The Mind-Body Connection: Why You Need to Work on One to Heal the Other

Related Article
Mind & Soul
The Ugly Truth About the Art of Time Management
Read Article
andrei lazarev unsplash blurry body woman
Photo: Courtesy of Andrei Lazarev

Most of us are familiar with the idea of tapping into mindfulness techniques to better cope with the stresses of everyday life – or of thinking your way into wellbeing and happiness. In fact, we are surrounded with real-life stories and inspirational accounts of people who have managed to completely transform their lives and achieve their wildest dreams by altering their thought processes, attitudes, and beliefs.

However, even if this may seem like a relatively new-age concept to you, these notions and practices are actually based on science and were explored (and exploited) long before motivational speakers started using them in their speeches.

It is a widely recognized but often forgotten fact that our body reflects our mind – psychological events have physiological manifestations – and vice versa. When, for example, you are about to give an important presentation, your voice starts to tremble, your palms sweat, and your heart feels like it’s about to burst out of your chest. Similarly, when you catch a bad cold or experience any health setbacks, your mind and spirit tend to be out of sorts as well.

We have all experienced some of these symptoms to different extents. The mind-body connection is what is at the root of all this and, when understood and used correctly, it can become a useful tool to help our mind heal our physical body, and vice versa.

The Connection

The idea of a connection between body and mind has gained significant momentum in recent years, but scientists, doctors, and philosophers have been studying this relationship for centuries and have found it to be crucial in understanding the causes of and finding treatment methods for a great number of diseases.

The three systems in our body that are responsible for both our mental and physical health – the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems – are connected via hormones and neurotransmitters. Therefore, each time we feel any stress or negative emotion, a part of our brain starts signaling to our cardiovascular system, digestive tract, and our muscles – hence the physical symptoms mentioned earlier. Moreover, scientists have generated bodily maps of emotions that show how different parts of our physiology are affected by both positive and negative emotions.

The Healing Process

Given the importance of this connection, it is crucial to work on both parts separately and simultaneously in order to heal either. Here’s how to do it.

Stay Active

Regular activity will not only yield physical results, like a healthier body-fat percentage, stronger muscles, and higher bone density, but it can also be one of the key factors in improving how your mind deals with the challenges of daily life. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to engage in an overly intense workout that drains every last bit of your energy. It can be anything from a long walk or a swim to Pilates, dancing, or moderate jogging, as long as it feels good and keeps you active.

When your body moves as it was designed to, it sends positive signals to your brain, which will in turn be more productive, free of negative clutter, and focused on the good things in life. Breathing exercises are another way to ease your mind by using your body. By taking a couple of long, deep breaths during times of distress, you are sending signals to your body that it need not be alarmed and that it is in a safe space.

Alter Where Necessary

Physical appearance is, in some cases, at the root of negative self-talk and limitations. These beliefs can lead to a number of insecurities that prevent us from applying for a job, talking to certain people, or generally living the life we want. The first thing you need to realize is that you are beautiful, and that you have so much more to offer than your physical appearance. That being said, years or decades of living with insecurities cannot just be wished away. If something truly is limiting you, you might find that tackling it through natural remedies, cosmetic fixes, or cosmetic treatments can significantly improve our confidence, and positively impact our mind.

Practice Mindfulness

The state of your mind can have a direct impact on your health. Just as the opposite is true, caring for your thoughts and beliefs can have a positive effect on your body. As shown in an experiment conducted with water crystal structures, cells are transformed by thoughts, feelings, and words. This would suggest that we can affect the way our body works by being mindful of what goes on in our mind.

Meditation is one of the key tools to achieving this. A daily meditation practice will teach you how to monitor your thoughts as they appear and decide if you want to keep or alter them in order to serve your wellbeing.

Another way to prevent negative emotions from causing pain to your body is to express them. Find a safe outlet for your emotions by talking to a group of trusted friends or starting therapy sessions with a professional who can help you adopt a more positive mindset.

Work on the Mind and Body Simultaneously

Probably the most efficient way to improve your physical and mental health is to work on both at the same time. Ancient practices like yoga and tai chi are some of the most common mind-body exercises that simultaneously increase mindfulness and keep your body fit and healthy.

Applying these two-way approaches can enhance the mind-body connection and promote a more wholesome psycho-emotional and physical environment.

Rebecca Brown is a translator by day and a traveler mostly at night. She is an expert on living with jet lag – and packing in tiny suitcases. You can read more of her exploits on RoughDraft.