Creating a healthier mind and healthier body connection isn’t just a bunch of new-age jargon.
Believe it or not, what you think and how you feel has a direct impact on your physical health, and vice versa.
As a matter of fact, your thoughts even affect how your body handles infection and disease.
Researchers are finding that the neural and hormonal pathways between the mind and body are tightly linked, and you can’t improve one without the other.
The only question is, how do you strengthen the connection between the mind and body?
This article explores how to get a healthier mind and healthier body connection.
Let’s dive in!
What Is a Healthier Mind and Healthier Body Connection?
Think of the mind-body connection as a superhighway between your thoughts/feelings and body.
The mind and body are powerful teammates, but unfortunately, modern medicine has devalued their connection over the last century.
As a result, we’ve allowed chronic stress to influence a long list of health issues, including:
High blood pressure
To make matters worse, social media, long commutes, and hectic routines have only increased stress.
If you want a healthier mind and body, you’ll have to create a better mind-body connection.
How the Mind Communicates with the Body
Stress, anxiety, and depression communicate with the rest of the body by producing certain neurotransmitters and hormones.
However, these same functions can also be used as a force for good.
For example, an optimistic mind can trigger the production of feel-good neurotransmitters and optimize hormone levels.
But unfortunately, many of us live in a state of chronic stress.
In this unhealthy state, negative emotions can rob the body of its natural healing powers.
Illnesses Caused by a Poor Mind-Body Connection
The field of psychoneuroimmunology studies the connection between the mind and illness.
Recent research shows that stressful emotions can damage white blood cells.
Ultimately, this makes you more susceptible to disease.
For example, one study found that stress reduces the body’s ability to fight cancer and viruses. (1)
Plus, stress increases the risk of autoimmune conditions.
Although the relationship between stress and disease is complex, it can often be traced back to inflammation.
In healthy individuals, inflammation is a positive part of the healing process.
However, chronic stress can lead to widespread inflammation and a number of serious health conditions, including:
1. Mind-Body Connection: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Stress hits the gut hard.
When you’re stressed, the brain tells the body to release hormones like cortisol.
In small doses, cortisol prepares you to handle threatening situations.
For instance, it floods the blood with glucose for fast-acting energy, increases heart rate, and boosts blood pressure.
In other words, it prepares you for battle.
However, too much cortisol is terrible for the gut lining.
Over time, cortisol can damage healthy gut bacteria, weaken the gut lining, and expose the bloodstream to inflammation.
The end result is not only irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but body-wide health problems.
In fact, mood disorders can even worsen as a result of IBS caused by stress.
Roughly half of IBS patients report anxiety or depression.
2. Mind-Body Connection: Mental Health Conditions
Even mood disorders can get worse as a result of stress.
Shockingly, roughly half of IBS patients report anxiety or depression.
At the same time, women with anxiety or depression are three times more likely to develop IBS than the average person?
This is because the gut is closely linked to the brain through the vagus nerve.
In the end, bacterial imbalances and inflammation in the belly can trigger mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and more.
3. Mind-Body Connection: Heart Disease
The stress response has an immediate impact on cardiovascular functions like blood pressure and heart rate.
If you suffer from chronic stress, it can take a toll on the heart.
Ultimately, chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can cause blood platelets to become sticky and lead to heart attacks.
4. Mind-Body Connection: Skin Conditions
When stress increases inflammation, the skin can suffer.
Depending on the person, inflammation from stress can irritate the skin.
As a result, stress can make conditions like eczema and psoriasis worse.
Studies show that depression can double the risk of psoriasis and can also increase the risk of psoriatic arthritis. (2)
5. Mind-Body Connection: Headaches
Stress, anxiety, and depression are also closely linked to headaches thanks to high cortisol production.
Plus, over time the body can lose its ability to produce pain-blocking steroids.
When it’s all said and done, anxiety can double the risk of crushing migraines. (3)
6. Mind-Body Connection: Allergies
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, then allergy season is a time to be on high alert.
Allergy sufferers are 72 percent more likely to feel depressed.
To top it all off, suicide attempts also spike when there’s lots of pollen in the air. (4)
Even worse, many steroidal allergy meds can disrupt hormone levels.
9 Ways to Strengthen the Mind-Body Connection
It’s time to get to work and strengthen the mind-body connection!
A healthier mind, a healthier body, and a happier life awaits.
Here are some of the best practices to enhance the connection between mind and body:
Meditation reduces cortisol and boosts feel-good neurotransmitters like GABA.
All it takes is 10-15 minutes of meditation a day to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
Stress can cause brain fog and poor memory, but thankfully meditation can help clear these up as well.
Plus, it can even improve sleep quality.
Yoga combines stretching, bodyweight exercises, and breathwork.
Most importantly, however, yoga is proven to reduce stress, panic attacks and anxiety.
It enhances calming neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin while reducing cortisol.
As a matter of fact, a meta-analysis of 35 clinical trials found that yoga provides significant improvements in physical and psychological health markers in most people. (5)
3. Qigong and Tai Chi
Qigong and tai chi come from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and they share many of the same benefits with yoga and meditation.
Both practices involve synchronizing the breath with movement.
The best part is, these movements can easily be modified to accommodate people of all fitness levels.
At the same time, they improve flexibility and strength.
In fact, a Harvard medical publication even refers to tai chi as “moving meditation” and raves about its holistic benefits. (6)
4. Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises (without movement) have massive health benefits of their own.
For starters, breathing increases blood flow to the brain and boosts oxygenation.
Plus, breathwork expels extra carbon dioxide and alkalizes the blood.
PRO TIP: Breathing through the nose activates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms the fight-or-flight response. (7)
5. Quality Sleep
Few practices are more important to overall health than quality sleep.
Sleep is when the body and brain repair damaged cells.
The fact is, the brain lacks lymphatic vessels.
As a result, it can only remove cellular waste during sleep.
This is largely why poor sleep is linked to all sorts of health problems, including:
…and much, much more.
6. Regular Exercise
You were born to move!
And it isn’t just about your body either…
The brain needs movement just as much as the body (if not more).
First and foremost, regular exercise reduces stress hormones. (8)
This, in turn, sets off a chain reaction that brings other hormones and neurotransmitters into balance.
All it takes is 20 minutes of moderate exercise three days a week.
7. Spending Time in Nature
Natural environments, like parks and hiking trails, rejuvenate the mind.
There’s just something about the smell of the trees and the sounds of birds chirping that reduces stress.
In fact, researchers have found that even being near natural environments improves mood and increases productivity in the workplace. (9)
8. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Sometimes it helps to talk, especially if you have a history of childhood trauma.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that’s proven to help with several disorders, including:
It’s never easy to open up to a psychologist, but when it comes to working through past trauma, it’s one of the most powerful things you can do.
9. Living More Authentically
Are you living and speaking your truth?
If you aren’t, it will inevitably erode your mental health.
Ask yourself, what can you do to live more authentically?
The harsh truth is, you might have old friends, jobs, or habits that need serious rearranging.
In order to live more authentically, try the following exercise:
Describe in writing an ideal day in your ideal life.
It has to be an “average workday,” not a vacation day.
Who is part of your life to help get you there?
Where do you live?
What do you eat for breakfast?
Write down all the juicy details!
This journaling exercise can be a powerful starting point on your path to a stronger mind-body connection.
Feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers for more advice about developing a healthier mind, a healthier body, and a happier life.
We’re glad to answer any questions you may have.