Uniting Extremes: A State of Balance - Part 2

Posted on 2016-03-24 By Joanna

In part 1, I have focused on a theoretical concept of balance and philosophical approach to this subject. To further expand on the idea of internal balance, the following article describes more practical approaches that can help us with achieving balance in all areas in our life. It’s all based on transactional model widely used in psychology and other disciplines. There is a lot to say, but I have focused on three most important aspects that can help us to achieve balance. These three aspects of our experience are working together, each influencing the other. Therefore, if we neglect one aspect, the other one will suffer.

Balance means stability and in turn, stability allows us to increase control because it is easier to handle multiple things when everything is stable and predictable.

Balancing mental states

If we consider the concept of duality, all mental states could be placed on a spectrum. For instance, depression and anxiety can be represented as two opposite poles, with depression representing an under-activity of our psyche and anxiety representing an overactivity. While depressed, people usually feel like they lack energy, their emotional responses are reduced and persistent fatigue makes them feel like everything is pointless. In contrast, a person with anxiety might feel like being overwhelmed by their thoughts and often experiences physical responses such as increased heart rate and restlessness.

Some other examples of contrasting mental states:

- Anger - Affection
- Nervous - Bold
- Worthless - Appreciated
- Rejected - Accepted

This list describes further examples of opposite emotions.

It can be simply said that in order to achieve a mental balance, we shouldn’t fall into either of these poles. If we imagine a simple scale, when one of the sides becomes too heavy we balance it out either by placing weight on another end, or by taking some weight away from the heavier side. This analogy could be simply applied to managing our mental states. Wherever we are thrown out of balance into e.g. anger overwhelming a totality of our being, we simply need to push ourselves towards its contrasting mental state - in this case, affection.

Health and physiology

There is a reason why so many self help resources repeat an idea of a balanced diet. The point of eating healthy lies not in eating as much as we can of particular healthy foods, but rather to include a rich variety of different foods in our diet. Our body is quite complex and needs a big list of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. If we eat the same type of meals over and over again, we simply throw our body into chemical imbalance.

So what should we look for?

1. Proteins are responsible for tissue growth and repair. Foods such as meat, eggs, soy products and fish - mostly, whatever comes from animals. One of the most important proteins to look for is amino acid such as omega-3 or omega-6. Apart of playing a role of proteins, amino acids also play a crucial role in e.g. processes involved with neurotransmitters - their production and transportation. In turn, neurotransmitters influence our mood and behaviour.

2. Fiber controls our blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and promotes a healthy internal environment free from toxins. Foods include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

3. Carbohydrates are our main source of physical and mental energy. Foods include e.g. lentils, whole grain products, nuts, brown rice. Simple sugars found in snacks such as sweets or chocolate should be avoided because they destabilise our glucose levels.

Apart of diet, we should be also making sure to stay hydrated with the right amount of exercise. Of course, exercise should be within reasonable limits because we don’t want to push ourselves into fatigue for a longer period of time. At the same time we should be constantly striving to increase our limit of how much our body can take. And of course sleep. Most popular sleeping pattern includes sleeping 8 hours straight - however it is entirely up to the person how much sleep they need. For instance, to boost creativity, a temporary decrease in sleeping hours can work miracles. In contrast, sleeping too much can cause fatigue and mental fog.

Beyond ourselves

We can also strive towards balance beyond ourselves. In fact, it’s more than recommended since we are in a constant relationship with the environment and other people. To draw on the example, our mental state will influence how we treat others - and how others treat us will influence how we feel.

It might sound banal for some, but the environment we are currently in will both influence our mental state and reflect it. For example, if we are in a messy and disorganised environment, not only it might makes us feel like everything is out of control, but also it will say something about our current mental state.

Because, as already mentioned, the transactional model states that all involved aspects are working together by influencing each other, to bring about a change in the whole system, it is enough to break the cycle by changing one aspect. However, to make the change stable and persistent, all other aspects need to be adjusted as well. So for instance, we might achieve the most stable and balanced mental state we can imagine, however, if we don’t take care for our health and diet, sooner or later either our mental state will suffer, or our self control will win and we’ll be able to change our eating habits in order to adjust ourselves on all level to the state our psyche is in.