Within the last five to 10 years, there has been a tremendous amount of attention paid to the mind/body connection. Doctors, psychotherapists and self-help gurus have created a wave of interest and, in turn, heightened our awareness of ourselves and the impact of our emotions on our physical health, and vice versa — the impact of our physical health on our thoughts and feelings. It’s all interconnected and sometimes it does us good to remember the significance of our mind/body connection. We can no longer separate the realms of human functioning into isolated parts, compartmentalized from all other aspects of living. We need to pay close attention to the delicate balance between mind, body and spirit.
Let’s look, for example, at the impact of feeling joyful. When we experience true joy in our lives, we are often filled with vitality and energy. We sleep better or we experience the need for less sleep. We are consequently less likely to catch a cold or other infection as we are stronger and more resilient during this time of joy or happiness. Contrary to that, when we feel negativity or symptoms of depression, we may also feel lethargic, depleted of energy or in need of more sleep. During this time, life can feel overwhelming; our delicate balance of nutrition and good sleep hygiene can be out of sorts. The stress this causes on our system can create a higher susceptibility to infections or colds when our resiliency and strength are weak or strained.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the mind/body connection is understanding how the body presents with illness. For example, ask yourself where you feel stress in your body? Headaches, neck tension, joint pain, back pain, stomach upset, muscle tension or fatigue? If we tune in to what our body is really trying to say, sometimes we can open our minds to significant metaphors. Why does one person present with a headache — sometimes referred to as a symptom of the “overburdened” mind — and another person presents with stomach problems — sometimes referred to as difficulty “digesting” something? If we just treat the area of hurt, we could be missing an important message from our body and our mind.For example, consider all the old sayings like “I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders,” or “what a pain in the neck,” or “that really gets under my skin.” Think of all the metaphors associated with these sayings and what your body could be communicating by presenting with pain or discomfort in one particular area or another.
Perhaps opening our awareness further to the mind/body connection can help us understand how stress or burdens of the mind contribute to physical problems, or how physical problems like chronic pain can deplete our ability to cope. The balance and unity of body and mind can be directly related to our wellness and illness, and sometimes simply deepening our awareness can improve the healing process.