Visualising the Components of a Healthy Lifestyle
By Jurie G. Rossouw
Achieving a sense of mental wellbeing that includes neurological health requires the optimisation of a range of interacting lifestyle components. It can be a complex task to keep track of each of these components and how they relate, especially given the various factors that can influence wellbeing and self-esteem. To facilitate this, a visualisation of these components can be a powerful tool to aid understanding and track progress to enhanced self-esteem.
The food pyramid is a good example of a simple ocular tool that helps to illustrate the components of a healthy diet. In a exchangeable way, we can use this concept to visualise the components that make up a healthy life style. By constructing a ‘ mental fitness pyramid ’, we can show each of these components in layers that support subsequent layers above, distinctly illustrating their interactional nature. This visual image can accelerate cognition and internalization of what it means to live a healthy life style for both physical and mental wellbeing1 .
This pyramid is an augmentation of Maslow ’ sulfur theories and incorporates the latest views from the field of neuropsychotherapy to build a plan that actively includes research on neurological health. The follow paragraph detail each of the layers and their components.
Physical health – the foundation of the pyramid
Robust physical health, of both the soundbox and particularly the brain, is a foundational component of genial fitness. Failing physical health may sabotage efforts to enhance self-esteem and it is significantly associated with depressive and anxiety disorders2. Evidence clearly shows that even simpleton deficiencies in vitamins or nutrients can result in symptoms such as confusion, fatigue, and depression 3. A healthy brain allows for more reproducible department of energy and whole-brain activation to deal more effectively with every-day challenges .
Four major factors contribute to physical health:
- Healthy eating is needed to keep the brain nourished with the right nutrients, including protein4, dietary fats5, vitamins and minerals3. Just as important, healthy eating keeps unhealthy foods away from the brain, such as sugars and high-GI carbohydrates6,7 which have been shown to have addictive properties and reduce neurotrophic factors.
- Exercise is important for long term brain health through the release of neurotrophins that help the brain to adapt and learn, while also protecting it against neurodegenerative diseases8. Ideally, at least three sessions of aerobic or weight training9 per week should be included.
- Quality sleep is critical for the brain to consolidate and store memories, as well as perform neural adaptation10. Sleep deprivation has a strong negative effect on brain health, including an increase in cortisol levels and reduced prefrontal cortex activity11,12. Lack of sleep can also result in increased amygdala activation, resulting in increased impulsive eating of high calorie foods13. Current research suggests a requirement of around seven to eight hours of sleep each night14.
- Enriched environments are those that you find stimulating and rewarding15. This includes the quality of the environment itself and the attitude taken towards it. Enriched environments play a major role in the physical health of the brain, particularly through higher order neural structuring and is discussed in more detail in the sections below.
Basic needs – what the brain needs to thrive
Creating a provoke and rewarding environment requires a basic cognition of what the brain needs to function at its best. When we give our brain what it needs, we can start living in a way that maximises our brain function and we can experience a in truth carry through and satisfy animation .
There are three basic human needs16:
- Attachment comes from our evolution into social beings. We have an incredibly deep desire to be connected, support others and receive support. Attachment includes approach and avoidance patterns that influence motivational schemas throughout life.
- Control and orientation refers to the craving for feelings of safety and security, as well as having multiple realistic options available to act upon. Orientation more specifically refers to the need to be being able to understand events and accurately assess situations so that the world makes sense to us.
- Pleasure and avoidance of pain is a central part of brain function and basic neural chemistry. Dopamine releases to motivate us towards more pleasurable activities, while the amygdala fires to help us avoid painful situations.
Having an understand of these basic needs enables us to develop a more accurate appraisal of current activities and goals to determine whether these are addressing the cardinal needs of the brain. Each of the basic needs require physical health to provide a sound foundation for maximal higher-order brain serve .
Quality beliefs – shape internal beliefs to maximise brain function
Beliefs are what we hold to be true about the worldly concern we live in. Emotions, thoughts and actions flow from these beliefs. Beliefs are rarely actively challenged, as they form throughout our lives without us paying besides much attention to them. importantly, many of our impression imprint during childhood, before adequate mechanisms have developed to accurately doubt and analyze information and situations. This results in the formation of wrong or unhelpful beliefs that go undisputed into our pornographic lives, causing unnecessary pain and anxiety. Changing belief includes making changes to fundamental outlooks on life and biases. For model, a late study has shown that holding a bias to interpret ambiguous events in a positive means results in a sextuple decrease in depressive symptoms17 .
