Heart and Mind: February is Psychology Month

What a lovely coincidence that February is both Heart Month AND Psychology Month.  It is time that we raise our awareness about the interconnectedness of the heart and the psyche.

Recently, the very brilliant young soon-to-be-Ph.D.s who train in our pre-doctoral residency program in Clinical Psychology at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group gathered together some of the best tidbits from recent psychological research.  What I found interesting as I reviewed these juicy bits of science was the mounting evidence for the profound seamlessness between our physical health and our mental health.

I’m including some of the best mind-body tips from the psychology residents below.  Check them out!

Have you heard that an active body keeps a healthy mind?  Epidemiological evidence has demonstrated that physical activity has important mental health benefits. For example, physical activity can help prevent and manage anxiety and depression, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and quality of life.  For additional information please visit the Canadian Psychological Association “Psychology Works” Fact Sheet: Physical Activity.

We already know about the many benefits of exercise for health and stress reduction. But did you know that the one step of being active (e.g., walking or biking) in the commute to work has a positive relationship with fitness for both men and women, along with a negative relationship with obesity, blood pressure, and other markers of disease for men? Maybe something to include in your commute! Read about it:  Gordon-Larsen, P., Boone-Heinonen, J., Sidney, S., Sternfeld, B., Jacobs, D., Lewis, C. (2009). Active commuting and cardiovascular disease risk: the CARDIA study. Arch. Intern. Med. 169 (13), 1216–1223.

Exercise leads to quicker stress recovery. We all know that exercise is generally great for stress reduction. But did you know that exercising after a stressful event returns blood pressure closer to baseline (i.e., facilitates cardiovascular recovery) more quickly? In other words, going for a walk after a stressful meeting or crisis at work can limit the duration of a stress response. Check it out: Chafin, S., Christenfeld, N., & Gerin, W. (2008). Improving cardiovascular recovery from stress with brief poststress exercise. Health Psychology, 27(1), 64-72.

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