Tag Archives: success

3 Simple Ways to Improve both Mental and Physical Health (plus bonus tips)

“Mental health and physical health have a bi-directional and complex relationship” (Bhugra, Kar, and Lawton-Smith, 2014). 

Essentially what that alludes to is how our thought patterns, feelings, and attitudes can influence certain things in the physical realm, such as biological factors and outcomes, just as what we do physically can influence our mental state. The landscape for this topic is further entangled by various social factors.  Studies on the neuroscience involved with the tight connections between mental and physical health are emerging and the findings have been compelling.    

In a nutshell, the intricate dance between mental and physical health plays a significant role in our overall health and sense of well-being.  While it’s easy to get caught up with visuals and images of fit, tone bodies as a representation of good health.  It is also important to keep the health of our mind in check which also takes consistent “exercise”.

The good news is that there are ways to manage both mental and physical health in tandem throughout the year.

Pick a physical activity plan right for you with a focus on consistent daily movement and conditioning.

Movement improves circulation and, respectively, blood flow to the brain.  There is also a co-dependent relationship between physical activity and stress levels.  Appropriate daily movement can help reduce adverse stress levels which can lead to better mental clarity and focus.  Furthermore, exercise can also serve as a moving meditation allowing for concentration on the patterns of movement.  Each of these factors, physical activity and stress levels, influences how we sleep which is incredibly relevant for cognition and certain biochemical facets related to the health of our brain.

Bottom line:  stay physically active for both mental and physical health.

Bonus tip:  Lift weights to reduce anxiety!  Not only is weight-bearing exercise fantastic for your physique, including internal components such as bone health, but it can also be great for mental health as well.

Check-in on your mental patterns and habits. 

Destructive mental habits, such as repetitive self-pity or ruminating, can essentially hijack positive motivations.  When this occurs, it may prevent taking relevant action when doing so is needed the most.  It can also influence our health-related behaviors and outcomes, as well as relationships with others.

Working to re-prioritize mental tendencies and maladaptive behaviors to, then, focus on the proactive practice of more healthful patterns can enhance emotional well-being.  Furthermore, studies have suggested, for example, that exercises for mindfulness can be a helpful antidote to negative mental tendencies such as rumination.

Bottom line:  clearing negative, adverse mental patterns can positively influence a sense of well-being and lead to a greater sense of motivation which is critical when it comes to taking care of both mental and physical aspects of health.

Bonus tip:  Identifying and repositioning mental habits is also an area where a mentor or appropriate supportive professional can help with identify realistic and actionable steps for change, then support for staying on track.

Pay attention to breathing patterns and consider targeted approaches.

Appropriate breathing patterns are important during exercise and they can also play a role within the day to day through the activation of the relaxation response.  Targeted breathing patterns, such as mechanisms of deep breathing, are also thought to help improve blood flow, relax muscles, support metabolism, regulate the immune system, and reduce stress levels.  Incorporating targeted approaches to breathwork has not only been shown to support various mental related conditions, such as anxiety or depression, but it has also been influential in chronic medical conditions that may be impairing physical health.  Furthermore, the practice of yoga has been touted for its emphasis on breathing and physical conditioning.

Bottom line:  breathing techniques can be supportive of both mental and physical health, particularly due to the reduction of adverse, elevated stress levels.

Bonus tip:  Harvard Health provides a simple, implementable approach HERE.

Final thoughts

Winding down through methods such as spending time in nature or taking a “digital detox” can also be influential to both mental and physical health.  Also, general wellness, including nutrition, is supportive.

In closing, the focus of mind-body connections is emerging in emphasis.  Although certain principles have been around in sort of old-world wisdom for centuries, new research in areas such as neuroscience is further confirming the various connecting facets.

A solid, “whole-health” approach is to exercise both the mind and body.

Photo credit(s):  Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.


Bhugra, D., Kar, A., and Lawton-Smith, S. (2014, Jun).  Integration of Mental and Physical Health Services: Lessons.  Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health 1(1), 15-21.

