The connection between your mind and body can’t be denied. The mind refers to the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and images that we experience. These things have an impact on your body’s physical state and well-being. You are physically affected (through body sensations and functioning) by what goes on in your mind. For example, your heart rate may increase when you experience feelings of anxiety when you have to make a speech in front of other people or when you do something for the first time.
How Does It Work?
How you think can directly affect how you feel physically, and how you feel physically can directly affect how you think and feel mentally. For example, if you have chronic back pain, you may be more vulnerable to feelings of irritability or frustration. In this instance, your body’s physical issues are affecting your feelings and thoughts.
Conversely, your thoughts and feelings can affect how you feel physically. For example, if you are constantly worrying and stressing about finances, your body responds through muscle aches and pains. It is helpful to think about your mind and body as being in constant communication with one another.
5 Ways the Mind and Body Are Connected
When you experience emotions, your brain sends signals to your body, and your body responds accordingly. Your body’s response to the brain’s signal is referred to as action urges. These urges can be unconscious, so you don’t necessarily think about how your body is responding. Also, when you experience problems with your physical body, your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are affected. Below are 5 ways your mind and body are connected.
- Stress and the fight or flight response: When you experience the emotion of stress, your body engages in the fight or flight response. This feels like your heart may beat right out of your chest, you are breathing so fast you can’t catch your breath, and it is difficult to move because of your muscle aches. This physical response helps us defend ourselves and avoid danger.
- Chronic pain and depression: Studies show that people who experience chronic pain are at risk for experiencing feelings of depression and sadness which can make it difficult to get out of bed, complete normal tasks, and feelings of hopelessness.
- Anxiety and eating (overeating and undereating): When you experience the emotion of anxiety, your urge may be to use food as a source of comfort to help reduce your feelings of anxiety, which can cause you to eat even when you are full. Conversely, anxiety can cause an upset stomach and other gastrointestinal issues that may contribute to a reduction in appetite, which can lead you to undereat.
- Anger and aggression: Anger is an emotion that exists to help protect you. Anger is part of your survival instincts, and it serves the purpose of protecting you when you are experiencing a threat to your safety. When you experience anger, the mind sends the body a message to prepare for fleeing or fighting by sending blood and other chemicals to your muscles. Clenching your fists and grinding your teeth are the body’s physical responses to the emotion of anger.
- Experiencing more positive emotions can improve physical health: Studies show that people who experience more happiness and joy have healthier blood sugar levels, healthier weight, have lower blood pressure, and have a reduced risk of heart disease compared to people who experience more negative emotions (anger, sadness, anxiety, fear).
How to Use It to Your Advantage
Having an awareness of your body’s physical response to your emotions can help you engage in the opposite action. Opposite action is when you act opposite of your physical urge. For example, when you experience anger and notice yourself clenching your fists, open your hands with your palms facing up. This interrupts the mind-body connection and can help reduce the intensity of your anger and prevent you from reacting to your anger. When you are experiencing depression, your urge may be to withdraw or isolate. In this case, the opposite action would be to gently approach the situation you are trying to withdraw from. For example, if your urge is to avoid going to the family get-together, the opposite action would be to go to the event, at least for a short time. Surrounding yourself with loved ones can help improve your mood and even reduce feelings of depression.
Talk to your doctor about any physical problems you may be experiencing. If you are experiencing mood or mental health issues, Valera Health can help on your personal journey with mind and body wellness. Valera Health offers psychiatric and therapeutic services through telemedicine.