What Is the Mind-Body Connection?
When we think of health, we also think of our physical health. Our mind is just as involved in our health as our bodies.
What the mind-body connection means is that our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are!
Believe it or not, the mind and body do not operate as two separate entities, but as a one. On the other hand, what we do with our physical body (for example, what we eat, how much we exercise, even our posture) can impact our mental state (positively or negatively). This results in a complex interrelationship between our minds and bodies.
Read below to find out how the mind and body are linked and how to embrace this connection to live a healthier and longer life.
"the brain and peripheral nervous system, the endocrine and immune systems, and indeed, all the organs of our body and all the emotional responses we have, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another."
Dr. James Gordon (founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine)
How Does the Mind-Body Connection Affect Our Health?
The mind-body connection plays a major role in our health. These are a few of the most common ways our mental and physical health are linked:
Pain Perception Pain will affect everyone at some point in their life and there is only so much we do not understand about pain. It cannot be seen in lab work or a CT scan. However, we are aware that pain is an emotional experience, physical and mentally. We can use the mind-body connection to help with pain naturally.
Energy and Mood Mental health has an impact on our physical health and it can also take a toll on our mental and emotional health. People around the world suffer with chronic pain such as insomnia, depression or other mood imbalances and other physical conditions and this can cause tension. Good thing, the mind-body connection can help with, helping our mindset and physical conditions that will help support our overall health.
Immunity If mental health can affect our physical health, does that mean it can also affect our immune system? The answer is - absolutely!
Our immune system is a vast network of cells, organs, and proteins all working together to fight off invaders.
Our immune system is made up of two parts: the innate system (the part we are born with) and the acquired system (the part that develops over time as we interact with our environment). A well-functioning immune system will protect us against invaders and help us stay healthy. We can positively affect our immune system and keep it strong by leading a healthy lifestyle.
It’s well-known that exercising and eating a healthy diet can help build a strong immune system. Taking your daily supplements can also provide immune system support.
Scientific research over the last few decades has shown a strong link between our mental health and immune system response. While the mind-body connection is not a new concept, the two systems work in similar ways; both are used to interact with and adjust to our ever-changing environments.
People who suffer from an unhealthy immune system are also more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, like tension and depression, and people who suffer from mental health disorders are more susceptible to unhealthy immune systems, research shows. Likewise, improvements in mental health and tension management will support healthy immune systems.
Digestion We all lose our appetite after receiving bad news? We feel knots in our stomach or nauseated. This is the connection between your mind and your digestive system in action. This connection is so strong that it is named the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is a communication system between the brain and the trillions of bacteria and viruses living within your intestines. Multiple studies have shown that the composition of gut bacteria can have a profound impact on mental health and the functioning of the nervous system. A healthy diet plays a significant role in shaping this microbiome by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and stopping the accumulation of harmful ones. It can have a negative impact in our digestive and mental health. It also impacts our immunity, energy levels, and more.
How Do We Honor The Mind-Body Connection?
Our physical and mental health is closely intertwined, and science is showing us that we can affect our emotional health much in the same way we affect our physical health through positive lifestyle choices. Here are some practices to enhance your physical and overall well-being.
Practice Mindfulness Mindfulness is a type of meditation that involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind. It is a great way to reduce tension and is designed to help you focus on the emotions you are feeling in the moment without judgment or interpretation. Mindfulness can help relieve symptoms of tension and depression and interact more meaningfully with the world around you. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including sitting meditation and walking meditation. Focusing on your breath, living in the moment, and accepting yourself are all ways to practice mindfulness.
Practice Yoga Yoga is a great way to integrate the body and mind together in one practice. Yoga allows you to slow down, stretch, strengthen, and meditate all at the same time. Yoga focuses on the breath, poses, and meditation, and can help you reduce tension and improve physical performance. There are many different styles of yoga, so find the one that is right for you. Jump on YouTube to find thousands of free yoga classes for all levels or join a local yoga studio.
Keep a Journal Writing consistently in a journal can help you stay mindful, boost your immune system, help you sleep better, and improve your memory and communication skills. Keeping a journal will help you organize your thoughts and allow you to analyze your own emotions. It is also a relatively inexpensive form of self-care.
Do Something You Love Every Day Taking time out of your hectic schedule, even if it is just 10 or 20 minutes, to do something you love or that relaxes your mind, can have tremendous effects on your emotional well-being. Even if it is just getting outside at lunchtime and going for a walk around the block, those few minutes are a much needed mental break from the tension and work overload we experience every day.
Speak with a Therapist It is 2022 and therapy is finally being normalized. Everyone could benefit from speaking with a licensed, unbiased third party about their experiences, traumas, fears, tension at work, relationships, attain your own personal potential, and struggles, even in the short term. Therapy is not just about treating mental health disorders it is to help seek emotional wellness, anyone can benefit from it. Keep in mind that therapy can be expensive, and it may take several sessions before you find the right therapist
Other Mind-Body Relaxation Techniques You can enjoy warm bath to practice brain and body breathing exercises, there are many ways to build mind-body relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Look up and try different practices to find which one works well for you.
Awareness of the mind-body connection is by no means new. It is a way of life. When we see our health through a wider lens, we are better equipped to function, restore, and thrive.