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  • Writer's pictureStella Sremić

„MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO“

"A healthy mind in a healthy body"


In our last post, we discussed the meaning of wellness, its complexity and its importance in one’s life. And now we’re going to teach you some Latin!

As previously stated, LeafCo has incorporated a six-domain model into its holistic wellness approach, which includes the ‘physical’ as one of its domains.


But that one seems obvious right? If we’re trying to achieve our full potential, we must go on a journey called wellness, and down that road, we need to take care of our physical and mental well-being. Therefore, we will have to look after our bodies. Even the ancient Romans, thousands of years before today, coined the phrase “Mens sana in corpore sano” which translates to “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. Yet, what does it mean to have a healthy body? Does that mean going every day to the gym? And how is that connected with the healthy mind? What you’ll soon learn is that physical well-being is so much more than “looking fit” and how people often tend to forget all those “obvious” guidelines to maintain it.


What is meant by physical wellness?

Hudson-Vitale and Waltz (2020) implement the six domain model of wellness in their work defined physical domain as strategies consisting of guidelines that help individuals stay fit, healthy and energised with the focus on movement, nutrition and rest. Other models of wellness that we mentioned in the previous blog don`t have the same number of domains or they are using different names for it, but it is interesting that the physical domain of wellness is common to all of them. There are some differences in defining what can be considered under the ‘physical domain’ where they expand the mentioned definition by also adding staying safe (Schultze-Lutter, Schimmelmann and Schmidt, 2016 ) and recognizing the need to work on preventing illness and injury (Northwestern University, 2023).


How can I work on my physical wellness and what can I gain from it?

When physical wellness is mentioned, the first thing that often comes to mind is gym and daily exercise. Despite appearances, gym-goers are not necessarily the healthiest of people… JUST because they go to the gym. This activity must be balanced with good nutrition, restful sleep and mindfulness practice. In fact, it is very possible to get physically fit without a gym!

Perhaps the most interesting fact about this domain is how small, everyday actions could make a serious difference to our well-being. And those actions can be very simple and accessible to anyone willing to take some time out of their day to work on themselves.


There could be written a whole book of various tips for improving your physical wellness, but here we bring you some of the most meaningful and often most overlooked ones. What difference can applying these habits to our lives make to our well-being? Research is proving that every listed tip is significantly beneficial for our wellness. There have been numerous studies, throughout the years, conducted on various groups of people, that resulted in highlighting the mentioned “small” steps we sometimes take for granted.

While going through this list, you may do a quick check-in: Are there some habits that you are already practising? On the other hand, you may come across aspects you could improve.


You should drink more water!

It is recommended that men drink approximately 3 litres per day, whereas women should drink at least 2 litres per day. You should also lower the intake of drinks full of sugar (especially fizzy drinks). So next time you reach for Coca-Cola, try drinking some water instead. For example, you can try and put a clock on your working table. Give yourself a task to drink some water every full hour. You can also set a timer on your mobile phone. If you would like to bring that on the next level, you can find a lot of helpful applications that can be downloaded on your phone (e.g. Water Reminder - Remind Drink). Drinking enough water every day prevents dehydration which affects both your physical and mental health e.g. constipation, forming kidney stones, unclear thinking, and mood change (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022).


You should eat healthier!

That implies an increase in fruits and vegetables on your daily menu, while at the same time reducing sweets and snacks. Almonds and strawberries could easily replace your cravings for snacks and sweets - find the combination that works for you. Think about using honey instead of sugar when possible (for example, in your daily coffee). You can try implementing the 80/20 rule for eating. It refers to a guide for your daily diet in which 80% should consist of nutritious food and the other 20% is for you to choose food that you really like, in moderation (e.g. have a piece of your favourite cake).


Consuming a well-balanced diet, amongst other things, provides you with enough energy for your daily activities, helps you grow and stay strong and it’s good for your immune system (National Health Service inform, 2023).


You should move your body!

