When someone asks you about your health, what comes up for you?
Thinking about health often brings to mind physical symptoms related to the body. But, increasingly, health is being reconsidered in the context of the whole human – encompassing physical, mental, and emotional states. This holistic approach is commonly referred to as the mind-body connection.
Understanding human health as a collaborative unit, rather than separate functions, can positively affect your well-being. When you become aware of how your mind, body, and emotions communicate and respond to one another, you can begin to strengthen the connection between them.
A strong mind-body connection can result in positive outcomes such as better coping mechanisms toward daily stressors, decreased anxiety, and an overall improvement in your health.
Let’s take a closer look at the mind-body connection.
What is the Mind-Body Connection?
The mind-body connection is the feedback loop between your mind and your body. Emotions, feelings in the body, and thoughts share distributed neural networks comprised of hormones, neurotransmitters, and chemicals that affect the immune, neurological, and endocrine systems.
The mind dictates the body’s functions, regulating daily functions such as movement, eating, and breathing. It also drives emotional states; a positive thought will induce emotions like happiness or joy, while a negative one may create feelings like sadness or stress.
The body responds to these emotional states with physical sensations. For example, think about when a stressful thought pops up; it might manifest as a stomach ache, a headache, jaw and shoulder tension, or a fearful thought that could make your heart beat faster and your palms sweat.
The mind-body connection reinforces the communication between human health systems and their impact on each other.
What Disrupts the Mind-Body Connection? How Does It Affect Your Health?
Common interferences to the mind-body connection include stress, trauma, and illness. It’s unlikely to go through life without at least one of these experiences, meaning everyone will disrupt the mind-body relationship at some point.
As for physical impacts, these disruptors create a fight, flight, or freeze response; this produces stress hormones within the body, which elevate your blood pressure and increase your heart rate. Even perceived stressors have an impact, too. When your mind produces a thought or feeling, it cannot distinguish between a thought and an actual event. As a result, the body still responds to the mind, regardless if the experience is real or imagined.
Research also shows that your body “stores” your emotions. Dr. Candace Pert, a physician who has extensively researched the mind-body connection, believes that “your body is your subconscious mind”.
According to Dr. Pert’s research, “A feeling sparked in our mind or body will translate as a peptide being released somewhere. [Organs, tissues, skin, muscle and endocrine glands], they all have peptide receptors on them and can access and store emotional information. This means the emotional memory is stored in many places in the body, not just (or even primarily) in the brain.”
How Do You Improve the Mind-Body Connection?
The first step to improving the mind-body connection is being mindful of its existence and impact. From there, you can begin to take steps towards strengthening it.
Start by simply noticing. Practice paying attention to your thoughts and feelings and how they manifest as symptoms in your body. Where do they show up? How do they feel?
The same goes for how you take care of your body; certain practices use the body to affect the mind and release stored emotions.
Some mind-body practices you can start doing today include:
- Movement: Movement and exercise help strengthen the mind-body connection and positively improve your mental health. Activities could include yoga, walking, hiking, and dancing – any form of movement that feels good in your body is beneficial.
- Practice breathwork: Paying attention to the breath can help increase awareness of what’s happening in the body and regulate your nervous system. Research shows that controlled and slow breathing can result in “increased comfort, relaxation, pleasantness, vigor and alertness, and reduced symptoms of arousal, anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion.”
- Journalling: Journalling is a powerful way to develop awareness. One 2006 study shows that journaling has a positive effect on participants who initially had higher levels of psychological distress.
- Work with a therapist: Therapists help you process thoughts and emotions in healthy and productive ways and cultivate tools to handle day-to-day stressors. Different approaches and therapeutic practices can be used, depending on your unique needs.
What Services Does Numinus Offer To Help Improve the Mind-Body Connection?
Numinus team of therapists are registered, clinical counsellors or social workers who take a person-centered approach to their practice. Their primary focus is to create a safe environment where you can feel seen and heard. From there, they build a unique treatment plan that addresses your needs, using more traditional approaches with emerging somatic and mindfulness-based therapies.
Learn more about our therapeutic services and book an intake call to find the right therapist for you here.
This article in no way promotes, condones, or facilitates illegal activity, and is strictly for educational and harm reduction purposes only. Please be aware that certain psychedelic substances still remain illegal in many jurisdictions, including Canada. This program and the contents of this website do not constitute medical advice, and are not a substitute for professional medical advice and treatment.