Exploring the Mind/Body Connection
Updated: 3 days ago
Although we’ve had many medical advances in the past 100 years, some things still elude allopathic doctors to this day. Chronic illnesses are amongst them – long-term and sometimes progressive illnesses that tend to have no confirmed cause, meaning the symptoms can only be managed with temporary solutions rather than permanent cures. From fibromyalgia and chronic pain to ME, from eczema and psoriasis to lupus, chronic illness affects over 40% in the UK are amongst the most prevalent and costly conditions nationwide. Many of these illnesses aren’t fully understood – with both the cause and cure continuing to prove elusive.
The lack of information and treatment options has left patients with chronic illness feeling unsupported and hopeless. But research conducted within the past decade is starting to show signs of promising treatment for many different kinds of illnesses. There does appear to be a common theme of emotional distress behind many of the anecdotal stories and evidence-based studies - and through exploring this, pioneering neurobiologists have found a link between what we feel in our minds, and how we feel in our bodies.
In this blog I’ve shared a very brief overview of what the mind/body connection is, how it works and how understanding it could help you to feel better.
What is the mind/body connection all about?
If you’ve ever heard of the placebo effect, you’ll understand the mind/body connection instantly.
During placebo trials, half the participants are given the active drug to treat their symptoms, and half are given a sugar pill. Remarkably, both sets of patients in the studies tend to show similar results, even though only 50% of them have received the actual medication. The reason behind this is the basis of the mind/body connection, and demonstrates how powerful our thoughts and beliefs can be in creating real, physical changes in our bodies – both good and bad.
One of the pioneers of the real-world studies conducted into the mind/body connection is renowned neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza. When working for big drug companies and conducting and analysing drugs trials, he started to wonder whether the treatments they were developing could be redundant if they were to more extensively explore why patients were seeing similar results when they’d received a placebo. Since then, he’s dedicated his life to the study of neuroplasticity and mind/body medicine – with remarkable results. His work has shown that through concentrating not on our physical symptoms, but on our emotional health, we can improve our wellbeing and even heal from certain conditions and diseases using only the power of the mind.
How does our emotional health affect our physical health?
Our bodies respond to the way we think, feel and act. That’s why we tend to get a cold or a mouth ulcer when we have been working too hard or neglecting ourselves, or feel generally ‘run down’ after a stressful or upsetting event.
On a deeper level, chronic stress, anxiety and unresolved traumas can stay ‘stuck’ in the body if they are not properly processed or released. What scientists are realising now is that these stuck emotions can manifest into serious illnesses, including cancer and life-limiting chronic disease. Whilst this is a scary thought, the good news is that evidence is growing to suggest that through taking control of our emotional health, we can actually improve and even reverse the damage done to our bodies.
Many chronic illnesses seem to be more prevalent in developed countries, and cases are rising year on year – suggesting that development of these types of conditions is linked to busy, stressful modern lifestyles and burnout culture, our disconnection with nature and with ourselves.
How can we support better emotional health for improved physical health?
The good news is there are a number of ways in which you can support a healthy mind in order to reduce physical symptoms or remove them altogether, and prevent new ones occurring. Everyone naturally has different things that work for them – but some scientifically-backed suggestions include:
Meditation: Dr Joe Dispenza talks extensively about the power of meditation, and how it can have a hugely positive impact on our state of mind, therefore influencing how we feel. Even a few minutes per day can help to reduce the amount of negative activity in the brain and help you to feel calmer throughout the day.
Therapy: If you have been through a lot of trauma or stress in your life or suffer from chronic anxiety or depression, therapy may help you to process those thoughts and feelings. There are a variety of therapies now available to help you work through and cope with any mental health concerns you have, including CBT, NLP and Time Line Therapy.
Exercise: Exercise really does have a positive impact on emotional health and chemical and hormonal balance in the body. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym, or push yourself through an intense cardio class. Just a daily walk, some gentle weights or yoga counts as you’re moving your body and getting out and about. Spend time in nature where possible, which has been proven to help the release of ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain.
Holistic therapies: Relaxation therapies including aromatherapy, reflexology and energy healing such as reiki can really help to bring the body into a state of calm, allowing its natural healing processes to kick in. This could be especially helpful if you find you are someone who struggles to relax on your own.
Using a combination of techniques that work for you is the best way to support better brain health. You might find you need to trial a few different things before you find a good fit – but remember, it’s worth it in the end!
You can find more blogs about the mind/body connection and therapies to help improve your emotional wellbeing here on the blog.
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