Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, MAPP '07, is the founder of Flourish, an organization dedicated to using research based tools to enable individuals and organizations to flourish. Emiliya fuses the best of Eastern philosophy with Western science to provide people with holistic tools to increase their happiness, well-being, and sense of flourishing. Full bio.
Emiliya's articles are here.
By Emiliya Zhivotovskaya
Editor’s Note: This is the first article by Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, and we are delighted to have her writing. In the past week, we have also had first time articles by Kirsten Cronlund and Louis Alloro, whom we are also thrilled to welcome as authors.
Have you ever been:
- So nervous that you made your stomach churn?
- So excited about something that you could hardly sit still?
- So worried you wound up sick over it?
These phenomena refer to the psychosomatic principle, that is, the mind’s ability to have physiological effects on the body. There may have been no physical reason for you not sitting still. Electrodes were likely not stimulating your muscles forcing you to be antsy. Your thoughts caused your experience.
A less prevalent concept is the somatopsychic principle (a term introduced by psychologists Nanette Mutrie and Guy Faulkner), and refers to the way in which the body affects the mind. Positive psychology goes hand-in-hand with positive physiology. Having a healthy body supports having a healthy mind. Countless studies support the many benefits of physical activity such as reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and increased bone, muscle and joint health. Physical activity releases positive brain chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. Other benefits include increased subjective well-being, positive mood and affect, decreased stress and anxiety, improved self-esteem and self-perception, improved sleep quality, and cognitive functioning.
Human beings are mammals meant for movement. A recent study shows that sitting for too long can increase risk for diseases because it has a negative effect on metabolism. Most Americans do not meet the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week. Not only does exercise counteract health concerns and act as an antidepressant; not exercising is like taking a depressant. Imagine that. Would you take a pill everyday that would make you depressed? Of course not. Sadly, however, many people do.
The other day I was driving through New York City and saw a man walking his dog across the street. However, the man was the only one doing the walking! The dog was sitting in a baby carriage merrily looking around, grinning and tongue hanging out, while his owner pushed him around. I did a double take. It is one thing for adults to make excuses about not exercising enough, but dogs have four feet instead of two for a reason. Could this signal an onset of puppy obesity, potentially escalating at the same frightening rate as childhood obesity?
What are some things you can do to encourage your somatopsychic life?
- Go for a walk or a bike ride.
- Call a few friends and get a basketball game together.
- Have a lot of e-mails to catch up on? Consider creating a treadmill walk-station. Businesses are buying these cleaver contraptions at $6,000+, you can make your own at home with a treadmill, a lap top, hospital tray table (or piece of wood), keyboard and mouse. See this picture of my Walk-Station. I absolutely love it; I walk while I work.
Image: Dog Yoga.
* Mutrie, N. & Faulkner, G. (2004). Physical activity: Positive psychology in motion. In Linley, P. A. & Joseph, S. (Eds.), Positive Psychology in Practice (pp. 146-164). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
* University of Missouri-Columbia (2007, November 20). Sitting May Increase Risk Of Disease. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 15, 2008.
* For more on treadmill workstations visit the Mayo Clinic which originated the research.