What is a healthy mind-body approach

Mental strength: A healthy mind resides in a healthy body

"Mens sana in corpore sano" (healthy mind in a healthy body): This quote is much better known than its author Juvenal. This satirist spoke out bluntly about society in ancient Rome and probably had to take a lot of criticism for it. Mental strength can't do any harm.

But how does mental strength affect our health and our lives? More on this in this article!

  1. What is mental strength?
  2. We are more complicated than concepts
  3. Are there any shortcuts to mental strength?
  4. Instructions for mental training


1. What is mental strength?

Merciless but brilliant: His traditional works show that Juvenal was blessed with a tough mind. What would he say about the fact that his most famous quote is only known in a shortened and thus falsified form? The sentence is actually: "Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano" (One should pray that a healthy mind is in a healthy body).

We can only guess that this fact wouldn't impress him any further. The online lexicon of psychology “Psychomeda” describes the ability to cope with failure as a hallmark of mental strength (1). It is the result of individual thought processes based on personal convictions and attitudes.

Mental toughness instead of mental strength

In English-speaking countries, people tend to speak of 'mental toughness' when it comes to mental strength - although the literally translated term 'mental strength' does exist. The British psychologists Peter Joseph Clough and Keith Earle presented the so-called 4C model in 2002 to define mental strength (2).

According to this model, people with mental strength have the following characteristics:

  • Confidence: You are convinced of your ability.
  • Challenge: You have ambitious goals.
  • Control: You think the world is controllable.
  • Commitment: You are motivated and pursue goals with perseverance.

So far, mental strength has mainly been studied as the quality of athletes (3) (4) (5) or as a factor in areas where performance counts, such as education (6).

But what does mental strength mean?

Self-efficacy as an incentive to act

The American psychologist Albert Bandura coined the term self-efficacy as early as 1977 in connection with mental strength (8). In his book Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control he writes (9): "If people do not believe that they can achieve the desired effects through their actions, they have little incentive to act."

If we pursue this thought further, mental strength or self-efficacy is logically the prerequisite for everything we do. If we were not convinced of the effect, we would leave any action - regardless of whether we are doing something for our career or our health.

But how can we explain that many people still smoke or do other things that are not good for them? According to Bandura, smokers obviously lack mental strength - otherwise they would give up this habit. Although Bandura's concept can explain human action, it seems too simple. What about the subconscious? Can mentally strong people confidently strive for high goals - even though they are still stuck in unconscious programs?


2. We don't let ourselves be pigeonholed

A concept - no matter how scientifically formulated it may be - is always a kind of drawer that classifies behavior. But we humans are complex beings that are constantly changing. The scientific method is helpful to describe individual phenomena, but medicine sometimes loses the overview and does not consider the human being in its entirety.

Italian researchers now vehemently criticize the Hippocratic view of medicine. According to this, the human body is more than mechanical processes and reactions of liquids (10). They demand that technical advances be applied consistently in medicine and that the body be expanded to include a virtual dimension. For them, the modern version of Juvenal's quote is: "Mens sana in corpore virtuale sano." (A healthy mind in a virtual healthy body).

New dimension with virtual reality

For some years now, scientists all over the world have been increasingly concerned with using virtual reality and robotics. Giuseppe Riva from the renowned Catholic University in Milan is one of the protagonists of this new direction (11). He calls it 'embodied medicine', which can be translated as embodied medicine. The applications now range from anxiety disorders to pain therapy to eating disorders and weight loss.

Why does virtual reality seem to have a healing effect on the body? Riva explains this with the basic mechanism that our brain shares with virtual reality: In order to regulate and control the body, the brain constantly simulates situations. Like virtual reality, your nerve cells are constantly creating the model of a space around you. It is used to control the complicated metabolic processes. Targeted virtual environments can therefore influence the inner world of the body (12).

The limits of science

Our brain and with it our mental processes determine our life together with our body without a doubt. How exactly mental strength affects our health or how our health influences the strength of our personality is difficult to prove with scientific methods.

In this case, common sense helps: If you live confidently and confident of your abilities, it should in all likelihood have a positive effect on your health. Or the other way around: If you start the day with anxious thoughts and your glass is generally half empty instead of half full, you are more prone to depression.

