“Mens Sana in Corpore Sano”

I absolutely believe in the famous Latin quotation: “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

Without being obsessive, I have – over the past few months – tried to make some small daily changes to my life to ensure that indeed I do have a healthy mind in a healthy body.

Over time, I have realised something which seems quite obvious, but that I had to experiment on myself to realise how important it is: physical activity makes me feel happier. Once I overcome the laziness of getting out, maybe in the cold, wind or rain, I know that a 30-minutes run with my favourite music will make me smile and give me lots of positive energy. I usually run about 2-3 times a week, and, after running, I do some other exercises that I choose depending on what I feel like doing. I have in the past tried sticking to a more rigid training schedule, but I found that it absolutely does not work for me. My studies and work are stressful enough and full of strict deadlines, that I cannot take the pressure of self-imposing extra-duties on myself in my spare time.

My philosophy during my workouts is that I do what I feel like doing. I push myself only to the extent that I will always stick to 30 minutes running, no matter whether one day I go a bit more slowly or interrupt the running with brisk walking a few too many times and do an overall workout of about one hour. I don’t care, I know it’s still healthy and making me feel better. I don’t care what people may say or think. This is only about me. I don’t set goals for running, because I am not doing it to become a marathon runner or a model. I just want to feel healthy and happy! This approach has actually made me fitter, I have lost some weight and I feel happier with my body.  I have also definitely improved my resistance over the months, but in a way which was not planned methodically and therefore has felt like less of an effort.

I can say that I have achieved my 2011 goal of taking up running, which is something I feel very proud of. You can read about my 2011 resolution here: I did not follow the Couch to 5 K NHS programme for long, because I didn’t like the music. However, it inspired me and it helped me to understand how to run so now I do a similar workout to my own music which I update often to make sure I don’t get bored! Also, I have had a couple of long breaks from running due to colds, flu or simply ridiculous amounts of workload. But overall I can say I’ve been sticking to the plan!

My other philosophy of healthy mind in a healthy body is that I aim to go to bed as early as possible, at the latest by midnight. I have stopped studying late at night and I try my very best not to study after dinner. This is not because I have no more work to do, but because I can see that when I spend the night over my books, I feel unwell and I don’t sleep properly. I end up having a bad night and the following day not being at my best for more studying. Clearly, I am not the only one to believe this and it is scientifically proven that sleep is the best way to recharge your body. My best advocacy performances have been after a good night sleep and less hours of preparation. So I will try to stick to this and, before my exam on Friday, I will make sure I go to bed and sleep really well.

I once saw this book cover in a shop window and thought it was such a great title I had to take a picture to remember it:

“Riposarsi è giusto” means that ” It is Right to Rest”. I have actually just Googled the author’s name and discovered that the original title of the book is “The Power of Rest”.  I have also found out that Matthew Edlund is a doctor and writes a blog on WordPress with very interesting and thought-provoking articles: http://www.therestdoctor.com/, definitely recommended! I have not read the book, by the way, but thought the title reflected the topic of this post.

Now, I’d better stick to my plan and go to bed!


Sound Journeys

A long time ago I discovered relaxation music as one of the most amazing ways to really influence my concentration and mood.

Before reading this post, I recommend you click here and listen to this music while reading…  

It is the same music I am now listening to while typing this post!

A friend once introduced me to music by Enya, which I very much enjoyed (and I still do). However, whenever I listened to it while looking for calm or concentration, I felt I wanted something even more ‘basic’, without voices and really not even with a recognizable melody. I found that if I could follow the melody, this would not relax me as my mind was still concentrating on trying to grasp the words, the pauses, the rhythm.

I wanted a music that would draw my concentration on the action I was doing, such as studying, reading or writing, and not on the music itself. I eventually stumbled into Dan Gibson‘s music and from then onwards I have grown to really love his style, which goes from New Age to Jazz music.

Dan Gibson has produced a vast amount of music from the 1980s, all aimed at exploring wildlife and discovering sensations through sound journeys.  He died only a couple of years ago, however there is a massive collection of music you can easily find and buy even online. Dan Gibson’s label, Solitudes, helps you relax, rediscover the emotions of nature and the love for life. Here are the pictures of some of the CDs I have and which I listen to regularly.

I know someone reading this might feel very skeptical, but it is really a matter of trying it. Based on my own experience, these types of music are effective if you listen to them in many different situations, be it while lying down with your eyes closed or while working. Over time, you will learn which sounds of the nature you prefer and not everyone will enjoy all of them.  Also, different sounds will be suited to different situations.

I am no expert, but I have realized that listening to music with sounds of nature helps my mind recall the happiness and beauty of nature. It naturally induces the mind into a state of calm and tranquility. This is something very important if you feel stressed out, or even just a little bit anxious about a task you need to perform.

I have found that Dan Gibson’s music, but also many other music styles with nature sounds, help relaxation and concentration by:

  • improving your breathing
  • relaxing tense muscles
  • improving your mood
  • helping your concentration

Of course, this is not all automatic. It takes time and patience. You need to dedicate sometime to the listening and learn how to improve your breathing and how to ‘follow the music’. Most of all, you need to learn to listen! Sounds obvious, but it is not! You also shouldn’t listen to it too loudly or too softly, as in the first case the music can be irritating and in the second case it is useless. Finally, I have also found that if I listen to it too often, it loses its effect on me. So I try to use it sparingly and not for too long, just like taking a short holiday during my busy daily life!