Lifestyle Lounge – Do you believe it is possible to have a positive self-image? Is it plausible that our mental perception of the world is guiding our immune system in a way that makes us respond better to future threats?
As observed with women over 40 years old struggling to lose weight, thoughts do have an impact on the overall health. This indicates that an individual’s emotions, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or even negatively affect biological functioning.
Leading scientific research suggests that our minds can play an important role in healing our body — or in staying healthy in the first place.
What is the Mind and Body Connection?
The mind-body connection is the link between a person’s thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and physical health. This connection is by no means a new theory. Up until approximately 300 years ago, virtually every system of medicine throughout the world treated the brain and body connection as a whole.
But, during the 17th century, the Western world started to see the mind and body as two distinct entities. In this view, the body was kind of like a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts, with no connection whatsoever to the mind.
Have you ever felt so nervous, your palms started to sweat? Or felt so worried you couldn’t fall asleep at night? This is the mind-body connection at work. Physical health and emotional health are intimately intertwined in what’s known as the mind-body connection.
How Are the Mind and Body Connected?
The brain can produce certain chemicals that are linked to improving your health. This includes endorphins, which are produced to help the nervous system cope with stress or pain, and antibodies which are produced by the immune system in response to a foreign substance, to remove it from the body.
The effects of your state of mind can impact the release of these chemicals. One of the biggest examples of this is the flight or fight response. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your body will act as though it’s under attack and will release hormones that either prompt you to stay or run.
Your heart rate can increase, digestion slows, you might feel tense, and your senses might be heightened, all of which are triggered by feeling stressed or anxious.
It has also been said that if you feel ill but you maintain a positive attitude, your brain could be more likely to produce the right chemicals required to boost your immune system.
This is why being able to maintain a positive relationship with your mental and physical health is crucial to achieving overall well-being.
There are many techniques to connect the mind and body such as meditation, deep breathing, stress management, resiliency training, spirituality, and positive and negative thinking. Let’s dive in and learn how to connect your body and mind.
The term “meditation” refers to a variety of practices that focus on mind and body connection and are used to calm the mind and enhance overall well-being.
Some types of meditation involve maintaining a mental focus on a particular sensation, such as breathing, a sound, a visual image, or a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase like “Om”.
Studies show that meditation may help reduce blood pressure, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people with ulcerative colitis. Meditation may also benefit people with insomnia.
Additional studies show that the positive effects of mindfulness-based meditation on depression can last for six months or more.
2. Deep Breathing
Similar to meditation, deep breathing techniques can be highly potent and beneficial for physical and mental health.
Yogic breathing, another name for deep breathing, is the voluntary regulation of the breath by consciously and actively using the diaphragm to increase the inflow and outflow of air, as well as to decrease the frequency of each breathing cycle.
The diaphragm is the muscle separating the abdomen and chest cavity. Attached to the base of the lungs, the diaphragm is rarely activated when breathing unconsciously. This translates into a shallow breathing pattern leading to poor ventilation and decreased respiratory efficiency.
Most of us nowadays breathe only short, shallow breaths, keeping our bodies in a constant fight or flight response, which triggers a whole host of reactions as mentioned above.
3. Stress Management
Understanding how we react and behave when confronted with stressful situations and anxiety can help us recognize how to better manage stress going forward.
We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can see them differently.
Sometimes, simply reframing the stressful situation can help you manage the stress by changing the way your brain interprets the events and situations and enhancing focus from a more positive perspective.
Instead of complaining about a traffic jam, consider it a moment to recharge, tune in to your favorite radio station, or spend some alone time.
Prioritizing your self-care is a great way to manage stress and is essential to keep us functioning well and improving our overall health.
Ask Yourself These Questions
The following aspects of our health are vital to our well-being and crucial for managing stress better. Consider the following:
- Are you getting sufficient sleep?
- Are you making time for the people you care about?
- Are you prioritizing physical activity?
- Are you eating a balanced and varied diet?
- Are you giving the focus to things you are passionate about?
- How can open yourself more to community and spirituality?
4. Resiliency Training
Resilience is your ability to adapt well and recover quickly after stress, adversity, trauma, or tragedy. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have a resilient disposition, you are better able to maintain poise and a healthy level of physical and psychological wellness in the face of life’s challenges.
Resilience can be crucial when it comes to maintaining your stress levels, which can have a huge impact on your physical health. It’s important to deal with stress in a healthy way, whether it’s through support from loved ones or changing your perspective through therapeutic methods.
Spirituality includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all.
People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness. Finding your purpose can be a great tool in making sure you are healthy both in your mind and body.
Whether it’s your career or personal life, knowing who you are and what your values are can help to keep you grounded. In some cases, it can help you make the right choices when presented with opportunities.
Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of what is happening in your body and mind in the present moment and to be open to it with curiosity and kindness. This allows you to explore beliefs, perspectives, and experiences in a new way that might lead to new insights into spiritual questions.
6. Positive and Negative Thinking
Researchers are finding more and more evidence pointing to the many benefits of optimism and positive thinking. Such findings suggest that not only are positive thinkers healthier and less stressed, but they also have greater overall well-being.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the health benefits of positive thinking include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress and pain
- Greater resistance to illnesses
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Reduced risk of death from cancer
- Reduced risk of death from respiratory conditions
- Reduced risk of infection-related death
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
Negative thinking patterns like assuming the worst, jumping to conclusions, and self-criticism, can make it more difficult to deal with health problems.
For example, a woman struggling to lose weight may think “everyone in my family is overweight, so there’s nothing I can do about it”, even after being told by their doctor that their weight can be controlled with diet and exercise.
Turn It Into a Positive
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice to create a new habit.
If you want to engage in more positive thinking, start by identifying areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it’s your career, your daily commute, life changes, or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way. Be sure to periodically stop and evaluate what you’re thinking.
If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them. Embracing positivity does not mean ignoring the negative aspect of a situation, but rather recognizing that you will figure out a way around it.
The way that you feel influences the way that you think and vice versa. The mind-body connection is the communication between your thoughts and your feelings. Your feelings are a bodily experience, while your thoughts are in the mind.
The power of the connection between the mind and body cannot be denied. You may start learning strategies to create more balance in your life and deal with stress once you are aware of how stress affects your body and mind.
Try the methods mentioned to strengthen the bond of the mind-body connection.
Featured photo credit: Leighann Blackwood via unsplash.com