“Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!” – 1 Samuel 25:6

Mens sana in corpore sano is a famous Latin quotation, literally translated as “A healthy mind in a healthy body” but often interpreted as “A sound mind in a sound body”. The desire for longevity of an individual is often tempered by the caveat “as long as I am of sound body and sound mind” and often followed by the consideration that I would not want to inflict hardships on family, friends or the purveyors of institutional care. The achievement of longevity, under those favourable conditions, is of benefit to posterity as the wisdom gained from sharing the experiences on earth for as long as possible can contribute significantly to the balanced development of the minds of the younger generations.

A healthy body has a stimulating impact on the performance of the mind. Also, lifestyle patterns, which are controlled by the mind, impact on our physical and mental health. The mind-body relationship is therefore critical in achieving longevity and hence maximizing the potential return from our spiritual, human, intellectual, social and cultural capital, all of which contribute to the development of Homo Sapiens. We must not forget that, in our quest for first world status, the human asset is our most important asset. We must develop it to the fullest and preserve it for as long as we can.

Let us look at the impact of the body over mind. I always remember a comment related to the benefit of exercise made by Prof. Henry Fraser, Dean of the School of Clinical Medicine and Research at UWI. He quipped that “vigourous exercise causes endorphins to assemble at the base of the brain causing a ‘high’, as if by barbiturates but without the side effects”. Needless to say, whenever I can I always precede a potentially stressful presentation or facilitation session with a client by vigourous exercise. It works every time as a stress reliever and has the added benefit of enhancing one’s facilitation performance in the context of sharpness of mind.

This exercise example should be complemented by a good nutrient regime. This has the effect of enhancing the body’s health in terms of controlled cholesterol and blood sugar levels and good body mass index (a measurement which determines whether we are too fat or too thin). Good care of the body is a preventive mechanism which mitigates the incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases (e.g. ischemic heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity).

Let us look at the impact of the mind over body. The mind controls what we do and hence determines our lifestyle. Lifestyle determines the quality and quantity of our exercise, how well and how much we eat and the status of our peace of mind.

Professor Fraser, in his weekly column, has from time to time expressed concern about the fast food “epidemic” and its impact on balanced nutritional intake. Surveys have shown that there is a preponderance of fat in the present fast food culture which is deleterious to the incidence of chronic disease. There are enough natural aromatic spice flavourings (some with no salt, no sugar or MSG) readily available to satisfy our taste buds if there was a shift away from the deep fat fried culture. We should follow the mantra promoted by the late Carmeta Fraser “Grow what we eat and eat what we grow”.

The advantages of eating local are not only freshness of the product and the control of plant protection chemicals but one also contributes to the growth of the agricultural sector (a food security benefit) and saves valuable foreign exchange. Surely with some diligent menu planning, supported by a national policy to control nutritional balance in our community, our choices can be changed without impacting negatively on the culinary experience of restaurant patrons. Must we follow willy-nilly cultures brought into our homes thorough the print and electronic media. Maybe we should begin by improving our lifestyle in our homes.

Peace of mind is psychologically driven and requires a major dose of discipline and a positive approach towards life. As Les Brown, the motivational speaker would say, bury the “don’ts”, the “buts” and the “can’ts” or, in other words, eliminate the negatives and accentuate the positives. If we focus on the positives and persist we shall achieve positive things. If we focus in the negatives we shall achieve negative things. It is the same law, a God given law. Remember that anger, fear, worry and guilt are unproductive emotions. Do not let our egos or foibles get into the way of progress. Why not observe, respect and preserve our peace of mind.

The Barbados Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados and the Diabetes Association of Barbados are NGOs with programmes geared to assist the general public with preventive and curative care regarding chronic non-communicable diseases. They complement the activities of the Ministry of Health and the UWI Chronic Disease Research Centre. Above all, we must engage our mind and follow lifestyle patterns to protect our bodies in the search of a longer and higher quality life. Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!