The Mind-Body Connection
"Your mind, emotions, and body are instruments, and the way you align and tune them determines how well you play life."
- Harbhajan Singh
In the world of allopathic medicine, we tend to split the mind and body into two unrelated categories. We tend to treat mental health separately from physical health.
However, we must come to understand that the mind and body are intimately interwoven.
Our outer expression is largely an expression of our inner world.
In this article, we’re going to briefly explore the science of the mind-body connection, break it down to layman’s terms, and give some examples of mind-body practices that you can use everyday to create a life of clarity.
The Basics of the Science
Self-knowledge is at the core of personal transformation. Know thyself.
Let’s start with a simple overview of our bodies’ systems…
We have our central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord
and we have our peripheral nervous system - the multitudes of pathways that branch off of the central nervous system.
These are the chemical-electrical passageways that allow different parts of our bodies to communicate efficiently and effectively.
We have our endocrine system that consists of glands that secrete a variety of hormones directly into our bloodstream.
Our pineal gland, located deep in the midbrain, secretes serotonin and melatonin (our mood and sleep hormones).
Our adrenal glands, sitting atop the kidneys, produce cortisol (our stress response hormone).
The testes and ovaries produce testosterone and estrogen (our sex drive and developmental hormones).
Now, events in the outside world enter our conscious perception through our five senses - sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste…
These sensational signals cue a cascade of neurological and hormonal signals throughout the body, and result in the phenomena of thought, feeling, and emotion.
This is our brain and body’s way of doing their best at interpreting these events based on our experiences of the past.
These thoughts are emotions furthermore cause muscular reactions - reactions of tensions and relaxations.
The shoulders slump when we get sad
The belly tightens when we are afraid.
When we are in a state of joy or love, we get ‘butterflies’ in our our stomach
Thus, everything in the mind and body are beautifully and intricately connected.
What Does this Mean for You?
This is where it gets really interesting…
Given the above information: over time, your body and brain change shape based on what you continuously do, think, and feel.
Fortunately, we as humans are endowed with the gift of a brain with a large cortex, giving us exceptional abilities of pattern recognition, complex problem-solving, focus, and emotional regulation.
Our brains are also neuroplastic and are constantly changing shape based on what we experience
In other words, you have the innate biological capacity to change and heal.
You can make the best use of that cortex by using the ability to recognize and reflect on our habits, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
You then can heal and change any life habit or pattern that you wish, and choose to create the mind, body, and life of your deepest desires.
In the words of Candace B. Pert, PhD, in her book Molecules of Emotion: “I have lectured and written about the important role of perception and awareness in health and longevity—how awareness can actually transform matter, create an entirely new body.”
This is where the aspects of personal responsibility and self-leadership come into play…
If you are seeking transformation to “an entirely new body” and brain, you must construct habits and routines in your life that help you cultivate the qualities of your own choosing…
This is Self-Mastery - the ability to choose our lives on purpose.
Mind-Body Practices for a Life of Clarity
Mind-body practices allow us to reconnect what was severed by modern medicine. They allow us to become in-tune with every movement of every muscle fiber and organ of our body. Here are some main mind-body practices that you can implement into your everyday routine:
Mindfulness/meditation practice: develop focus and awareness of our thoughts and body
Seated meditation: begin by listening to guided meditations
Yoga nidra: the art of sleep yoga: Lay down on flat ground. Decompress the spine. Progressively scan and relax the entire body, toes, to head.
Standing meditation: feel your feet on the ground.
Walking meditation: notice the small details of walking. As you move your feet, notice which muscles are activating and how they all interconnect.
Object meditation: observe the small details of an object of your choice
Eating meditation: taste and enjoy every bite of your food!
Breathwork: this is so simple and has so many benefits. Called pranayama in yogic philosophy, this is the art of moving breath throughout the body. It allows our diaphragm to strengthen and our lungs to expand, increasing our breath capacity. In turn, it also loosens up any stored tension within intrinsic muscles of the body. This improves respiratory, digestive, and reproductive capacity.
Movement practices: develop discipline, strength, flexibility, creativity and overall resilience. Truly get intimate with your own body.
Cold plunge/ice bath: fill a big tub full of water and dump ice into it until it reaches about 7-degrees celsius. Immerse yourself. This will be very uncomfortable in the beginning. However, when we willinging place ourselves in discomfort, we are slowly able to withstand it for longer periods of time. In turn, we are more equipped to handle the inevitable stressors of everyday life.
Positive self-talk (aka autosuggestion): develop the habit of talking nicely to yourself. This allows us to intentionally craft our thoughts, which in turn form our beliefs and confidence in ourselves.
See my YouTube channel for videos on all of these practices.
Practice exercise: visualize your dream life. Jot down what your perfect day packed with health, joy, and meaningful work might look like, hour by hour. Challenge yourself to act it out.
Molecules of Emotion, Candace B. Pert., Ph.D.