The body-mind connection is the link between the physical body and our mind (emotions) and true health pivots on bringing balance to that relationship. Our very basic health is deeply connected to the body and how it physically reacts to our emotions. Actively working on physical wellness by harnessing our emotions can help patients heal faster from surgery, manage chronic illness and pain and achieve optimal health in life.
There are specific body-mind skills that we can incorporate into our lives and use them to be healthy and strong. When we are in balance we eat better, sleep better and approach life from a position of power and with a mind to enhance every experience we encounter in life. It is truly a new way of looking at and approaching our world. These skills are tools that you can use in challenging moments and in day-to-day life.
Our mind is working all the time and its influence on our body is powerful. Just imagining a traumatic experience can affect the physical body in the way that a real life experience might. Traditional medicine is now using body-mind exercises and therapies to help patients in the emotional and physical healing process. The Cleveland Clinic is currently using body-mind connection exercises to allow patients to actively participate in managing their health. These exercises have been shown to enhance the healing process, reduce the number of medications required and give patients peace of mind.
Cleveland Clinic body-mind work.
Therapists are using the body-mind connection in conjunction with traditional therapies to help PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), anorexic and other eating disorder patients to re-establish the body-mind link, facilitate self-acceptance and initiate a more caring relationship with their bodies. Ultimately the goal is to incorporate these skills and exercises as life tools to handle emotions and ultimately achieve long-term health for these patients.
Sarah G. Mitchell, LISW, specializes in treating eating disorder patients. She shared this observation:
"Eating disorder patients are disconnected from their bodies, as a result of and a way to continue the denial of the body's basic needs. Patients also experience their bodies as disgusting and not worthy of good care. Important goals of treatment are to help these patients re-engage with their bodies in a healthy manner and to challenge their negative appraisal of their bodies. To this end, spa treatments can be an excellent way for patients to begin to take pleasure in their bodies. Smelling the soothing scents, seeing the beautiful settings, hearing the peaceful sounds, and feeling the warmth of another's touch can increase one's appreciation of the body's functionality, thereby confronting the destructive belief of the body as enemy."
Massage therapy and Reiki, a healing energy therapy, are very effective tools to improve well being, facilitate relaxation and reduce stress. There is a direct connection between our thoughts and emotions and how they affect our physical body. Massage therapy is used to rebalance the body and emotions and bring us to a restored state and establish a heightened sense of well being. Consistent use of massage therapy can tune the body, helping clients remain more calm and relaxed in stressful environments and tense life situations.
Reiki practitioners use specific hand positions that transmit healing through a process that allows the body's energy to guide itself. It can reduce body tension and stress. Reiki can facilitate healing and also promote individual health and wellness.
Physical therapist Colleen Colyer, LMT, SPT, explains that her view of mind-body connection is founded in the massage polarity training philosophies.
"We manifest everything physically from our minds and our energetic place. That is how everything is manifest in a physical form. The mind holds thoughts, emotions, feelings, which are energy. Those emotions eventually manifest themselves into a physical form"
Her philosophy has become much more solid on the mind-body connection. Through rigorous scientific study and the clinical aspect of physical therapy she has had the opportunity to witness different types of healing situations and see the mind-body connection.
"Our bodies heal themselves and the difference in healing between someone who is healing emotionally or reducing stress is very different from how someone heals from a physical trauma like a motorcycle accident or a total knee replacement."
Body-mind connection skills and exercises can be incorporated into our lives in ways that work for us individually. These are life tools that can be utilized daily and have a profound impact on our health and wellness.
Yoga utilizes specific physical movements to aid the mind as it moves from a more stressed and restless state to a new place that is more relaxed and centered in healing. it allows us to quiet the mind and experience the benefits of lowered blood pressure and heart rate. It regulates our breathing and can bring us to a more meditative and reflective state.
It is also a form of exercise that has been shown to make us feel better and elevate our mood. Yoga can stimulate the mind and calm our thinking during the exercise and long after we are finished.
Meditation is an exercise of sustained concentration to reduce stress and control your body's mental chatter. Consistent meditation allows you to manage stress and control your body's response to it. This is very important because stress can have a negative long-term effect on your body. The human body's "Fight or Flight" response is its innate way of dealing with life-threatening situations and mental stress. This response releases a hormone norepinephrine that can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. if that stress response is activated consistently it can damage your body permanently over time.
Meditation can be practiced daily to ease and manage stress and tension and put your body in a more balanced state. Meditation can be used to manage pain, reduce headaches and handle sleep issues.
How to meditate.
Breathing exercises are a way of reducing stress and quieting the mind. These are techniques that can be performed at any time and anywhere to wake the body and reestablish balance.
Mindfulness is the actively-practiced skill of being present. It gives life more joy and increases our appreciation of it, while decreasing the mental chatter we habitually activate in response to stress and tension.
There are very specific mindfulness exercises that can be used to "tune-in" and can be used daily to give life more meaning and happiness.
How to bring more mindfulness.
Our physical body seeks continual and cohesive balance and sends us clear-cut clues when things are out of sync. Listening and being aware of the cues our body sends out is the first step in achieving balance. Incorporating mind-body connection exercises and therapies can profoundly influence the quality and balance of our lives. Achieving that holistic balance improves our health, helps us live longer and gives us the framework to cope with life's ups and downs.