Reprinted from "Mind-Body Connection" issue of Visions Journal, 2014, 10 (2), p. 4
Eight issues ago we looked at wellness broadly. After a reader vote,* a subtheme emerged for our next look at the theme of wellness. This is that issue.
The way we talk about mental health in our culture, you’d think we were just floating heads in space. And the way we talk about substances, you would think either we were floating heads (‘it’s a question of willpower’) or headless bodies receiving a chemical impact from a drug, without context. We know it’s not that simple. And yet we still have a physical health system on one side and a mental health and addiction system on the other. Thankfully that’s changing, which makes this issue incredibly timely.
There has been a shift in recent years. Family doctors see it every day. Employers see it. Holistic health practitioners see it. Recreation staff see it. You go off work for chronic back pain, you’re off longer because of depression. You take up a sport in school that you like and your body image and anxiety improve and you drink or smoke less. You go in to your doctor complaining of real physical distress and you leave with a diagnosis of a mental illness.
As our populations age and we continue to not move or eat well, chronic disease rates swell and guess what? It’s not more pills that will stem the tide, but interventions looking at whole-person well-being. Our minds, moods, intentions and behaviours are grounded in our physical selves. When one is lifted the other is lifted by default. And when one is down, the other invariably goes down with it. Why has it taken us so long to start looking at both together?
Of course, many cultures intuitively know this better than we do. For example, all medicine wheels in Aboriginal cultures have at their base that you cannot separate emotional wellness from mental wellness from spiritual wellness from social wellness from physical wellness. They are all tied. And social wellness is relevant here. I think you will see in the pages ahead that it’s not as simple as ‘eat better and exercise more.’ Social support seems to be a key motivating ingredient to getting people to make changes to feeling better—mind and body. So grab some water, a healthy snack and a buddy… and keep reading.
*If you’d like to vote again, we’ll have a new poll up Dec 1 to vote on a subtheme for our Recovery issue. So check HeretoHelp.bc.ca soon and vote!
About the author
Sarah is Visions Editor and Director of Mental Health Promotion at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division