Observing your body’s cues can allow you to access an innate wisdom. When listened to and acted upon, this knowledge will enable you to create a healthy relationship with your body, mind and self. And this relationship, in turn, is a vital ingredient for wellness.
In ancient Greece, where medicine was effectively invented, a patient would be diagnosed by the ‘knife doctor’, the ‘herb doctor’ and the ‘word doctor’ together. This was in recognition of the concept that the mind and body were not viewed as separate entities.
It was only about 300 years ago that Western cultures decided to treat the mind and body as distinct entities. The ‘Cartesian mind/body split’ postulated by René Descartes, largely ignored the influence of the mind and emotions on health and illness, and this ‘biomedical model’ has remained a dominant view within Western medicine today.
By the late 20th century, research started to revisit the mind-body connection, and the subject continues to intrigue academics today. There is a growing body of scientific research suggesting that our mental state can not only play an important role in healing our body, but it is also a crucial aspect of staying healthy in the first place.
The placebo effect
One way to demonstrate the extent to which the mind influences the body is to consider the effects of administering a placebo.
As neuroscientist Fabrizio Bendetti explained that placebo painkillers could trigger the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins; while fake oxygen given to someone at altitude, had been shown to cut levels of neurotransmitters called prostaglandins to effectively reduce the impact of the altitude sickness experienced.
These examples show that the placebo itself is not influencing the body: it is the influence of our perception that triggers a chemical response.
Through his epigenetics work, Dr Bruce Lipton also found the cells of our bodies are following instructions received by our nervous system. Once a set of external signals has been received and interpreted, corresponding internal responses will occur. According to Lipton, as our perception changes, we can alter the message that our nervous system communicates to our cells, even to the level of our genes. He concluded that our mind controls our biology, in a way that parallels the placebo effect - the active ingredient is belief.
Being the observer of your thoughts
The practice of being mindful grants you an awareness of what is taking place within your mind. This gives you the lucidity to make choices about how you want to respond, meaning you can often avoid the build-up of toxic emotions, which may lead to dis-ease in the body.
Regular meditation increases your consciousness of your own mind-body connection. Among other things, meditation can centre and strengthen the mind, allowing time to process unresourceful emotions; other paths to the same result can be through journaling, or discussing them with a trusted friend or a wellness practitioner.
Research is showing that there is a remarkable connection between our wellbeing and the health of our gut. Conditions such as thyroid disorders, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes and asthma - to name just a few - are being linked to poor gut health.
Interestingly, your gut and brain were formed from the same fetal tissue while you were growing in your mother’s womb. This special bond, known as the gut-brain axis, adds to a growing body of evidence that supports the existence of a mind-body connection.
How natural therapies fit in our modern life
We are starting to understand that the foods we eat, the thoughts we cultivate and the lifestyles we maintain influence our health. If we are returning to an era where the mind-body connection is central to our wellness, could this be translating into an increasing trend of people seeking complementary therapies to assist them in their quest for wellness?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is a resoundingly positive trend. Approximately 80% of the world’s population relies on natural therapies to address chronic conditions and to improve their overall wellbeing. Many have enjoyed great benefits by incorporating natural therapies and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with the integration of modern medicine.
A personal view on the mind-body connection
Whether it was in my corporate days or now as a business owner, I have experienced plenty of stress-fuelled episodes. I have noticed the way my mind loses its clarity to make smart decisions, my body holds onto weight and inflammation as the increase of cortisol and adrenaline cause havoc, and I experience bouts of anxiety and depression. It is only when I get back to the basics, and my wellness becomes a priority, that everything comes back into balance.
During my work as an energy-healing practitioner for a decade, many people have visited my practice experiencing a chronic condition such as IBS, asthma, eczema, or an eating disorder. In other cases, they have looked to me for guidance on what they should do after being faced with a troubling diagnosis. In every situation, I would start with a question: “What do you feel is right for you?”
I have never believed that one modality had all the answers, nor that it truly mattered as long as the client held a strong belief that they were receiving support for where they were at, and the treatment was right for them. The strength of the mind was the key determining factor of success.
There were other vital aspects to treatment, such as explicit trust in the practitioner/client relationship, but without a belief that what they were doing would work, no matter what modality the client received, it would struggle to elicit the desired response. The ultimate determining factor was the mind-body connection.
How to tap into the mind-body connection for wellness
In the wise words of Gandhi - A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks he becomes.
Here are a few ways I acknowledge my mind-body connection while regaining my health and wellbeing - perhaps a few may resonate with you.
✣ Be mindful of where you place your thoughts
✣ Be kind, and generous
✣ Take walks on the beach or somewhere in nature
✣ Practise mindful moments
✣ Take up regular meditation - both in the morning to set up the day, and at night to reflect with gratitude
✣ Observe your recurring thoughts, are they nourishing or depleting?
✣ Think about whether you live in your head or you in your body - can you notice the difference?
✣ Listen to uplifting music, and don’t be shy to dance
✣ Embrace aromatherapy - diffusers, baths, use your favourite scent as perfume
✣ Surround yourself with uplifting people
✣ Pay attention to your dreams
✣ Spend time journaling or generally writing your thoughts
✣ Creative drawing
✣ Take an afternoon nap (or whenever your body needs rest)
✣ Detox and unwind in a bath with Epsom salts
✣ Opt for nutritious, wholesome food - ditch the processed variety
✣ Get plenty of good-quality sleep (set a routine to get your body ready)
✣ Pay attention to your balance of ‘being’ vs ‘doing’
✣ Exercise - ensure you have the right balance of Yin and Yang activity
Disclaimer: This Content has been developed from our generous global community and is intended for informational purposes only. This Content is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon. Further, the personal views and experiences published are expressly those of the author, and do not represent the views or endorsement of SoulAdvisor through the act of publication on our site.