The Triangle of Health
Not always remembered...
The collection of mental insights and techniques that in-depth NLP provides is very valuable in managing our moods.
For example we can recognise
- The steps through which our moods change
- How and why they change
- The triggers that we respond to
Not only can we use NLP to identify what's going on - we can also use it to change from unpleasant to more pleasant moods.
Yet this is only part of the story - and is not always included in NLP training or books.
Relying solely on the thinking/feeling aspects of NLP is doing a disservice to this methodology and body of knowledge because there is much more to it than mental techniques. In fact the name Neuro-Linguistic Programming was designed to illustrate the breadth of its scope:
- Neuro: refers to our neurology and physiology and to how our mind and body interact
- Linguistic: refers to both verbal and non-verbal language (including our self talk) and how these affect us physically
- Programming: refers to our strategies, "recipes" or automatic programmes for mentally, physically, and emotionally functioning.
Real NLP is essentially holistic and has always been so.
In it we explore or model how that mind and body interact with one another. So a thorough NLP approach to managing our moods takes into account how everything is affecting everything else all the time and, in particular, how the three sides of the Triangle of Health interact with one another.
The Triangle of Health
Each side represents a key area of our functioning.
- Thinking and Emoting: how we think and the feelings that this produces
- Nutrition: how, what and when we eat and drink
- Physiology: how we assist our body (which evolved to be physically active for around 10 hours daily) to remain healthy in a lifestyle that is largely sedentary.
Everything is affecting everything else
We are systemic beings. Everything - body, mind, and chemistry - connects with and affects everything else.
If I drink too much caffeine it affects my neurology and my thinking. If I don’t exercise it affects physical tension, my digestion and, through retaining lactic acid, actually causes anxious feelings. And if I don’t manage my moods this affects my digestion, appetite, and tension levels to name a few effects.
What happens if we ignore on side?
Unless we pay attention to all three sides of the Triangle we are making life difficult for ourselves. For example:
(1) The nutrition/chemistry side
Unless we eat good food and avoid over indulgence we body into stress. At the very least, it now has to work harder, to compensate for not receiving the right nutrients and in the right amounts. This affects us physically, mentally and emotionally.
Sometimes the results are immediate as, for example, transient low blood sugar episodes resulting in shakiness, weakness and increased anxiety. More often the effects go unnoticed and only affect us over time as, for example, when the body is unable to carry out ongoing repairs and maintenance and gradually begins to exhibit symptoms.
(2) The physiology side
If we don't exercise regularly and thoroughly our muscles will shorten and lose tone, tension will build up, lactic acid levels will rise (physically raising anxiety levels), our posture will become locked (thereby locking us into a habitual mood/stance) and the various organs and systems will become progressively less healthy and less able to do their job.
The body needs three forms of exercise to remain vital and healthy: stretching, strength and endurance. The body also needs a healthy supply of available oxygen - which is highly dependent on the right way opf breathing - see the Buteyko Breathing page here.
(3) The thinking side
We may eat the most wonderfully nutritious and balanced diet.
And engage in a regular and varied physical exercise routines.
But if we maintain ongoing anger or anxiety - or become obsessive about the other two sides of the Triangle - this can undermine the benefits of our diet and exercise regime.
A healthy mind in a healthy body
The triangle of health is a very simple way of keeping track of our three main systems. Use it daily to assess how effectively you are helping and investing in yourself.
Aim for a "little and often" investment in each side each day rather than attempting to change your diet and exercise and thinking in a few weeks.
Our mind-body system responds best to gradual change and tends to react against dramatic change. As an example, you might consider doing the following for the next few days:
- On the nutrition/chemistry side perhaps have an extra couple of glasses of water a day, or a little less caffeine, or a mixed salad instead of a burger
- On the physiology side walk up the stairs instead of taking the lift, check your posture every so often, or do a few minutes of stretching exercise at the beginning or the end of your day
- On the thinking side check how effectively you are, each day, using the first two tips from this series on using NLP to manage your mood!
One order of medieval monks, it might have been Benedictines or Augustinians, used to use the old Latin proverb Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) to emphasise the vital interaction between mind and body. The phrase was first coined 2000 years ago by the poet Juvenal.
Happily it is an attitude that’s once again become popular.
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