Our minds and our bodies are inextricably linked.
It seems that often, many people view these parts as two separate entities. People treat their bodies one way and their minds another way. Some people focus more on developing, supporting, and growing their bodies, and as a result, they end up neglecting their minds. Others focus on strengthening their minds through the pursuit of knowledge and their emotional bodies through various methods and forget to spend crucial time nurturing their bodies.
Either of these approaches is incomplete. The mind and body connection is unbreakable. It is not possible for a mind to exist without a body, and it's not possible for a body to live and grow without a mind. The mind and body connection is an important one. It's something each and every one of us should recognize and embrace.
Read on to learn more about this connection inside all of us.
What Is the Mind-Body Connection?
What does it mean when someone refers to our mind-body connection?
That person is speaking or writing about the interrelationship between our body and our mind.
Our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors can affect the way our body feels and acts. The way our body feels can have a major influence on our emotional and mental well-being.
Both of these things can work for us or against us. Our mind can positively or negatively impact our bodies, and our physical body can do the same for our minds.
In this case, the mind is not synonymous with the brain. Yes, our brains can be impacted by the way we take care of our bodies. However, the mind and body connection discussed here refers to the mental states that we experience. Our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and attitudes can influence our physical health for the better or worse.
As a result, more and more people are turning to mind-body therapies to help them simultaneously offer support and care for their mental health and their physical bodies at the same time.
History of the Mind and Body Connection
These concepts may sound new and revolutionary to you, even if they also seem quite obvious. The idea of the mind-body connection is nothing new. Over the past few hundred years, we have often been encouraged to forget about or ignore this intrapersonal relationship with ourselves.
Long ago and for thousands of years, everyone recognized this connection.
All humans knew that this connection existed, and they considered it with every decision they made.
Healers knew it, too. They viewed the body and mind as one whole being and treated illnesses and ailments with this understanding at the forefront of their minds.
However, sometime around the dawn of the 17th century, this view was pushed aside by most in the Western world. Eastern medicine continued to focus on the whole person, but Western medicine began to treat the body and the mind as two separate things.
There were many positive medical advancements due to this division. Allopathic medicine emerged, and through this form of treatment and healing, surgeries and pharmaceuticals developed. A focus on scientific inquiry emerged. These things have saved many lives and will continue to do so moving forward.
But, over the last century— especially the past few decades —some people have begun to return to their roots. Because the mind-body connection is innate and obvious, it turned out that we couldn't drift too far away from recognition of that connection.
While still respectful of allopathic medicine advancements and successes, researchers began to study the body-mind connection once again. They found the connection to be present and strong in all humans, whether we know it or not, and that it's up to us to use the knowledge of its existence to nurture our own overall health.
Proof of a Mind-Body Connection
There is much proof beyond common sense that the mind-body connection not only exists but that it is powerful.
Even a small child can point out clear examples of this. When we fall and hurt ourselves, we not only hurt physically but emotionally as well. When someone makes us feel left out, or we are nervous about something, we often feel discomfort in the pits of our stomach.
Ways the Mind Affects the Body
Deep down, most of us realize that a negative attitude can negatively affect our physical health over time. The opposite is also true.
According to a 2005 article in Time magazine, researchers have demonstrated this with studies suggesting that people who are happy, hopeful, optimistic, and content experience fewer instances of severe cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes, hypertension, and even colds and flu.
One study in the Netherlands found that people who were relatively upbeat most of the time had a fifty-percent lower chance of dying when compared to others in the study.
On the flip side, people who struggle with depression at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
We all know stress, especially over a long period, can make us feel awful. It can result in headaches, aches, pains, nausea, and insomnia, leading to more frequent colds and infections.
Ways the Body Affects the Mind
The health of the body can greatly affect the mind as well.
When we are not feeling well in the physical realm, many of us also find ourselves being pessimistic. We may be more critical of ourselves during these times. If we're feeling lethargic, for example, we may even begin to feel down about ourselves.
These things can have a negative influence on our mental health and can result in depression and anxiety. These emotions can be very challenging when we must fight an illness or disease. We are not as strong fighters when we are feeling negative from an emotional standpoint.
On the other hand, when we are in good shape and are in optimum health, we feel like we are invincible, and we are ready to conquer anything that comes our way. We feel good about ourselves, and that confidence carries over into all aspects of our lives.
The way our body feels at any given time can and does positively or negatively affect our mind.
Try a Mind-Body Connection Exercise
Although we are all innately aware of the mind and body connection that exists inside all of us, we can all benefit from practices that help us further recognize it. These types of activities will help to strengthen the indelible bond between our mind and our body.
If you'd like to investigate your mind-body connection, pursuing one or more of the following activities is a great way to start.
Mindfulness is a great way to connect with both your mind and your body. Many people who suffer from mental health issues spend much of their time overthinking things and ruminating, and they worry more than the average person. This can lead to physical health problems.
However, taking time to be mindful can alleviate some of these issues. Noting these habits on a daily and ongoing basis can reduce their impact on both physical and mental health.
Meditation is mindfulness taken a step further. Taking time to close your eyes, focus on your breath, and clear your mind from the constant flow of thoughts can put you at mental ease. This practice can help you in the physical realm.
When you have control over these things, you can control your stress and anxiety. You will see those deep breaths, and deep focus will make you feel better from a physical standpoint and a mental one.
Journaling is another excellent way to investigate your emotions and track their effect on your physical health. When you keep a journal, it will be far easier to track these things, and you will be much more easily able to see examples of the strong mind-body connection in your own life.
If you don't practice yoga already, you might consider starting today. This is one of the best methods for noting the mind-body connection. Yoga practitioners are encouraged to focus on their breath while they hold challenging poses and postures. There is nothing as powerful as the awareness we experience when doing so.
Celebrate the Mind and Body Connection
The mind and body connection within each of us is an incredible thing. We must embrace and celebrate it to experience optimum health. Although we as a society have moved away from our understanding of this innate connection, you can return to it yourself. When you fully grasp that these two aspects of ourselves are inseparable, you will have much greater control over your overall well-being. Good luck!
If you are looking for some great resources to help you dive into this connection within yourself, please check out the offerings on our site designed to help you meet that goal and many others. If you would like further guidance, please contact us, too. We can't wait to hear from you!
Image Credits: Samuel Lee, Sarah Pflug, Ryan Bruce