The Importance of the Mind-Body Connection & Your Overall HealthJane Stark
July 24, 2017
The mind-body connection exists for all of us. Whether we choose to acknowledge that connection on a regular basis is up to us, and in today’s busy world it can become very easy to lose touch. The ‘awakening’ happened for me a few years back when struggling with some health issues. I recall talking to a nutritionist friend and saying something along the lines of “I don’t understand it, why do I feel so horrible.” Her reply: “Your body is trying to tell you something, you’re living from the neck up.” (ie. you’re living in your head and not listening to your body). That was a big aha moment for me, I was living completely out of alignment and my body was screaming at me to start paying attention.
The universe has a way of speaking to us, it usually starts off with a whisper and if we are paying attention we often hear the whisper and make adjustments, but when we’ve lost that mind-body connection we miss the whispers and they start to get louder until we pay attention again.
Here are a few reasons why the mind-body connection is so important and how you can begin to give it more attention and respect in your everyday life.
Our bodies are hardwired for mind-body connection. Remember that presentation you had to give in front of your whole Grade 12 class – you had the butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms and if you paid close attention maybe your heart was racing faster than normal. The stress of your high school presentation raises cortisol in the body, which goes up into the brain, cortisol then stimulates the alarm bell of the brain which send signals to the body to go into what we often hear as fight or flight mode. Enter sweaty palms, racing heart and butterflies. This is your mind and body talking.
Familiar with the saying “listen to your gut?” There is good reason behind that saying, in fact many scientists are starting to look at the gut as the brain of our bodies. Our gut often knows what is going on before our minds.
The good news is that we have the power to change our brains. As Rick Hansen says in his TED Talk, Hardwiring Happiness, “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” We can actually instill habits and thought patterns that improve our health and make us feel good.
So if the mind-body connection is inevitable AND is a good thing; how do we work it to our advantage and foster that strong connection? This is a big one to unpack and there are many new studies coming out on the power of our brains but here are few quick and simple tips to keep your brain and body in harmony.
As you may have guessed the basics are exercise, nutrition and sleep. These are the fundamentals to any healthy body but what we sometimes don’t realize is that they also have a big impact on our minds. Fatigue, brain fog and headaches are just some of the symptoms you might feel if these three things are lacking in your life. We need to fuel our mind the same way we fuel our bodies; with whole foods, regular exercise and proper sleep regimens.
Mindfulness activities such as yoga, meditation, nature walks and even quietly listening to music are all great ways to give your brain a much needed break from our task-oriented lives. When we slow down and give ourselves time to observe what is going on in our bodies we start to become aware of our feelings, our surroundings and our needs. We are also building new pathways in our brains that help us to navigate the stresses of life with more ease.
Ditch the negative self-talk and embrace the power of positive thinking. The sayings “you are what you think” or “your beliefs shape your reality” have some scientific backing to them. According to Psychology Today research shows that people have a higher tendency of embracing healthy habits if they believe they are capable of effectively performing these behaviors. And vice versa, when we don’t believe we are good enough or deserving of that certain number on the scale or well-paying job then we aren’t as likely to achieve those things. When we engage in negative self-talk we are essentially telling our brain to create neurological pathways for negative behaviours and beliefs and then we act on them. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative about yourself, stop and re-wire. Say to yourself “I am enough” or re-phrase the negative into a positive. This will begin to re-wire those pathways and help instill healthier habits.