Happy body, happy brain. Or is it the other way around? Seeing wellbeing as both an engagement of the mind and the body is a beneficial way to feel better across all aspects of life.
What is the mind-body connection?
The idea behind the mind-body connection is that there’s a strong link between our physical health and our mental health. Any illness, discomfort, or dysregulation is a result of an imbalance across the two or a deficit in one or the other. By treating both the body and the mind, we can increase our resilience and cope with any overwhelming emotions or mental health symptoms that arise.
The mind-body connection in therapeutic theory posits that stress has large negative impacts on the body and the brain. The brain’s perception of stress and the body’s physiological response to stress work off of each other and difficult physical and emotional reactions. By relaxing both, we can decrease stress and promote general well being.
Symptoms of mind-body connection issues
The mind-body connection emphasizes the role of stress on the body and the mind. The discomfort or distress in one can impact the other. For people who find themselves with cognitive distress – overthinking, anxiety, negative self-talk – they might also develop physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or tight muscles. Similarly, people who have physical stressors – heavy manual work such as caregiving, physical exhaustion, or injury – may find themselves with emotional stress as well.
Indicators that you need to pay more attention to your mind-body connection include:
- Feeling sore physically without any physical reason
- Issues with digestion when you’re feeling stressed
- Low levels of motivation after being physically at rest for long periods of time
- Developing high blood pressure when you’re upset
- Feeling upset when you are carrying a heavy grocery bag
Therapy for mind-body connection
There are many evidence-based therapy modalities that address the mind-body connection. Therapists who specialize in helping with mind-body connection issues often teach clients how to practice mindfulness exercises like yoga, meditation, or tai chi. This builds a strong sense of connection between how you’re moving your body (or how you’re experiencing your body) and your state of mind. Other mind-body modalities aim to manipulate the body in ways that access emotions and feelings.
Therapists take clients through these practices and give them space to talk about how they’re feeling and where their stress levels are. Clients will learn stress management and relaxation techniques, which could include deep breathing and visualization. They’ll leave therapy sessions feeling more attuned to their body’s needs and more balanced emotionally.