It’s becoming pretty clear that the mind and the matter that is our body need to work in conjunction with each other for us to live our best lives…
In the past when we talk about health, the mind was not a priority. The physical body was more important. As the years went by, more diseases started to be noticed and the focus started to shift to the internal side of the human body completely excluding the mental more spiritual than physical aspects of our bodily function. In Africa, mental health has been even more neglected due to the fact that we have so many other seemingly more pressing issues to deal with; for example, HIV, Malaria and a plethora of other physical diseases, poverty, leadership and the list is endless but for the most part, mental health is still viewed as a white man’s privilege disease in most parts of the continent! It is important that we educate one another and prioritize the health of our minds above anything else because one cannot function to their highest capabilities if the mind is not taken care of in the same way that we take care of our bodies.
The two, mind and body, actually need each other more than we know in order for each one of function.
When I think about why my mind needs my body to be active, I think that in order for a machine to function properly, all the other parts need to be working as well. So that whatever the machine needs to fulfil can be fulfilled without any glitches. One has to be fully aware of social, economic and environmental factors that can cause detriment to one’s mental health and consciously create a lifestyle that can allow both to be optimal.
Life can become difficult if your mind is disadvantaged in some way or just not consciously taken care of; attention span, retaining and retrieving information, performing certain tasks that require attention to detail – all these things require your mind to be working at its best and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Taking care and understanding your mind can help you a lot, from communicating with people and understanding your triggers. It helps to be mindful of your behavior and surprise surprise, all of this is related to how healthy your mind is.
We need to understand why our bodies need our minds to be in tip-top shape, what causes the imbalance and how we can prevent it.
Please note: If you are suffering from mental illness, please talk to someone who is willing to help, visit a psychologist or contact the following:
24hr Helpline 0800 12 13 14
Let’s explore some of the triggers of mental health and how self-body and mind care can prevent you falling into depression:
* Poverty: This happens through the stress of food and income insecurity, increased trauma, illness and injuries and the lack of resources to assist make the situation better.
It is unfortunate that our continent is still leading with poverty and I guess if we have to compare our standard of living with the rest of the world, we are indeed very poor. But lack also translates into opportunity. We can create opportunities from poverty; opportunities that will not only benefit yourself but for others so that we can all have some source of income, that will make a difference. Investing more and being active in agriculture is also important in fighting poverty. Our countries are very rich in that aspect and perhaps we just need to stop looking at what is on the table next door and focus on what we have around us to put on the table. And no agriculture is not just for people living in the village. It’s important for those of us living in the city to become conscious of where we are in the agribusiness value chain and buy products that support this value chain aka buy home grown produce. The nutritional benefits even surpass the economic benefits when it comes to mental health.
Bottom line is poverty in Africa needs all of us to be involved otherwise those affected by it right now won’t be able to contribute in making this world a better one for all of us.
* Dormancy: Walking less, not going to gym, not doing any physical activity.
Dormancy may be good for an organism in its rowing phase but it’s definitely not good for human beings for both physical and mental health. In late 2018, South Africa was reported to be the most obese country in the sub-Saharan Africa. It is almost surreal to believe because I personally used to think that because most of us live and are from rural areas and the fact that we are “active” people (The average black South African does a fair amount of walking) then we are healthy, but I was young at the time. With all the fast food joints, cars and “no time to exercise” lifestyle urbanization has brought to Africa, we are becoming less and less physically active. If you want to take care of your mind, exercise is very important and you need to make time for it. Start small, stairs instead of an elevator. Walk to the store instead of driving if you can and eventually work your way to a consistent physical exercise schedule that will keep the blood flow to your brain healthy and strong. Studies have shown People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And its also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges like depression, anxiety and stress as it relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins in the brain. Physical activity also helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.
* Poor nutrition: Not eating the correct balance of food makes you susceptible to many diseases such as tooth decay, high blood pressure, high cholesterol heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, some cancers, depression and eating disorders. Most of the today’s killer diseases including cancer are largely due to poor nutrition so imagine what a bad diet is doing to the mind seeing as the mind’s inability to clearly communicate functions to your body is in itself a disease!
We have to change our minds when it comes to what we are feeding our bodies and yes it will be hard to change lifelong habits but happiness is a great exchange no?
A good place to start in changing your mind about food is to start small. These FAD DIETS DON’T WORK!! For this shift to have a real impact on your life, the changes have to be permanent because you will end up even more depressed after you inevitably get off the fad diet. Have a good variety of healthy foods from the five food groups each day. Try two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day, slowly cutting down sugary, fatty (the wrong fats) or salty food. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Try to plan your meals ahead and shop for healthy ingredients, (Find your local farmers market!) and finally and most importantly, cook more instead of going out. Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress and depression.
* Lack of social connection: Having no close connection to humans.
We live in a world where we are more connected more than ever via the internet and loneliness is one of the major causes of depression in our lives. We need that human connection because we are part of an ecosystem that is connected to each other. When we are not tapped into that element of our being, we will most definitely get depressed. It’s important to find your tribe and build human connections and unfortunately to do that, you have to turn off your screens. Meet new people, go to events, converse with your colleagues, invite your close family members to your house and be open. However, do not force the connections as this might lower your self-esteem. For every person that does not want to be around you, there are over 6 billion more people waiting to potentially fill that spot.
The points above are crucial in maintaining a healthy mind. Our body needs our minds as much as our minds needs our body.
Written by: Ayanda Msomi @AyandaBeing