For a while now, I suspect, much of Western medicine has been operating under a set of false assumptions. I think it may have started off with the acceptance of placebo tests as creating separation of all possible variables.
Western medicine did acknowledge the possibility of “thinking yourself healthy” to come up with a placebo test in regards to pharmaceuticals. However, that does nothing but attempt to disqualify a subconscious reaction to at most 3 brief ‘random exposures‘ of thought per day. It creates statistical significance against the failure of drug xyz to cure whatever it claims to. Nowhere to my knowledge has western culture attempted to isolate and identify any physical response to specific patterns of thought.
So it goes that for the same reason we drive petroleum instead of peanut oil, we take Prozac instead of an hour to chill. But, this post isn’t about drawing attention to corporate a$$-fuckery, it’s about drawing attention to yourself and all the things that go on inside yourself that either enable or limit your output.
Mindfulness, meditation, grounding. We use these to alleviate mental fatigue. However, there is so much more going on. You are what you eat and you get what you believe you will get. A healthy, balanced, and preferably seasonal diet goes a long way. So, that’s looking at things a little more holistically. A positive mindset sure helps, but here’s the thing: you just don’t always feel positive, right? Exactly how do you set your mind positive when it isn’t, and should you even force it in the first place?
The connection? Staying active. I haven’t figured it out yet, but after this last several weeks it is clear that the physiological response to exercise is extensive.
I’ll spare you the ugly details, but suffice to say our household was a bit out of hand. Being tight for money, I have been putting in long days again. Long days usually mean that 1, I’m not going for a run and 2, neither is Kim and 3, it probably won’t be the day after the long days are done, either. Just like that, we dropped our running routine. We didn’t sit down to do the budget for weeks. The kids were terrors. The house looked like a dump and each room was growing it’s own flavor of gagging wretched smell. I bought another pack of cigs. Kim commented on said tobacco and I snapped at her like a jerk. It got out of hand.
We paid rent on the first, stocked the fridge, did the laundry, and Saturday I let myself have a compulsive cleaning fit. Kim did more cleaning on Sunday. Whew! I sure feel a lot better! Kim, not so much. She admitted she had been feeling extra emotional despite all the cleaning and settling up. No matter how much sleep she got, she felt constantly fatigued.
So, we are back into the running. We did a quick 3 mile there-n-back, non scenic run. It was rough, and my phone had conveniently died overnight, so I couldn’t give my brain the satisfaction of numerically defining the degree that it sucked! Aside from the expected soreness, Kim is feeling more like her normal self again. She feels more positive more often and feels other than positive less intensely and less often.
So, there’s where we can start to recognize what exercise does for our overall system. The advice of just about every GP Kim talks to is to take it easy on the cardio. However, since taking up running, her thyroid has been doing a better job of keeping up. Every visit, her blood work shows her needing less and less supplementing. Medical ‘professionals’ are astounded. How on earth can diet and exercise possibly improve thyroid function?
Well, western medicine practitioners, it’s time to wake up and start getting a grasp on the more subtle connection between mind and body. We have long known of the ability to think ourselves physically ill but for some odd reason we shrug off the idea of thinking ourselves into wellness.
So we have this conundrum where we are tired, so we think we have no energy for exercise. We are less productive despite putting in more hours. We eat our emotions, then our organs pay the price. We are stressed, so we give our dopamine receptors some stimulating with whatever our personal fix is. –On a side note, I have to say I’m glad society is coming to recognize screen time and social media as addictions, and realizing that they have corroded their share of relationships.–
What to do?
I’m not a Nike fan, but they have the right slogan. Go running. Go swimming. Go for a walk to start. Go throw a Frisbee. Go do whatever you can tolerate doing to get your heart rate up. But Just Do It.
Not every day is going to be warm and welcoming, and you won’t have all the motivation every time. However, that release of tension and little bit of neuro receptor simulation lies just on the other side of doing it. Those days you just aren’t feeling it, the only thing you need to expect of yourself is a scant few minutes of the day to Do It.
Taking that first step gives you momentum you otherwise wouldn’t have. It circulates your fluids and gives your brain a fresh dose of oxygen to clear up. It alleviates the stiff, zombie like feeling your body gets after sleeping too long. Immediately after starting out, no matter how far or long you go, you can say you did it.
To be sure, having checked one item off your daily to-do list before breakfast is a great way to kindle motivation. I do think that another part of it is that you ultimately took that time for yourself, to do something healthy and beneficial for you. Having a fitness tracker has been nice in the sense that there is data to visually verify progress. Instead of letting that German Chocolate cake pile its guilt on you, look at how many miles you’ve put in this week. Maybe you just don’t feel like pounding miles of pavement, but if you run a few sprints, you can at least give yourself 15 minutes of getting your speed up.
So, it’s a silver lining thought pattern here. Usually, I would utilize such in a situation of reflecting on something that has already happened. However, I think the key is to minimize the threat of the task at hand. Everything seems more difficult if you generally feel less than highly ambitious. You have to bootstrap your body into that mode. Step outside, and tell yourself that you are going to keep going for however long you can because you know that on the other side of your activity, your day will be better for it.
Most systems with an input and output require some kind of priming. That is to say that you can’t just dump input material at full throttle and expect the system to process it. Your body requires a startup process before it can turn all the food input into physical and mental output. Just like a pump requires water in the impeller, a combustion engine needs mechanical turning over, and a computer must execute a booting process, your body must be made ready to perform.
Your body is a complex system of ongoing electrical and chemical reactions. Food and nutrition go in, hopefully your body properly processes it, and you are able to function. However, there are an overwhelming number of other inputs that affect your functioning. We know that circadian rhythms create very strong chemical reactions in our body, and not every body reacts exactly the same. We know that the amount of and spectrum of the light we receive affects our system. Completion of 90 minute sleep cycles, ambient temperature, ambient noises or sounds, amount of and quality of interaction with others, the list goes on and on. Our bodies and minds are bombarded with stimuli all our conscious day long and each one causes a unique electrical chemical reaction in your body. Furthermore, humans are given the gift and curse of meta cognition, yet another stimulus, but internal to the system rather than external.
Thinking about thinking and thinking about feeling. It’s a marginally stable feedback mechanism at best and it primarily controls all of our final output. There is no way to maintain a high rate of ‘productivity’ for any length of time without healthy thought patterns. Dare I say, there is no way to maintain physical health for any length of time without the same.
The phrase for this post is physical-hormonal-mental throughput, but I guess it would be more to the point to call it a well-being triangle. Each aspect has a profound effect on the others. It is difficult indeed to try to directly control or otherwise override the hormonal signals, which leaves only our mind and body to work with. As stated near the beginning, we can’t even always control our thoughts. We get stuck in a negative feedback loop of “why bother?”
Generally speaking, you always have control of your body. As such, you always have a way to trigger positive feedback via exercise. Unlike any chemical concoction you might want to Alice in Wonderland down your throat to gratify your choice of hormone receptors, exercise is a whole grain option that gives you the satisfying high along with a boost in immunity, removal of toxins, and a readiness for less than welcome stimuli in your day. The only real negative side effects are possible injury and increased caloric needs. Maybe not the latter so much, just for those of us with already hollow legs.
So go get some fitness! No matter what the rest of the day brings, you’ve at least done that much, and it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.