Happy body, happy mind - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

Happy body, happy mind

Written by on March 14, 2016 in Wellness, Work with 0 Comments

ALBTimes have changed a lot since our grandparents were in their prime. One major difference is that just a few generations ago, people were much more physically active than they are now. Think about it – these days, about the only time we ever get puffed or work up a sweat is when we’re at the gym. But back before the advent on a mass scale of labour saving devices, most people got fit and strong just living out their everyday lives.

To compare the way things were once upon a time with how they are now, and the consequences this is having on our physical and mental health is innovative mind-body expert Anna-Louise Bouvier presenting at Happiness & Its Causes 2013. Lucky us, Bouvier is back again this year to MC at the Happiness & Its Causes Conference 2016, and our brand new Wellness@Work Conference 2016 where she’ll also be participating in the afternoon’s Roundtable Discussions.

As a physio, Bouvier blames much of the neck and back pain, headaches and hip and knee problems she sees in her patients on their sedentary lifestyles. Her concern is that what are, in fact, symptoms of sitting for far too many hours every day in poor posture at our desks, in the car, in front of our computer, could lead to more serious mental and physical health problems down the track.

Bouvier says, “Physical inactivity is now rated as the fourth leading cause of global mortality due to its link to cancer, diabetes and stroke. And there’s a whole lot of research looking at the influence of sitting on your mind and your mood [in that] we’re seeing it’s very strongly linked to depression and anxiety.”

Human beings are animals and until very recently in our history, like most animals we spent a lot of our time on the move, foraging for food and doing battle against each other and the elements. It was an active way to live and ensured homo sapiens as a rule stayed neat and trim.

Even up until the 1950s and 1960s, before household appliances exploded on to the market, women did the majority of their cooking and cleaning by hand. Bouvier remembers as a child that her nona did everything manually from washing the clothes in a big copper to using a wooden spoon to beat cake batter. “She had arms like a wrestler but the posture of a countess,” Bouvier says.

Five decades later and it’s a completely different story in that the single body part that probably gets the greatest work out is our hands. Think how many hours you type away on your keyboard! And yes, this state of affairs is taking its toll. According to Bouvier, “tiredness is the single biggest thing people talk about.” Yet too few of us do anything constructive to address the root cause.

Instead, we try and prop ourselves up with sugar, caffeine and alcohol which just makes things even worse until eventually “your body says ‘if you’re going to keep trying to run on adrenaline all the time and you’re tired, and I’m telling you I’m not happy, then I’m going to stop you’.”

Bouvier says it’s at this point that many folk get sick. But even this doesn’t always serve as a wake up call. “For a lot of you, it will take a dose of the runs, the flu, back pain, a nasty rash, a few cold sores and then finally having a heart attack before you think ‘I can’t sustain this life’.”

The good news is, building a resilient body isn’t as hard as we might think. On the contrary, it’s really just a matter of getting “addicted to better habits” in relation to sitting, sleep, moving and stress, says Bouvier adding that habits, both good and bad, often lead to more of the same.

Take the bad habit of sitting on our butt too much. Because we’re not physically worn out when we go to bed, we don’t sleep well. This means we wake up tired and grumpy and definitely not in the mood for a yoga class. Conversely, when we exercise regularly, we sleep better and as a result, wake up in a much more energised frame of mind.

 

Anna-Louise Bouvier is an innovative mind-body expert and creator of the award-winning workplace mental health and wellbeing program Happy Body at Work. She is MCing at next month’s Happiness & Its Causes Conference and our brand new Wellness@Work Conference where she’ll also be participating in the afternoon’s Roundtable Discussions.

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