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Setting Goals part II

Hi here is my second blog in relation to setting health goals.  So if you have read the first blog you know the following:

1. Get thinking about why you started your health goals in the first place and clearly work out the main driving force you had about doing this especially if you failed in the past to achieve your health goals.

2. The nervous system receives stimuli externally and internally in the body and delivers the messages to the brain where they are analysed and an answer or action is returned to the area of the body or a response is ignited towards external stimuli.

3. There are thousands of these messages going through your body all the time at a speed of 260 miles per hour.

4. Many repetitive motion strains that we do every day as part of normal living are negatively affecting the efficient working of the nervous system which in turn causes the body to slow down, have pain discomfort and can lead to disease.

5. Resting the body in the evening and not having meals will assist toward better quality sleep which is essential for the body’s recovery from its activity during the day.

6. Walk off the days exhaustion with a 20 minute walk each evening.

But you had all that – right!

Ok lets talk about the automatic nervous system and how it can affect the body.  As the name suggests the autonomic nervous system works mostly without the volitional control of the individual.  The autonomic nervous system is controlled and regulated by the hypothalamus which is part of the brain.  It has to do with heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate breathing, pupil dilation, urination and sexual arousal.

The autonomic nervous system has two branches, the sympathetic nervous system and the para sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is often called the fight or flight system and the para sympathetic nervous system is called the rest and digest or feed and breed system.  So the sympathetic nervous system is a quick response mobilizing system and the parasympathetic nervous system is a more slowly activated dampening system.

So for example you are at work and trip on the second from last stair step.  For a moment you tumble helplessly forward and think you are about to hurt part of your body.  At that instant the sympathetic nervous system cuts in and your body puts a hand out to catch the rail so you avoid a nasty fall.  This fight responses helps the day and saves the body from pain.  So in this case as in many cases in the body the result is positive.  The parasympathetic nervous system tends to do the opposite of the sympathetic nervous.  It calms the body down as when the body is at rest or digestion is taking place.  So what has all this to do with setting healthy goals.  Well the answer is everything.  Many people in the modern world tend to be under some kind of external stress or internal stress all day long.  For example when at work you have to meet quotes or demands or targets or you are worried about peer pressure or just trying to get on in life.  As a perfect example of this I was in a company last year and gave a short talk on the spine and nervous system.  I was with a colleague and we saw most of the staff for an individual evaluation.  Many of them expressed an interest in coming to our clinic.  When I attempted to schedule these staff many of them young  20 to 40 years old, none could find a minute to spare to make an appointment.  I then asked what they did and while I didn’t understand it totally as it had to do with investments it seemed the head office in the US were making huge demand for targets etc and these fine young people were worn out from the stress of it.  All this is the sympathetic nervous system at work.  Which part of your autonomic (unconscious) nervous system kicks in do you think, yes its the sympathetic nervous system.   But you are not falling down the stairs this time you are feeling unduly excited, fearful, antagonistic, angry and this is not helping your body cope with living and work.

A simple example of the Sympathetic nervous system is people queuing at lunch time to get something to eat or in a shop.  They are under pressure to get the food, eat it, and be back at work sometimes in half and hour.  They rush but its ok they make it back to the office so they can “relax” and have the sandwich or box of food only to find out that their order was incorrectly done and you guessed it – get upset and stressed.

So you go home to finally relax and put on the TV and watch a movie which kicks in the sympathetic nervous system all over again.

So if you are trying to put into action health goals, such as a walk, a run a swim, the gym with all of this sympathetic nervous system working your body into overdrive you are seriously up against it.    Of course many of the choices we will recommend as health goals in the next blog such as yoga, pilates etc will help to neutralize a lot of stress.  But you have to get to the point where you actually do them first.  And one of the barriers is the internal and external generated stress which kicks off the sympathetic nervous system pretty much all day long.  So what I want you to do is, each evening lie on the ground even if you are stressed and thinking of other things.  Then start breathing slowly and make sure your tummy raises up when you breathe in.  Do this for 5 to 10 minutes each day.  What this does is reactivate the vagus nerve which will help hugely to calm the body down.  Then when you do your walk for 20 minutes and you find yourself thinking of your boss, work, food home etc stop thinking of anything.  You are there to take the body for a walk so take the body for a walk and let it relax and no thinking and watch after a week or two you will start to calm down and start to see things in your environment that you didn’t notice before and then a smile will appear on your face.  And that smile is permanent because thats you.



















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