The mind/body connection. In recent years, this has become a buzzword and we see this topic referenced constantly in social media posts, documentaries, & magazines. It is something that we have all heard of but probably few fully understand. It’s not something that is taught on a broad scale and therefore isn’t practiced on a large scale in medicine or otherwise. As a result the majority of our health care system doesn’t understand how powerful the connection between the mind and body really is so they examine and treat the mind and body as separate entities. This is a huge misfortune as the mind and body are so deeply entangled that one always affects the other. When looking on a deeper level, all mental and emotional stress affects the body negatively. Stress causes muscle and joint pain commonly found in the neck, upper-back, shoulders, and lower back. Stress can also cause digestive issues, headaches, increased blood pressure, panic attacks, and heart problems yet we often don’t make the connection.
What if you go to the doctor for your symptom of headaches and they give you a medication to prevent this from reoccurring or to dull the symptoms when the actual problem was stress from an emotional issue in your life? Was the root cause of your headaches corrected? Nope, and that stress continues to exist and compound as long as you hold onto the emotional imbalance. It is truly impossible to fully heal when only treating the body and not the mind and vice versa. This is a huge deficiency that needs to be corrected in our health-care system. The majority of treatments today exist to help reduce patient symptoms. If the medical model devoted more energy and focus to figuring out the true underlying cause rather than clearing the symptom, healing and staying well would not be so difficult. The first reason is that the body isn’t able to completely heal if all aspects (physical, biochemical, emotional & energetic) of the patient’s condition aren’t addressed. When people are working on healing only issues with the mind or the body they may get initial results but they will ultimately hit a plateau and/or the results won’t be sustainable in the long term. So how do we support the mind body connection on our own?
Movement is one of the most important things that we can do to support the mind and body. A favorite quote I often reference is that motion is life. Everything alive is constantly in motion. Neuroscientists have found that one of the best nutrients for your brain is aerobic exercise and proprioception. Proprioception is your mind’s awareness of where your body is in space. The more you move the more you activate receptors in your body to tell your brain and mind where things are at. The really cool thing about movement is that the slower and more specific our movements are the stronger and more activated our brain. This is one reason that movements such as Qigong, Tai chi, and yoga are good for the mind-body connection. Also, engaging in activities that challenge our balance activates more areas of proprioception. Scientists are finding out that one of the many benefits of stand up desks in school is that our bodies are always slightly moving while standing. This slight movement activates more areas of the brain. We tend to retain information more efficiently with more areas of the brain activated. Another significant system of our body that affects our mind is gut health. It is fairly well known that our bodies have a gut/brain axis. Amazingly, when our cells were first starting to form, our brain and stomach started out right next to each other and then moved apart as we continued to develop. This information easily supports how there are brain cells in our guts. The other really interesting thing about gut health is that we produce about 85-90% of our Serotonin, which the brain uses as an important neurotransmitter, in our gut. When the gut isn’t working properly it affects the quality of our brain, mind, and thoughts. The brain’s foundation is electric and the information that goes in and out is also electric. This electrical activity is commonly referred to as brainwaves. When these brainwaves are imbalanced in different parts of the brain they can cause mental symptoms such as anxiety, depression, verbal and hearing issues, visual symptoms, memory recall issues, attention problems, etc. As expected, when the health of the brain is poor our mental quality is also going to be challenged and decreased.
The mind is a huge component as to how well our body is functioning as well as to the overall quality of the life we live. Another favorite quote regarding the power of the mind that I often refer to is from a mentor, Dr. John Demartini, and he says “the quality of your life is dependent on the quality of the questions you ask yourself”. This quote resonates on many levels and I believe it is always good to start out working on foundational things. I have learned from Dr. Demartini, that having clarity on what your top 3 values are is critical for creating a strong foundation to work upon. To establish your top values you can go to his website and complete the Values Determination. After you discern your top values, you need to find clarity on your purpose or what some people would refer to as your why. Your why and purpose drive meaning to your life and fill you with energy. They are derived from your biggest voids in life and are a combination of your values. It is also helpful to find mentorship in all different areas of your life to maximize efficiency, outcomes, and decrease stress. Stress in aspects of life whether it be vocational, relationship, financial, or otherwise is stored in your body. Learning from others speeds up the process and decreases our body’s stress burden. A huge aspect of the mind body connection is continued learning. Unfortunately, we are programmed to learn in school and then after school, we stop and/or decrease the amount of time we dedicate to learning. Neuroscientists have found that learning a new activity increases neurogenesis, the formation of new brain cells by an average of 200%. This malleability of the brain is amazing. However, the brain is extremely efficient and embodies the principles of use it or lose it. If you don’t continue to use what you learned those neurons will die off as they aren’t observed as necessary.
The last aspect of the mind/body connection I believe to be very integral is mindfulness. Some people teach this as a type of meditation but really it comes down to being present with yourself in the moment. When we live in a state of mindfulness we allow ourselves to be more balanced, less stressed, and experience more joy. When we are present in the moment, we are more conscious and observant of the true connection between our body and the environment around us. When our mind is in the past or the future we don’t have this connection w/ ourselves but a false perception of reality. Usually when our mind is focused on the past it is focused on guilt and when our mind is in the future it is focused on fear. Being mindfully present allows us to live in a higher state of love and gratitude.
To recap the mind body connection in its simplest form, stress causes symptoms, sickness, and a decreased quality of life. Working on decreasing stress both of the mind and body is needed to improve overall health. Here at Integrative Wellness Group, we work hard to shed light on all aspects of a patient’s experience so we can help create lasting wellness and a higher healthier quality of life.