Cherry, K. (2019, Sep 30).  Reasons to Do a Digital Detox?  Verywell Mind.  Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/why-and-how-to-do-a-digital-detox-4771321.

Chopra Center, The. (2018, Oct 24).  How Breathwork Benefits the Mind, Body, and Spirit.  Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/how-breathwork-benefits-the-mind-body-and-spirit.

Connor, P. J., Herring, M. P., and Caravalho, A. (2010, May 7).  Mental Health Benefits of Strength Training in Adults.  American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396.

Gordon, B. R., McDowell, C. P., Lyons, M., and Herring, M.P. (2017, Dec).  The Effects of Resistance Exercise Training on Anxiety:  A Meta-analysis and Meta-regression Analysis of Randomized Control Trials.  Sports Medicine, 47(12), 2521-2532.

Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. (n.d.).  Mindfulness|Defined.  Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition.

Harvard Health (2018, Apr 13).  Relaxation Techniques:  Breath Control Helps Quell Errant Stress Response.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response.

Kleckner, I. R., et al. (2017, Apr 24).  Evidence for a large-scale brain system supporting allostasis and interoception in humans.  Nature Human Behaviour, 1 (0069).

Madell, R. (2016, Mar 14).  Exercise as Stress Relief.  Healthline.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/exercise-stress-relief#1.

Palma, Z. (2019, Aug 12).  What is Breathwork and Does It Work?  Parsley Health Articles.  Retrieved from https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/breathwork-does-it-work.

Rupprecht S., Walach H. (2016).  Mindfulness at Work: How Mindfulness Training May Change the Way We Work.  In: Wiencke M., Cacace M., Fischer S. (eds) Healthy at Work, (311-327).  Switzerland:  Springer International Publishing.

Sartini-Cprek, N. (2017, Apr  12).  The Mind-Body Connection:  How Mental and Physical Wellness Are Linked.  Good Therapy Blog.  Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/mind-body-connection-how-mental-physical-wellness-are-linked-0412174.

Semeco, A. (2017, Feb 10).  The Top 10 Benefits of Regular Exercise.  Healthline.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise.

Sultanoff, B. A. (2002).  Breath Work.  In: Shannon, S. (eds) Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Mental Health, (209-227).  Elsevier, Inc.

Vago, D. R. (2014, Jan).  Mapping Modalities of Self-Awareness in Mindfulness Practice:  A Potential Mechanism for Clarifying Habits of Mind.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1307(1), 28-42.

Verplanken, B. and Fisher, N. (2014, Oct).  Habitual Worrying and Benefits of Mindfulness. Mindfulness, 5566–573.

Verplanken, B., Friborg, O., Wang, C. E., Trafimow, D., & Woolf, K. (2007).  Mental habits: Metacognitive reflection on negative self-thinking.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(3), 526–541.

US Department of Health and Human Services|National Institutes of Health. (n.d.).  Why Should Scientists Study Neuroscience?  Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/neuro/conditioninfo/study.

“Life by Design”?!? …Pulling back the curtain on this buzzy concept

The phrase Life by Design seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days.  However, what the heck does it mean?  …or, perhaps, should it mean?

The perception of life by design can easily be swayed by lofty posts on photo sharing and marketing sites (you know the ones) of excess photos from beach walks, coffee breaks on decks with breathtaking scenery, and/or work on a laptop in a picturesque setting that is more or less polar opposite to an office.

Although these images are certainly inspiring and pretty to look at, they may not be representative of entirely realistic goals for everyone.

So what IS… realistic in thinking about a “life by design”?   

Essentially, life by design is an approach to mindful living with respect to overall well-being for one’s self as well as their influence on others.  Often this would consider how one eats, spends time, thinks, and outwardly behaves.  It may also include how and where money is spent.

