By Jacquie Peterson
When you’re experiencing certain emotions or thoughts, have you ever noticed the feelings that arrive in your body with them?
For example, fear, sadness or happiness are common emotions you may have experienced during your lifetime. Fear may have felt like pain in your gut. Sadness may have felt like burning in your heart area. Or happiness may have felt like a light bubbly feeling throughout your body.
If you can relate to any of these occurrences, then you know what it feels like to experience a mind-body connection.
The mind-body connection is a natural feedback loop. Feelings in your body influence your emotions and thoughts – your emotions and thoughts influence feelings in your body.
The mind-body connection may occur in a million different ways. Of course, it’s different for each person.
While Eastern traditions have recognized this mind-body connection for 1,000s of years, Western research and practice have just started catching up during the last 30 years or so.
Research is discovering the importance of treating the person as a whole, finding that people who take part in mind-body therapies are experiencing improved overall health and wellness and improved quality of life.
Stress and the mind-body connection
The last wellness article in AWARE INK encouraged readers to support their well-being by strengthening mental wellness.
Practicing how your feelings, thoughts and emotions show up in your body is a good way to support your mental wellness from a holistic perspective.
Stress is a mind-body connection that often is mixed with a number of physical, emotional or mental reactions that occur throughout our daily lives.
There are two parts to the stress response.
The fight or flight reaction is triggered when you encounter a stressful situation, for example, taking an exam. Stress hormones are released, your heart rate increases, your breath quickens and you may experience increased perspiration.
Once this stressful situation has passed, your body regulates and returns to the rest and digest mode.
Fight or flight and rest and digest modes are normal responses to stress.
Stress like taking an exam is good stress. It tells your body when you’re in danger and when you’re safe.
However, mental wellness can be challenged when your body has a hard time turning off the fight or flight mode. Stress becomes chronic.
Clues that indicate you are experiencing this chronic stress include being tired, angry, irritable or unfocused. You may also experience headaches, poor sleep, anxiousness or sadness. Chronic stress is also related to decreased immunity, which challenges other illnesses.
Therapies to connect the mind and body
The good news is that there are healing therapies you can take part in to connect your mind and body to balance your stress response and return to the rest and digest mode.
There is a long list of therapies you can try, you can do some of them on your own at home. They key is to find the therapies that work best for you.
Here are a few proven mind-body therapies you might like to try:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy – You will connect with a therapist who uses this mode as part of their practice. It helps you consciously identify and change thoughts and behaviors that may be affecting your mind-body connection.
Yoga and Meditation – These mind-body therapies activate the relaxation response taking you out of the fight or flight mode through movement and breathing. Look for classes at local yoga studios, or you can also find a number of great classes online.
Guided Imagery – Guided imagery is a practice that uses positive visualization to support the mind and body. It helps calm the body’s stress response using all of your senses. Recorded guided imagery can be found many places online.