For better or for worse, our minds and bodies are interconnected. It is up to us to become aware of our mind-body connections and to develop a loving and harmonious relationship between the two. Your mind and body can keep you healthy or not, and while it is not total, we do have control over how we think and react to the things around us. Find out some amazing facts about the mind-body connection:
1. We All Have The Mind-Body Connection.1
Whether consciously aware of it or not, each of us experiences the mind-body connection everyday of our lives. Instead of thinking of the connection as something far out of reach, or something only obtainable through hours of yoga and meditation, remember it is always here. Mouth-watering over a delicious-looking dessert, or nervous “butterflies” in the stomach before making a presentation, or running a race, are all perfect examples of natural mind-body connections, which most of us have experienced at some point. Sometimes, the mind-body connection can produce negative outcomes, like failing to meet athletic, academic, or professional goals due to fear created by the mind.
2. Our Bodies React To How We Think
“All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
In other words, if we are constantly thinking negative, self-destructive thoughts, our bodies will follow suit. Emotional and mental imbalance can start as something like stress-induced headaches, tight shoulders, and a sore upper back, and lead to unhealthy weight gain or loss, insomnia, and high blood pressure. On the other hand, we can make a conscious effort to think more positively and to develop healthy coping mechanisms for life’s stress and trials. Over time, the state of our emotional and mental health can hurt or help the body’s immune system.
3. We Can Make Ourselves Sick And We Can Make Ourselves Well2
Studies show our coping mechanisms and ways we handle stress directly correlate to how we deal with serious illnesses, including cancer. Chronic stress affects the body in a negative way, and over long periods of time, long-term stress can make us more susceptible to diabetes, hypertension, heart diseases, and some infections.
However, by using our innate mind-body connection in a positive way, by keeping our minds and bodies in shape with exercise and nutrition, we can keep stress levels lower. In other words, the better we are able to cope by staying calm and reducing psychological stress, we will in-turn reduce physical stress, along with the chance of developing a disease.
4. We Also Have A BODY-Mind Connection3
If we pay attention, it is easy to see the impact the body has on our state of mind as well. For example, when women’s bodies are preparing for menstruation, it is the hormones inside the body causing all of the dreaded symptoms (cramps, bloating, fatigue, emotional imbalance, etc.). Another example of body-mind reactions is the flu. More than likely, a person starts to feel out of sorts mentally the day or a few days before the body exposes the sore throat, nasal congestion, and other common physical symptoms.
On the flip side, body-mind connection is incredibly positive, whether it is endorphins produced after exercise or stress relief during a massage. In the physical postures of yoga, it is thought that certain poses produce certain mental states. Backbends, for example, are thought to stimulate the mind, while inversions may bring on a quieter state. Exercise can be a cheap way to boost our focus, moods, and overall health.
5. Food Affects Both Our Bodies & Minds
It goes back to that old saying, “We are what we eat.” Every single morsel or liquid passing through our lips has some sort of effect on our brains. Our nutritional intake, every day, can have huge impacts –- both negative and positive — on how we feel, thanks mostly to the chemical serotonin. In a nutshell, when serotonin levels are high, we’re happier, and when they’re low, we become depressed.
Eating too many carbs and sugar can decrease sensitivity to serotonin, which leads to bad moods, and eventually obesity. To balance serotonin levels, eating protein can be the solution, especially before carb-intake. Instead of eating a sugary pick-me-up midday, go for a snack high in protein to keep the mood positive and energy up, avoiding a crash later.
6. Regular Sleep Is A Must For Mind And Body
Aside from food and exercise, sleep also plays an enormous role in maintaining healthy serotonin levels, and keeping our minds and bodies happy with each other. Serotonin’s primary action in the body is to sedate, therefore, it is closely tied to how energy is — or is not — expended (i.e. exercise and sleep). Without sleep, our brains can be negatively affected, by messing with our brain’s response to serotonin. In other words, it is important to keep up a consistent sleeping pattern, in order to keep the mind and body healthy.4
7. Meditation Can Help Our Hearts.5
According to the American Heart Association, medical evidence reveals a genuine reciprocal connection between the mind and body. Practices like meditation and other relaxation techniques have shown to alter not only mind-body, but also mind-heart connections. While there is a scarcity of studies directly addressing how mind-heart interventions can help patients with congestive heart failure, the AHA concluded meditation could help with anxiety and depression, which often coincide with serious illness.
Meditating for about 15 minutes daily can also help anyone who wants to stay centered and calm throughout the day. Exercises like meditation can help shift mental perceptions and reactions to situations. By becoming aware of tension and anxiety, and connecting to the breath, the mind will relax and the body will too. Even taking a few moments out of a stressful day to breathe quietly can have similar effects.
Essentially, we are what we think, eat, drink, say and breathe. Developing and applying mindfulness to all of these aspects of life can help us to maintain joyful mind-body connections. Let us know how you utilize your mind-body connection to stay healthy.