A Mind-Body Wellness Hack For the New Year
The Power of Mind-Body Connection
Imagine the feeling you experience when you have a big moment coming up–a job interview, a big presentation, or speaking in public. You feel anxious. Maybe you have a tight knot in your stomach. Maybe your hands shake or you sweat or your voice cracks a bit.
When we are thinking or worrying about something, our body often experiences physical symptoms. This familiar feeling is a moment of mind-body connection that we can probably all recognize.
Constant or chronic stress can lead to health problems, and ongoing pain or health problems can lead to depression or other emotional disturbances. How you think affects how you feel. And how you feel can affect your thinking. Your mind and body are so powerfully connected that they are not even separate entities. Unfortunately, most healthcare treats them as such.
Stress: A Modern Villain
We all know by now that stress is a major contributor to poor health outcomes. Researchers have now identified the actual neural networks that connect the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla, which activates the body’s response in stressful situations. These findings illuminate how mental states, such as stress and depression, can influence organ function.
Additionally, when we’re stressed, our body releases two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones give us a short-term energy boost, a rush of adrenaline so we can get out of dangerous situations quickly.
However, you can still feel stressed even if there’s no danger. Your body perceives this stress the same way and releasing these hormones too frequently can have negative long-term effects. These include weakened immune response, digestive problems, and slower healing.
Stress is also a normal part of life, and it doesn’t have to be all bad. How we react to and manage stress is the critical part.
Cultivating Healthy Thoughts, Feelings, & Bodies
The connection between stress and health is easy to understand. It’s harder to imagine that the thoughts we think and the way we think them can affect our health too.
Ideally, our bodies and minds (and spirits) are in harmony with each other and with the world around us. It’s not all stress and disease. Our minds can have a positive effect on our health as well. Cultivating positive experiences and feelings helps us better handle pain and stress and promotes continued health.
Preventing chronic disease requires lifestyle changes, like eating healthier, exercising regularly, and adopting better sleeping habits. However, our ability to implement these changes is driven by our attitudes, actions, and behaviors, which in turn are controlled by our mind.
Seems like a lot of work! It can be. But the more we do it, the easier it gets. And the easier it gets, well, the easier it gets.
How to Foster Mind-Body Wellness
Scientists have long known that our emotions affect our physical health. And now, holistic styles of treatment are becoming more mainstream. These treatments focus on the whole human, not just fixing symptoms. Some types of therapies are: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), acupuncture, music therapy, art therapy, qigong, tai chi, and yoga, among others.
And, there are things we can do on our own to create and maintain a healthy mind-body connection. These may look different for each individual, but there are some tried and true tactics.
The top of every list? Meditation.
There are tons of resources out there, from apps to books, for beginners to advanced practitioners. And if you have no idea where to start, you can start with a deep, mindful breath.
Along with building mindfulness into our waking lives, getting good, healthy sleep and rest is important for our mind-body wellness.
Are there other ways to strengthen our mind-body connection? Of course! Here’s a few to try:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Yoga or stretching
- Creative expression
- Walking in nature
- Soaking in some sunshine for that good vitamin D
Most importantly? Invest in yourself. From your physical needs to your relationships to your emotional states, check in with yourself and honor what it is you need.
The good news is that since you’re here, you have the opportunity to connect with producers around the world who understand the importance of mind-body wellness. Many of our producers are working hard to create products and services that improve wellness. And many of them see the connection between planetary and collective wellness too.
Take a browse through our marketplace and discover producers whose work and missions resonate with you and your style of wellness.
This is an excellent article and an area of expanding research under the heading of the neuro-immune axis. One of my mentors, Hiram Polk, Jr, M.D., was Chair of the Dept of Surgery in Louisville when I was in training and was an early proponent of research in this area. Many aspects of the complex interactions between neurons innervating organ systems and the immune cells of those systems have been detailed but many are, as yet, poorly understood. How CNS-PNS interaction modulates local or systemic immune response is also poorly understood in many systems but is becoming clearer in a few, such as the digestive system. Most importantly and relevant to your post, how do mood, perception of wellness, and overall healthy lifestyle contribute to neuro-immune axis functionality system-wide (ie-macro vs micro)? In my mind, a feeling and perception of well-being has value in actually achieving this end, and this can be achieved to a large extent via the steps you’ve outlined. Finally, how does mood alter ultimate health outcomes? This is another unknown, but I can’t help but think that your suggested measures could contribute materially to real, measurable improvement in health and physiology. At any rate, there is a lot of research being done in this area, just search on ‘neuro-immune axis.’ Thanks again for a great, relevant post
CL Levy, MD MBA FACS FAANS
Hi Charles! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and thorough comment! And thanks for reading. It is such an interesting topic. I look forward to learning more as more research happens.