A positive life by design typically consists of specific intentions and a heightened self-awareness for one’s abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and inter-relationships with others.  Meanwhile, as further illustrated in this Inc article, Do These 5 Things to Live Life by Your Own Design, it also emphasizes not playing a victim’s role.

However, most of all, it’s realistic.  Instead of a fantasy, it’s more of a grounded perspective on or a mindset for one’s circumstances which ultimately influences personal behavior, conduct, and/or engagement with the world.

…and, how can you make the shift?!?

A few steps to take in the shift to a more positive Life by Design are;

Identify your why or why’s:  This is likely the most cliche, yet relevant step in any personal or professional development plan.  However, there is a legitimate reason to give this significant priority.

People with a strong sense of purpose typically live happier and less stressful as well as have stronger relationships or bonds with others.  In fact, it is a key pillar in the Blue Zones Project, a world-wide, geographical research initiative centered on groups of people with most favorable health outcomes.

A simple way to integrate this into your life is to find time for self-reflection and write a few things down.  This can be a consistent placeholder on the calendar or something you do when the thought strikes you in some sort of easily accessible journaling tool.

Set realistic goals:  There are more than one valid frameworks to set great goals, aims, or objectives.  One option that coaches love is the SMART goal framework (click for a worksheet from the University of San Diego).  The approach has been leveraged in numerous evidence-based behavior change programs, is easy to teach and implement, and, best of all, “smart” is more than just an acronym!  The framework can help break down overarching goals into actionable steps which can be oriented towards daily, weekly, monthly or annually.

The art, so to speak, is to set goals, aims, and objectives that are both intentional and creative.  This is where visualization tools can come in handy.  We have likely all seen those vision board parties…  you get the idea!  Focus on where you can thrive vs get bogged down or riddled by bottlenecks in productivity.

Great times for goal setting and/or review are at the end or start of a year and some version of a mid-point to the increment of time that you are trying to achieve the goal.  Finding time and space where you can be clear of distractions, think creatively, and have sufficient duration for a full brainstorm.

Identify how you are spending your time:  This more or less boils down to making determinations for when you are operating on auto-pilot and, perhaps, not actually productive.  What are your power hours?  When do you feel most creative?  Furthermore, are you including time to focus on your passions, causes you wish to support, and relationships?

Once you have answers to these type of questions, you can shift your projects on your calendar around to best meet your personal tendencies and better fit to desired outcomes.  Bundling tasks that are synergistic with one another is also a great tactic.

My resourceful friend Janet, owner of Aligned Biz Systems, has even more tips and tricks on her company blog.

Reframe obstacles or challenges:  A significant facet to life by design is how you respond to your specific circumstances.  Behavior results from a combination of conscious and subconscious minds.

The subconscious essentially catalogs all the information you have been exposed to and experiences you have had across the course of your life.  It is typically more influential than many people realize.  Counseling Psychologist, Christiana Star, discusses this further in her Thrive Global submission, How Your Subconscious Beliefs Affect Your Life.

Reflection on how you have responded to hard times or circumstances in the past can help to illustrate tendencies.  This Mind Body Green article, Out-smart Self-sabotage: 5 Steps to Change Subconscious Beliefs, sheds more light on this.

A basic reframe tactic is to recognize setbacks as key lessons learned or stepping stones.  Furthermore, clear and transparent identification of what gets in your way can help determine where a little personal development and growth work may be relevant.

Be open to support when needed:  “Superwoman” or “superman” may be fun to watch on tv or in the theater, but is completely fictitious.  At some point, we all need a little support to balance our potential weaknesses or challenges we may be facing.  Most of all, accountability can help us stay on track and accomplish things.

This HuffPost article, Life by Design, Not by Default, presents a light-hearted, yet likely relatable story of “falling on her face” a few times.  Yet, details further the intricacy behind making a positive “life by design” a priority including surrounding yourself with positive examples.

Finally… define your version of success!  (BONUS TIP: this may not be the status quo!)

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.