Exercise is an important part of anyone’s health, especially nowadays when a lot of people are spending their working hours sitting in front of the computer. If you have an opportunity to go to the gym, you should pursue it! Besides taking care of your physical form, the gym offers you a great opportunity to meet new people and work on your goal setting skills and offers motivation as well. Nevertheless, there are many other options if you feel like gym is just not for you. The most important thing is that you move – that could be achieved, for example, through dancing, swimming, taking a walk every day or using a jumping rope.


Kelly et al. (2018) have collected research that was investigating the associations and effects of walking when considering 8 mental health outcomes: depression, anxiety, self-esteem, psychological stress, psychological well-being, subjective well-being, resilience and social isolation and loneliness. Key findings of their review were found either preventive, treatment, or both effects of walking on all of the mentioned outcomes except resilience.


You should get proper sleep!

Sleep is very frequently missed out in the equation of taking care of one’s body. Sometimes life can get very busy and we are forced to cut down our sleeping hours. However, where possible, most people need 8 hours of sleep every day. Duration of sleep is very important, but also have in mind the quality of that sleep! Try to reduce use of technology before going to sleep. At least one hour before going to bed, you shouldn't look at your phone, computer or TV screen because it lowers the quality of sleep. Try reading a book instead.


Regarding the importance of sleep, Milojevich and Lukowski (2016) did a study on university students to examine the relationship between sleeping and mental health. They found a connection between lower quality of sleep at night and different aspects of impaired mental health outcomes such as: increased externalizing problems (particularly aggressive and rule-breaking problems), increased internalizing problems (particularly anxiety and somatic complaints), symptoms of psychological distress, attention deficit/hyperactivity problems and depressive problems.


You should practice some relaxation and self-regulation techniques!

There are a lot of breathing exercises and muscle relaxation exercises that are easy to do and don’t require special equipment. The only thing you will need is to make room each day, to find a peaceful spot to practice some conscious breathing or relaxation techniques - even a couple of minutes are impactful!

In their paper, Tavoian and Craighead (2023) argue that practicing deep breathing exercises (DBE) should be also encouraged by companies and included in the work culture. DBE refers to several types of paced breathing methods including abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing and yogic breathing (Pranayama). In their review they portrayed how breathing interventions have both physiological and psychological impact on individuals such as lowered blood pressure, reducing feelings of anxiety, depression and anger-hostility and improving mental health.


Take-aways

There is lots of evidence showing the importance of taking simple steps towards physical wellness. The truth lies in the science: simple and obvious things can impact the quality of our life on a deep level. Try to take away one or two actions that you can apply in your daily life to boost your physical wellness, today!

If you would like to learn more about specific domains of wellness and interesting findings that have been discovered, stay tuned because soon we will bring you more intriguing content!


References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Water and Healthier Drinks. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/water-and-healthier-drinks.html (Date of Access: 1.4.2023.)

Hudson-Vitale, C. and Waltz, R. M. (2020). Caring for our colleagues: Wellness and support strategies for remote library teams. College & Research Libraries News, 81(10), 494.

Kelly, P., Williamson, C., Niven, A. G., Hunter, R., Mutrie, N. and Richards, J. (2018). Walking on sunshine: scoping review of the evidence for walking and mental health. British journal of sports medicine, 52(12), 800-806.

Milojevich, H. M. and Lukowski, A. F. (2016). Sleep and mental health in undergraduate students with generally healthy sleep habits. PloS one, 11(6), e0156372.

National Health Service inform (2023). Health benefits of eating well. https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/food-and-nutrition/eating-well/health-benefits-of-eating-well (Date of Access: 1.4.2023.)

Northwestern University (2023). Physical wellness. Physical Wellness: Wellness at Northwestern - Northwestern University (Date of Access:13.4.2023.)

Schultze-Lutter, F., Schimmelmann, B. G., & Schmidt, S. J. (2016). Resilience, risk, mental health and well-being: Associations and conceptual differences. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 25, 459-466.

Tavoian, D. and Craighead, D. H. (2023). Deep breathing exercise at work: Potential applications and impact. Frontiers in Physiology, 14, 23.

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