The importance of this layer in the pyramid is a admonisher to constantly question and review beliefs to ensure they rest on a basis of rationality. This process builds choice beliefs that are more useful, practical and conducive to the skill of goals .
Personal resilience – respond positively to adverse situations
personal resilience is the ability to positively respond to adverse situations18. We all have to respond to unmanageable situations, but the key is to respond to them in a cocksure way, which includes the active employment of positive emotions19. resilience is valuable in dealing with common challenges such as difficult decisions, ruffianly deadlines, personal crises, and stress. Higher levels of resilience let improved management of these situations, or flush prevention of certain minus events through proactive action .
Personal resilience can be improved by:
- Being better at problem solving and having confidence in your own judgement. This requires higher prefrontal cortex activation and is impeded by higher amygdala activation
- Being realistically optimistic rather than overly optimistic, allowing for difficult realities to be faced while still being hopeful that they can be overcome
- Involving others and having a support network in place, feeding into our basic needs for attachment and control
- Having firm values and principles, and being committed to your actions
- Embracing change and actively working to change oneself to adapt. This requires higher levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor to facilitate brain adaptation to new situations and environments20
While humans all have different levels of personal resilience, this can be enhanced by actively focusing on improvement. Being more resilient builds the ability to stay focused on and achieve goals, even through difficult periods, to work towards a higher sense of dignity .
Clear goals – the top of the pyramid
clear goals sit at the top of the pyramid and are differentiated from normal goals through clarity and congruity. Having clear goals means having sum clarity on what one wants to achieve, the steps needed to achieve each goal, and prioritisation to clarify what stands above all else. This includes considering the consequences of the choose goals and the path ahead .
congruity is critical for clear goals. Goals that are not congruous may oppose each other, resulting in a clash of efforts that becomes a source of frustration, disappointment and anxiety. Congruency means that goals work together and support each early .
Klaus Grawe 21 summed this up perfectly, stating that we are in our most positive state of matter ( happiness and fulfillment ) when “…current perceptions and goals are completely congruent with one another, and the transpiring mental activity is not disturbed by any competing intentions”.
Having well-defined goals and knowing how to achieve them makes it easier to navigate unmanageable situations and try, allowing us to focus efforts on what matters most, helping to reduce amygdala activation and anxiety in twist. This ability to focus effort on what is most crucial builds towards a more satisfy and satisfy life22 .
Self-esteem enhancement – the end result
self-esteem enhancement includes dignity, the confidence to explore our own creativity, effectively solve complex problems, and having the confidence to engage in higher brain think. While the pyramid represents the components of mental fitness that we have aim control over, self-esteem enhancement sits on exceed of the pyramid as the completion of all the other components .
Any shortcomings within the other components of the pyramid can compromise self-esteem enhancement. consequently, the pyramid provides a simple cock to help identify and diagnose where there may be a defect, and provide a clear view of what needs to be done to build a healthy life style. All the components work in concert towards better health, improved risk management abilities and increased mastery of skills, which has been shown to predict higher self-esteem 23 .
Using the pyramid to check mental fitness
Being mentally meet means having the psychological stamina to make the correct decisions every day to reach goals and achieve enhanced self-esteem. The pyramid provides a ocular tool to check mental seaworthiness against, by simply answering the following five questions :
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- Do you consistently eat healthy, exercise and get quality sleep to ensure you have a healthy brain?
- Does your lifestyle and goals address each of the basic needs?
- Do you consciously question your own beliefs to weed out unhelpful beliefs and biases?
- Are you resilient and able to positively respond to stressful or adverse situations?
- Do you have absolute clarity of what your goals are and the kind of person you want to become?
Answering “ No ” to any of the above questions may highlight a gap in mental fitness and, more importantly, an opportunity for self-improvement. The mental fitness pyramid is a useful ocular instrument that helps keep traverse of development areas and progress towards build enhanced self-esteem, and ensures it is built upon a solid foundation of neurological health and healthy think patterns .
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