The Power of the Mind-Body Connection
Which is more powerful, your mind or your body? That is kind of a trick question. The answer is they are both equally powerful. They are allies and work in tandem, searching for balance and harmony to keep you in a content state of being.
One affects the other. How you think can affect how you feel and how you feel can affect how you think. Your mind and body are interwoven. Let’s take this past year as an example.
We have had a single event take over the entire world at the same time. There is no escaping it. COVID, the stress-inducing, the fear-producing virus, turned us upside down. To say that it has caused people anxiety is an understatement.
Anxiety and stress come from our thoughts about a situation and the uncertainty that comes along with it. Our body responds to this constant worry by tensing muscles, leading to jaw pain, backaches, and headaches—your blood pressure increases, leading to other serious problems. Nausea and diarrhea are also common symptoms of stress.
Maybe you are one of those people who handle emotional situations well. But at your last doctor’s appointment, your test results showed you had lung disease. It’s treatable but not curable. A constant health problem can affect your emotions, causing you to become depressed, anxious, and stressed, which will affect how well you can manage and cope with the illness.
The body listens to the mind,
and the mind listens to the body.
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How the Mind & Body are Intertwined
The brain and body connect through neural pathways. Those pathways are made up of neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals that transmit signals between the brain and the body. Those signals tell your body when to breathe, when to eat, how to move and other everyday functions.
When you make decisions, feel happy, get depressed or are anxious, the action takes place in the emotional cortex part of your brain. It includes the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex.
All of these signals travel between the brain and the body communicating responses and reactions to each other. We are an amazing example of a communications network. Only we still function when the wifi goes out.
“According to the mind-body or biopsychosocial paradigm, which supersedes the older biomedical model, there is no real division between mind and body because of networks of communication that exist between the brain and neurological, endocrine and immune systems.”
—Oakley Ray, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University
Stress and Your Physical Health
Can you get sick from stress? Stress can weaken your immune system, allowing viruses to enter unchecked and cells to multiply unnoticed. Stress diminishes the white blood cell response to infected cells and cancer cells.
Additionally, when you are under a lot of stress, your body heals more slowly, and vaccinations are less effective.
Research shows that what chemicals and hormones your brain produces depends in part on what you are thinking, feeling, and expecting. If you are sick but have a positive attitude and believe you will get better, your brain produces the chemicals that boost your body’s healing power.
Negative thoughts can prohibit those helpful healing chemicals from being released, causing your illness to hijack your immune system longer.
Your positive thoughts may not be the only medicine you need, but they are resources you can draw on to feel better.
How to Utilize the Mind-Body Connection
for Total Well-being
The research on the mind-body connection has been ongoing since the 1960s. There are now hundreds of studies, and even though the research is rich and abundant, it continues.
Everyone wants to be healthy and happy. Many people believe they have no control over whether they are happy or not. Science says otherwise.
Here are some of the best therapies to get you to a harmonious and healthy mind-body connection.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – The focus is on teaching you how to notice and change your thought patterns. The goal is to activate positive thoughts and behaviors until they become automatic purposely. It may sound too simplistic to be effective, but researchers have found that people’s brains and nervous systems actually change in the process. Tame anxiety with this toolkit!
Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness – These modalities aren’t just hype. There is a real connection between mindful movement and breathing. Slowing your body down through breath work activates the relaxation response. It moves the body out of the fight or flight mode and into a rest response that measurably increases emotional well-being.
What You Eat/Nutrition – We’ve been told that our diet has a major impact on our health and well-being for decades. It’s true. What we eat has the power to reverse or even prevent mental health problems. Specific nutrients are linked to measurable increases in mental and emotional well-being. Check out some recipes and videos HERE!
- Discover How an EAP Can Help - Your employees bring more to work every day than just their lunches. Keep them focused, productive and resilient with programs built on 30 years of experience addressing real-life problems.
Research has found that about 95 percent of serotonin, the mood regulator, is produced in the gut and chemicals pass from the gut to the brain, not the other way around. By replacing bad bacteria in the gut with good bacteria, people can significantly increase their mood and have better emotional regulation.
Other body-mind therapies designed to improve the connection between your mind and body include:
- Support groups
- Creative arts – art, music, dance, creative writing, journaling
- Tai Chi
- Guided imagery
Find the therapy that works best for you and put it in your stressful day toolkit. When you find you need a better attitude about something, pull out your chosen therapy and spend some time with it while actively pursuing more positive thoughts.
“People’s thoughts and behaviors have the ability to change their neurobiology–our stress and physical health are intertwined. That’s the power and mystery of the mind-body connection at work.” Newport Academy
Relaxing your mind and body can make you happier and healthier. How can you go wrong with that?
Here are 12 questions you should ask your EAP provider.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Staff, H. (2020, August 31). Mind-Body Wellness. Retrieved from healthwise:https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/mente
The Mind-Body Connection. (n.d.). Retrieved from Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.johnshopkinssolutions.com/the-mind-body-connection/
Understanding the Mind-Body Connection. (2019, October 7). Retrieved from Newport Academy: https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/mental-health/understanding-the-mind-body-connection/
What is Mind Body Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Center for Mind Body Medicine: https://cmbm.org/about/mind-body-medicine/