How much does your lifestyle actually impact your health?
When it comes to lifestyle habits they’re obvious habits that impact our health in a negative way like smoking, being inactive, sleeping less than 8 hours, and snorting cocaine. Given that you are avoiding these obvious offenders, it can seem trivial to adjust your lifestyle. Especially when a lot of lifestyle changes just don’t seem like they will make a big difference in your overall health.
This can be particularly true if you have ever received holistic health advice. You may think, “Is taking a deep breath before each meal really going to help me feel better? Or will I just feel like a hippie dippy idiot that will be laughed at by my family.”
Your feelings really do effect you physically.
It can be hard to imagine how something as simple as deep breathing can have a profound effect on your body. However, it does!
Your lifestyle plays a huge role in your overall health. Partly because your FEELINGS can create PHYSICAL health symptoms.
Here is where the nervous system comes into play.
Your nerves allow your brain to communicate to your organs in the body. Each nervous system pathway plays a role in how the brain and organs communicate and respond to one another.
The vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve starts in the brain stem and extends down to the pelvis. It extends from the brain and connects to the neck, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, stomach, small intestine, and colon. Because the vagus nerve stems from the brain and connects to other organs it allows the brain to communicate with the organs and vice versa. The vagus nerve helps maintain proper insulin and inflammation levels in the body. It also is needed to aid in proper digestion and lowers your heartrate. However, the vagus nerve can’t function properly if we feel stressed. Stress shuts down this commination pathway and causes physical health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and digestive issues. So when you live a high stress lifestyle it leads to physical health issues.
Why? Because information is constantly being passed between your organs and your brain.
Ever had a gut feeling? You can thank your enteric nervous system for that. When we feel physical changes in our bodies due to how we are feeling at the moment, it is due to our brain communicating to our organs via our nervous system. (It can also be due to our organs communicating to our brain.)
Ever felt your heart beat faster when you become anxious? This feeling of anxiousness is creating a physical symptom. The emotion (in this case anxiety) is produced in the brain. The nervous system communicates to our organ(s) (in this case the heart) which produces a physical symptom (rapid heartbeat). This means that our levels of stress and anxiety, among other feelings/emotions, directly impact the function of our organs and therefore our health.
Now you can see how when you constantly feel stressed, depressed, anxious, etc., it can contribute to and cause a myriad of physical health issues like high blood pressure, IBS, diarrhea, constipation, and blood sugar dysregulation. This is due to the brain using the nervous system to communicate to our organs what our feelings are. Which then, invokes a physical response from the organs themselves.
Our lifestyle habits have a huge role in our overall health. When we are in tune with our body talk it becomes clear how what we are feeling and how we are living effects our health.
The next time you feel an overwhelming feeling whether it is stress or delight, take a moment to assess how your body feels. Is your stomach in knots? Is your heart racing? Does your throat feel tight? Maybe you feel a sense of calm? This is your body talk. When you go about your day take a moment to stop and listen to what your body is saying to you. This way you can really start to hone in on how your lifestyle is affecting your health. Once you have a good understanding of how your lifestyle is impacting your health you can be proactive.
When we are in a constant state of stress, our autonomic nervous system is in a sympathetic state. In order to properly digest our food, we must be in a parasympathetic state. So, stress can keep you from properly digesting your food. This can lead to acid reflux, fatigue, constipation, and much more.
Luckily, they’re simple life hacks you can implement to help strengthen your vagus nerve and help switch your body into a parasympathetic state. Breathing techniques are some of the easiest and less time-consuming techniques.
When we listen to our bodies, healing can occur.
Listening to your body talk is the first step to figuring out how your lifestyle habits may be impacting your health. Working with a qualified practitioner may be necessary to help you figure out what your body talk means so you can start making the necessary lifestyle changes. Making small lifestyle changes can really add up, and taking them seriously will yield greater results. For instance, it may feel silly at first to take a deep breath before each meal, but once you start to feel better and your digestive symptoms start to disappear it won’t feel so silly anymore.