Psychologists talk the secret to living a healthy life

According to Glamour Magazine, only 2.7% of America is actually “healthy.” The question has been posed for decades, what exactly is the secret to living a healthy life?

After talking to professionals of mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, each expert shared their opinions on the best ways to boost health and wellness.

Eric Smith, Executive Director of Auburn Campus Recreation and Wellness, believes that all aspects of health are linked.

“Spiritual wellness, physical, mental – everything’s connected…When we talk about health and well-being, we certainly need to recognize the importance of connectivity. My spiritual wellness is one thing, and it certainly has an impact on my physical and mental…” Smith said.

Smith was previously the Director of Auburn’s Health Promotion and Wellness Services, so he has a background and passion for both the mental and physical health fields. Smith went on to explain how one of these fields can go as far as to affect the other health facets.

“We, as ‘college people’ so to speak, spend a lot of time sitting down. We need to get up. We need to move. We need to go outside on the green space and play a little bit and have some fun. That’s part of living a healthy and well-balanced life,” Smith said.

Smith explained the notion of “Exercise as Medicine” and how exercise can increase your dopamine levels, reducing a certain level of anxiety and depression.

“I think we can do a lot for ourselves if we would just move a little bit more, period,” Smith said.

Finally, Smith shared some advice on how busy college students can better their own health. In order for students to be active everyday, he recommends the various opportunities at the Rec and Wellness Center, including fitness classes, personal training, rock climbing, as well as weights and cardio machines.

However, there’s way more to health than just the physical. Entering the world of mental health, Dustin Johnson, licensed psychologist, shared his opinions on mental health. Johnson is the Assistant Director of Outreach and Mental Health Initiatives for Auburn’s Student Counseling and Psychological Services. After pondering why college students seem to struggle so much with mental health, Johnson thinks the answer is found in new responsibilities and finding balance.

“Many people experience their first challenges in being able to balance the different components of their health during their college years; it’s a fertile time for discovery and the responsibility of truly caring for yourself. College also provides more stress than someone has been challenged to handle up to that point in life, which makes achieving balance much more difficult,” Johnson said.

Johnson recommended the first thing students should do is recognize and accept the feelings they are having, so that they are in a better position to cope with them. Then, they have to address the issue.

“It is never someone’s fault that they experience disruptions to their mental health, much like it’s not someone’s fault if they experience physical illness. But it is a person’s responsibility to address their mental health, and only they can implement good coping skills to help them manage it,” Johnson said.

Johnson then said that the answer to helping yourself mentally begins in the mind itself. He explained that mindset is everything when it comes to how a person views challenges. Having gratitude and approaching life with an attitude of both intentionality and curiosity tend to make people happier overall.

Auburn provides many resources to help with students’ mental health. There is Auburn’s Student Counseling and Psychological Services webpage, as well as Auburn’s “A Sound Mind” webpage. The university also offers free in-person counseling, as well as over-the-phone counseling through the SCPS available at any time – day or night. Additionally, students can visit on campus the relaxation room, the Zen Den, or de-stress with the SCPS therapy dogs.

“Stress is going to be a part of college, but with support resources in place, it does not have to take over your life,” Johnson said.

Transitioning to one final aspect of health – the spiritual, Will Spivey, college pastor at First Baptist Church Opelika, shared his thoughts on pursuing health holistically.

“From a historical Christian perspective, a human is composed of body, mind and soul. By neglecting one in our pursuit of holistic health, we end up with unbalanced health,” Spivey said.

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Spivey noted that togetherness is of greater importance than being alone when it comes to staying mentally and spiritually healthy. 

To expand, he shared seven preventative steps for healthy holistic living after talking with local psychiatrists. The doctor’s recommendations included getting seven hours of sleep, having a good group of friends that love you well, elevating your heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day, praying and meditating, serving other people, staying away from toxic social media that affects self-esteem and finding purpose in life.

Spivey continued to share how a church may be just what someone needs to attain holistic health and healing in their lives. He explained that when people live the way their Creator designed them to, they are able to live more purposefully and be holistically healthy. Regardless of your chosen faith, there is evidence that this approach to holistic living is beneficial to one’s health, according to licensed psychiatrists.

So, what is the secret, then, to living a healthy life?

According to the experts, students should be doing their best to be healthy in all connected aspects of life – physical, mental and spiritual – in order to advance their overall well-being. These actions take both knowledge and discipline. If college students would commit to trying these listed steps within each health category, as well as take advantage of all the on-campus health resources mentioned, they will begin to see progress in their overall wellness. 

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