FitWell Expo explains how to improve your ‘mind fitness’

Baylor Wellness hosted its 3rd annual FitWell Expo on Feb. 2 at the Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. The event included raffles, key note speaker Alan Steelman and exercise and wellness sessions such as yoga. Shae Koharski | Multimedia Journalist

Taylor Wolf | Social Media Editor

Emphasizing the importance of well-being upkeep through prioritizing ‘mind fitness,’ Baylor Wellness hosted its 3rd annual FitWell Expo on Saturday at the Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.

The event consisted of raffles and door prizes, various health and fitness oriented sessions, a keynote speaker and a group yoga workout – which this year, featured the keynote speaker, Baylor alumnus and former Texas congressman turned yogi, Alan Steelman.

The event was centered around ‘mind fitness’ or taking care of the body to preserve good health. Van Smith-Davis, the assistant director of wellness at Baylor stresses the importance of not only physical health but also mental health.

“The focus this year is definitely ‘mind fitness.’ There are just so many things that students are being faced with, and faculty and staff too, as far as the business in life and the stress; and we want this to be a place where students can come and learn about how they can relieve stress,” said Van Smith-Davis.

Alan Steelman, mind fitness expert and best-selling author, discussed his best-selling book Yoga on the Yellow Brick Road and how to achieve and maintain ‘mind fitness’ to suppress the darkness that the ‘monkey brain’ brings in this digital age by exiting the “A.S.A.P lane” in his keynote address.

“With Alan’s presentation, he was able to show us that life is in the ‘A.S.A.P lane,’ and we need to be able to detect time to breathe, relieve stress and just slow things down a little bit – to appreciate being in the moment and the daily blessings from God,” Smith-Davis said.

Having a family history of bipolar disorder and manic-depression, losing a brother to suicide as a teenager and dealing with his own “darkness” as an undergrad at Baylor, mental health and mind fitness are not just another philosophy to Steelman. It’s survival.

Wanting to combat the global epidemic of stress and anxiety, Steelman gives six pillars to achieve ‘mind fitness’: sleep, meditation, movement, nutrition, social network and grounding.

Steelman stresses meditating daily, even if that just means five minutes of focused breathing every day, and yoga or another activity at least three times a week to stimulate the vagus nerve, which Steelman calls “the most important nerve in the body.” When stimulated, it helps activate oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins and serotonin in the brain – promoting wellness.

“Yoga and meditation provide a surfboard to more easily surf the choppy seas in your life,” said Steelman.

While all six pillars play an essential role in maintaining “mind fitness,” Steelman said that sleep is the most fundamental.

“It’s first and foremost sleep,” Steelman said. “You need to start with sleep.”

Alyssa Petty, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Wellness at Baylor, held a session at the Expo entitled “ZZ’zzs Get Degrees” focusing specifically on the importance of sleep and how it might be the most important in terms of supporting one’s “mind fitness.”

Petty shared that most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Less than that results in “sleep debt” buildup and more than that can leave you feeling groggy. The most effective nap lengths are 30 or 90 minutes.

Similarly to Steelman, Petty explained that lack of sleep can be the most detrimental to your ‘mind fitness,’ especially when it comes to students and professionals pulling all-nighters for studying or work.

“You’re not going to consolidate as much information as you could if you just got the sleep, instead of trying to cram your brain,” said Petty. “Giving yourself time to study, but also giving your brain that time it needs to break everything down and remember it is just as important.”

In response to the common misconception that people can function perfectly fine without sleep, Petty said, “You think you can, but it’s because your body has learned how to cope, but you’re sleep deprived.”

An emphasis of the expo was that sleep deprivation will deteriorate your “mind fitness” and worsen your stress and anxiety.

The day of “mind fitness” education concluded with a yoga workout featuring Steelman, where he began by demonstrating and instructing various breathing exercises including the “Darth Vader breath,” the “Taco method” and the “alternate nostril method.” An eclectic mix of Baylor students, faculty and staff then joined Steelman in a soothing yoga session as a send-off.

Smith-Davis hopes to see the FitWell Expo continually grow because of its benefit to the Baylor family.

“We want to have this event where students, faculty and staff can come and be able to gain a lot of knowledge that will help to improve their physical wellbeing, their mental wellbeing,” said Smith-Davis. “We always tell people we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Don’t skip today.”