Fit body, healthy mind

There is no doubt that exercise and sport make the body fit and also affect your mental state. Exercise promotes mental health and counteracts depression and anxiety (13). In addition, exercise also improves self-esteem and mood (14). In addition, physical activity reduces the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease (15).

However, no one has yet been able to explain exactly why this is the case. Researchers suggest that physical activity improves blood flow to the brain. It should also strengthen the axis between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands, which has a decisive influence on the balance of hormones. Ultimately, this axis affects the limbic system that controls mood and motivation.

In order to train, however, you need motivation, which brings us back to mental strength.


3. Are there any shortcuts to mental strength?

How do I get mental strength? These are common questions to the Google search engine. Thomas Schlechter, self-proclaimed mental coach and trainer, has written a book about mental shortcuts with the title Exactly in top form at the push of a button.

Schlechter calls these shortcuts "magical formulas for the brain". From marathon runners to top managers, everyone can use these twelve techniques to strengthen their self-confidence, increase their motivation and cope with stress. A mental shortcut therefore works like a kick switch in the brain: it creates a state in a flash that makes maximum performance possible.

Thomas Schlechter describes 10 rules for success on his website, which we summarize here:

  1. Top form: In Schlechter's view, your top form is the most important success factor.
  2. Gratitude: Being grateful promotes a positive outlook on life.
  3. Goal: A precise goal gives direction to your life.
  4. Balance: Learning to control emotions helps to deal with setbacks.
  5. Willpower: This quality gives you endurance.
  6. Confidence: Regularly review your abilities.
  7. Fitness: Exercise, stretching, and breathing exercises strengthen your body.
  8. Determination: Decision-making helps remove obstacles.
  9. Growing: Always strive to improve yourself.
  10. Simplicity: Simple solutions work better than complex ones.


4. Instructions for mental training

How can I train mental strength? Is there a secret for that? In fact, mental toughness is relatively easy to learn. Here we show you three simple exercises that Amy Morin, author specializing in mental strength, did in Psychology Today presented (16). These short tasks do not require any money and can be easily integrated into your everyday life every day.

1. Write down three things that you are grateful for

Look at the good things in your life. This has a direct effect on your mood (17). Gratitude instantly changes your brain function and improves your mental health (18).

Make this task easy for yourself: You can be grateful for the little joys in everyday life - for example hot water in your shower, delicious coffee for breakfast or a loving gesture from your partner.

If you keep a gratitude journal, you can change your brain permanently. Make a habit of listing and writing things down for which you are grateful - for example, after dinner or before bed.

2. Live consciously

Life takes place in the moment. You cannot be mentally strong if you are constantly thinking about the past or the future. Studies show that mindfulness strengthens your mental health (19). It reduces stress and allows you to better manage your emotions (20).

One minute is enough to train conscious awareness of the moment. Concentrate on your surroundings and pay attention to your sensory perceptions: What sounds can you hear? What does the room look like around you? Listen inside your body and notice how it feels.

Regular practice of mindfulness increases the ability to concentrate and the joy of life. Enjoying the moment is a gift that you can easily give yourself.

3. Pretend

Don't wait for a change in your confidence or your feelings. Just act as if you are already happy, successful, and wealthy. Your inner attitude affects your feelings and your environment. If you change your behavior, your thoughts and feelings will follow in time.

It is not necessary that you completely change your actions for this. Start with little things. Put your chest out and smile at people instead of looking at the floor (21).

Admittedly, it takes time to develop trust and self-confidence. But in the end, even the best chef only cooks with water. If you give yourself confidently, those around you will experience you as self-confident (22).


Conclusion: Mental strength brings you into shape

Mental strength is a term that researchers have studied primarily in relation to exercise and intellectual performance. Mentally strong people are self-confident, love challenges and are not easily discouraged. How exactly mental strength and health are related has not yet been scientifically clarified. However, common sense tells us that the old saying 'healthy mind in healthy body' still applies.

New approaches in medicine with virtual reality prove that our mental images directly influence our health. One thing is certain: a healthy body has a positive effect on your mood. One thing is also certain: Mental strength can be trained. With appropriate exercises, you can improve your mind and health.



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