Did you know that your mind-body connection actually plays a SUPER important role in your health status? It’s 100% true, and as you’ll read later in this post there’s even science to back it up.
When a medical professional approaches ways to treat your health issue, the mindset or mind-body connection almost always gets left out of the picture.
That’s extremely unfortunate, because cultivating a positive mind-body connection is an essential piece to charting your path to healing.
Let’s dive in deep and discover why…
The thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and mental attitudes about your health can actually positively or negatively affect your body at a biological level. In other words, the thoughts you think (your mind) can have a positive or negative effect on your health status (your body).
That’s because your body sends out chemical signals (hormones, neurotransmitters, immune cells, etc) in response to each thought you’re thinking. Crazy, right?
For example, there’s an exciting new field of research called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) that looks at the interaction of how your thoughts actually impact the functioning of your immune system.
Yeah, I’m not making this stuff up, it’s already been well established that negative thinking can also negatively impact our health.
Health problems, whether you’re dealing with a chronic gut issue or an autoimmune condition, can affect your level of perceived stress and your overall mental health.
I know this to be true because I see it all the time in the clients I work with. Often, they come to me after YEARS of struggling with their chronic health issue. They’re at their wits-end to try and figure out a solution as to why they can’t manage their symptoms.
And who can blame them? I know it’s SUPER frustrating to not be able to make sense of symptoms or figure out why your body isn’t cooperating like you think it should.
The problem, however, is that the very thoughts and never-ending stress they experience around their health issue is actually compounding their problem even further.
Now I’m not saying that thinking healthy thoughts is their only way to healing– but it certainly is an essential piece of it. Along with having a concrete protocol to follow, it’s just as important to nurture a healthy mind-body connection.
Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you swoon in love over someone? What about when your heart pounds out of your chest when you’re about to give a big speech in front of a large audience?
These are prime examples of how a perceived situation in your mind manifests into physical symptoms and sensations. These examples highlight acute, or short bursts of stress, but imagine what this does to your body if you have this kind of stress over a period of YEARS.
Yeah, it’s not good.
To complicate matters even further, what we do to our physical bodies (i.e. what we choose to eat, how much exercise we get, how much sleep we get, and even our posture) has a direct effect on our mental state as well.
This results in a complex interrelationship between our minds and our physical bodies because not only what we think about our bodies affects our health, but also what we do with our bodies has a direct impact on our overall health as well.
It’s essential to tie this all together and address both sides of this equation. DOING great things to your body along with THINKING great things about your body contains all the essential pieces to charting your path to wellness.
There are a number of ways to approach cultivating a positive mind-body connection, let’s go over a few here.
The first step to cultivating a better mindset is to become aware of your everyday thoughts.
What thoughts do you have everyday about your health situation? What kind of emotions do these thoughts elicit inside of you?
Begin to examine this on a deeper level. I encourage you to begin journaling about your thoughts and emotions around your health. Purchase yourself a cheap pad of paper and pen and start to write down all the thoughts that ail you.
By simply writing down your thoughts and emotions, you allow for a release. Time and time again journaling has been shown to improve our physical and mental well-being.
Now start to think about all the amazing things your body does for you each and every day.
Start by writing down 5 things you’re thankful your body can do. For example, “My arms are strong enough to carry around the things I love most.” or “I’m thankful for my beating heart which keeps my body nourished with oxygen and life.”
You could even keep a gratitude jar. Write down on a small piece of paper 1 thing you’re thankful for each day and put it in the jar. Soon you’ll have a jar full of gratitude.
Creating gratitude around what your body CAN do will magnify positive thoughts about the health of your body. There’s evidence showing a gratitude practice has a direct impact on your health–it can lower your blood pressure, improve immune function, facilitate improved sleep, and reduce depression and anxiety.
There are a number of mind-body therapies available for you to cultivate a more relaxing mindset for your healing. Here’s just a few ideas to get you started:
I’m going to highlight one of the therapies above and provide you with a practice to implement into your every day routine.
Meditation & guided imagery can shift your mind-body connection out of the fight or flight state (sympathetic nervous system), and into the rest and digest state (parasympathetic nervous system). In short, this shift is essential to creating a healthy, long-ass life.
Other side effects include: a reduction in chronic pain, reduced anxiety, improved heart health, a boost to mood and immunity, and a shift in limiting beliefs so you can support the healthy life you dream of living.
Visualizing your ideal future helps you feel your best, love your life, and lose the impatience so you can gain a greater connection to self.
Did you know that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s real, and what’s imagined?
In one study, researchers took brain scans of volunteers who played a sequence of piano notes each day. The second group of volunteers just imagined playing the same sequence of piano notes.
Brain scans of both groups showed the same neural changes in those who actually played the piano, and those who just imagined playing the piano.
The same thought process can be applied to your health. You have the power to heal your body simply by imagining yourself in a healthier state.
Remember, our bodies react the same whether we’re actually experiencing something or just imagining something. Our brain has no idea we’re just imagining something, it thinks it’s just as real!
When we begin to shift our focus from the material world and into the present moment, the brain can relax. Instead of worrying or stressing over our material world, we begin to imagine and create the feelings we desire to experience.
When the brain is aroused due to stress, the brain fires incoherently. When your brain is out of balance in this way you’ll be more fragmented, unfocused, and live in a constant tense state.
Here, I’ve included a simple 9 minute meditation practice to get you started. I hope you’ll give it a try and start to incorporate these visualizations into your everyday routine. You can even download it onto your computer to save for future listening.
I sincerely hope this information was insightful and will set you on your way to cultivating a positive mind-body connection. As always, if you’re looking to find someone to guide you on your very own health journey you can schedule your complimentary consult with me and get started.
Sarah Neumann Haske, MS, RDN is a Digestive Health Dietitian and owner of Neumann Nutrition & Wellness, LLC. Her practice helps women heal their gut using a root-cause approach to their health. As a result of her program, her clients are able to come off medications, feel more energized, and live a radiant care-free life. If you’re interested in finding direction and accountability while discovering freedom from your digestive issues, then schedule your free call with Sarah now.