The Power of the Mind - Body Connection
To live a balanced life, being both mentally and physically healthy, we must nurture the connection between our mind and body. Our bodies respond to the ways we think, feel and act. By being aware of our thoughts and feelings, we provide ourselves with the chance to identify our emotions as they arise, process them, and choose how we will react. We offer ourselves the opportunity to live in a state of robust emotional health, which creates an open connection between our mind and body. Ultimately, allowing us to live a healthy life, both mentally and physically.
Let us use a simple analogy to explain further the importance of our mind and body connection. The relationship between our mind and body is similar to the relationship between a coach and a player. When you have a coach that guides, supports, and empowers a player, that player achieves everything they can to their highest potential. Take, for example, Coach A who constantly tears down a player's self-esteem. Coach A uses fear, humiliation, and guilt to get his team to the “win.” How would you, as the player, react? Like most, you might experience increased stress levels and constant worry. You may feel less motivated and engaged to play each day. You may even lose sleep due to feelings of anxiety, resentment, anger, or sadness.
Now, imagine you had Coach B guiding you on the field. Coach B builds up players’ self-esteem. He communicates effectively and uses techniques that incorporate confidence building, praise, and empowers you. How do you believe you would react? You might walk away from the field each time feeling happy, powerful, and full of pride. You may not have won every game, but with Coach B, you would know that every game is just practice for the next. His leadership would help you be resilient in every challenge and empowered for every game to come.
The connection between our minds and bodies works just like the connection between the coach and the player described above, where the coach is our mind and the player is our body. Our bodies react to our minds, just like a player, responds to their coach. Feeling butterflies in our stomach when we feel nervous or feeling our heart pounding out of our chest when we're under stress are examples you may have experienced of our mind and body connection.
Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all interconnected, whether we are conscientious of it or not. When our mind (our beliefs and thoughts) causes us to feel more negative emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, anxiety, sadness, stress, and depression, just like Coach A does, the connection between our mind and body becomes imbalanced. When this happens, our bodies react negatively. For example, anxiety can trigger stress hormones, which may suppress the immune system, opening the door for diseases. Feelings of fear can lead to digestive upset. Tension can lead to headaches and depression, which can lead to a disruption of the body's natural ability to heal itself. Furthermore, stress alone can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, nausea, pain in the muscles, rapid heartbeat, and frequent infections.
However, when our mind (our beliefs and thoughts) trigger us to feel emotions such as joy, gratitude, kindness, confidence, enthusiasm, pride, and love, just like Coach B does, the connection between our mind and body becomes balanced. When this happens, our bodies react positively. Research has shown that an empowered and positive mindset can lower levels of distress, improve your well-being, increase your immunity to diseases, strengthen your heart healthy, increase your life span, increase your resiliency, and even help you heal faster ("Positive Thinking," 2017, Mayo Clinic).
That is why it is so important to find your inner Coach B. Focus on creating a strong positive bond between your mind and body. Those with good emotional health, who are aware of their thoughts and feelings, can maintain a balanced and healthy life. By becoming present and aware of your thoughts and feelings, and learning to express them in appropriate ways, the health benefits will cascade throughout your whole life. Choose to react to your emotions positively by speaking with a trusted friend or therapist, journaling, exercising, or meditating.
Next time you notice an imbalance between your mind and body, take care of yourself by trying one of the strategies above to express your thoughts and feelings positively, taking care of yourself and living a balanced, healthy life.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, February 18) Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950.