Why is Your Mind-Body Connection Important?
How is the mind-body connection explained? It means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning.
How the Brain Connects with the Rest of the BodyThe brain and body are connected through neural pathways made up of neurotransmitters, hormones, and chemicals. These pathways transmit signals between the body and the brain to control our everyday functions, from breathing, digestion and pain sensations to movement, thinking and feeling. The same neurotransmitters involved in thought and emotion also have receptors in the various organs of the body. What this means is that not only are your thoughts and emotions physical processes, but they also have an effect on the systems in your body.
Your Emotional CortexThe emotional cortex is the part of the brain that deals with emotions. It includes the amygdala, the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex. The emotional cortex is activated when our bodies face a stressful situation.
- The pre-frontal cortex helps us to think through what to do.
- The hippocampus regulates memory and emotions.
- The amygdala turns on the fight, flight or freeze response, also known as the sympathetic nervous system, and helps to store memories of a stressful event.
Your Fight, Flight or Freeze ResponseThe fight, flight or freeze response is an example of how the brain and the body are connected. As a survival type of response, it was originally designed to help us react automatically in dangerous situations (such as an attack by a wild animal) by fighting back, running or hiding.
Physical Symptoms of Your Fight, Flight or Freeze ResponseThe fight, flight or freeze response is also known as the physiology of stress. Even when we do not feel distressed, the body may experience stress. Physical symptoms of the fight, flight or freeze response include:
- difficulties with focusing
- tunnel vision
- dry mouth
- difficulties with swallowing
- breathing problems
- chest tightness
- muscle tension
- butterflies in the stomach
- a need to use the washroom.
How Your Emotions Can Affect Physical SymptomsAll physical symptoms have an emotional element. When we are injured, for instance, we feel the pain physically, psychologically and emotionally. We may start focusing on the pain and feel anxious, angry, sad or distressed. We may then start thinking negatively and withdraw from those around us. Because of the injury, we may engage in less activity for fear that we will be in more pain if we move. Over time, this may result in stiffness or weakness and deconditioning (muscle loss), which can cause more pain and distress.
How Your Thoughts and Feelings Affect Your Health
How to Improve Your Mind-body Connection
The power of negative thoughts are potent, an accumulation of these thoughts contribute to your mind sensing that you’re in danger. Reducing the negative stories we tell ourselves will reduce our reaction to stress, therefore reducing illnesses and diseases.
1. Become Aware of Your Thoughts
What kind of words pass through your mind on a daily basis? Are they positive words that affirm and empower you? Or are they toxic, negative words that bring you down?
2. Change the Way You Talk to Yourself
After identifying what kind of thoughts you think, the next time you experience a negative thought, stop and flip it around to become positive. If your thought was “I am bad at my job” change that to “I am amazing at my job, I’m organized, I complete all of my tasks on time and I enjoy what I do.” Changing the way we talk to ourselves has a massive impact on the chemical reactions in our bodies. Less negative chatter leads to less stress.
3. Change Your Emotional State
To fully influence the mind-body connection, not only do you need to say the positive words, but you need to feel them. Thoughts need to be in alignment with your emotional state, otherwise, the thought will not get past the brain. A sure way of changing your emotional state is through gratitude. Gratitude acts as a reset button, once you change your emotional state through gratitude, it becomes much easier to feel all of your positive thoughts.