When we think of health, we often think of our physical health. But the mind is just as involved in our health as our physical body.
Believe it or not, the mind and body do not operate as two separate entities, but as a fully integrated unit. While the mind influences the functioning of the body, the body’s physical state also influences the mind and emotions.
Let’s take a deeper look at how the mind and body are linked, and how to embrace this connection to live a healthier life.
How Does the Mind-Body Connection Affect Our Health?
The mind-body connection plays a role in nearly every aspect of our health. Here are a few of the most common ways our mental and physical health are linked:
Pain affects everyone at some point in their life. Still, there is so much we do not understand about pain. It cannot be measured in the blood or seen on a scan. What we do know is that pain is a physical, mental and emotional experience. As such, we can use the mind-body connection to manage pain naturally.
Energy and Mood
Just as our mental health has an impact on our physical health, physical ailments like pain take a mental and emotional toll. For instance, studies show that those who struggle with chronic pain are more likely to develop insomnia, depression or other mood imbalances. Other physical conditions (like thyroid disease, heart disease or menopause) are known to cause anxiety. Thankfully, the mind-body connection works both ways—working on our mindset and healing physical conditions will help support our health on all fronts.
While the mind-body connection is not a new concept, new fields are emerging to help us understand how the mind and body work together. Psychoneuroimmunology is one of these disciplines. This field exists to study how the immune system, endocrine system, and nervous systems communicate and create change in the body. Research over the last forty years has shown that mental imbalances (such as chronic stress) significantly reduce the functioning of the immune system. Likewise, improvements in mental health and stress management will support healthy immune function and may improve autoimmune conditions.
Have you ever lost your appetite after hearing bad news? Or felt butterflies in your stomach when you’re anxious? This is the connection between your mind and your digestive system in action. In fact, this connection is so strong that it even has its own name: the gut-brain axis.
The gut-brain axis connects your enteric nervous system (the hundreds of millions of neurons located in the digestive tract) and your gut microbiome to your central nervous system. Through this connection, we are able to impact not only our digestive and mental health but our immunity, energy levels, and more.
How to Embrace the Mind-Body Connection for a Healthier Life
Mind-body therapies put the power of holistic healing in your hands. The practices below offer a simple way to start integrating mind and body in your self-care practices.
Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Meditation and mindfulness are at the heart of mind-body practices. From chronic pain to anxiety to autoimmune disorders, a wide range of health issues can be improved with the use of mindfulness. These practices work by disrupting negative neural and thought loops and refocusing the body on relaxing stimuli that naturally reduce heart rate, release helpful neurotransmitters, and relieve discomfort.
Combining mindfulness and movement is a powerful way to integrate mind and body and heal from within. Try yoga, tai chi, qigong or anything that blends breathing exercises, mental focus, and physical movement.
Biofeedback is a tool that allows you to monitor your body's physiological response to stress in real-time. It helps you build mind-body awareness so you can make positive healing changes to your physical state using mind-body practices (like deep breathing or meditation) right at the moment your body starts to respond to stress. Biofeedback is particularly helpful for reducing stress-induced issues like high blood pressure, migraines, and pain.
Other Mind-Body Relaxation Techniques
From enjoying a warm bath to practicing brain and body-regulating breathing exercises, there are countless ways to build mind-body relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Try different methods and find the practices that work best for you.
Hannah Smith is Joy Organics Director of Communications. She is driven by her passion for providing clear and accessible wellness and CBD education. In 2015, she received her BA in Media, Culture and the Arts from The King’s College in New York City and before Joy Organics, worked as writer and photographer in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Vice, Vox, Denver Post, and the Coloradoan.
Medically Reviewed by:
Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center After clinical practice, she founded a medical device company where she invented six patented medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening conditions.