keep thinking about a negative event of the past and feel stressed out both emotionally and physically. We unknowingly are making ourselves less immune because of our inability to correctly distinguish between the actual and virtual threat.
Thus, to end with the car analogy – the car can function only when it is run by a good driver who operates the accelerator and brakes in proper sync. The car surely requires good fuel, strong tyres along with enough engine idle time for a smooth drive; but most of all it requires is a good driver.
In the same way humans also need a sound mind which can distinguish between actual stressful situations and the trivial ones. It’s only then, we can keep ourselves calm and sleep well, eat right and move more for perfect health and longevity.
To achieve complete wellbeing we require a sound mind in a sound body.
This fact was very well exemplified by the oldest documented living person – a French woman Jeanne Clament who lived for almost 123 years without suffering any ill effects of her smoking habit of 100 years. As it’s said “Thought is more important than lifestyle”!!!