Why You Should Listen to Your Brilliant Body-Mind Connection

Person with long curly hair faces out over lake surrounded by trees with eyes closedQuestion: What do mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and good therapy have in common?

All these therapeutic practices help you notice the link between your body and mind. Why is awareness of this interconnection so important? It’s important because it allows your body to learn from your mind and your mind to learn from your body. The greater your awareness of the communication between the two, the more easily they can help each other rebalance your system when it gets off kilter.

Let’s say you wake up with a pain in your chest; it feels heavy and constricted. At first, you might think you are having a heart attack, and while that’s possible, many people admitted to emergency rooms for chest pains are ultimately diagnosed with anxiety or panic. On reflection, you might remember these exact same sensations a few months ago, and you were just fine. Now, a little calmer, ask yourself:

  • How is my body trying to help me right now?
  • What could I be reacting to unconsciously?
  • What current stresses—big or small—have I recently experienced?
  • Is there a symbolic link between my symptom and something psychological, such as shielding my heart from potential betrayal?
  • Am I angry, grieving, anxious, depressed, or lonely?
  • Am I taking enough time to sleep, eat well, exercise, socialize, and rejuvenate?
  • Is this happening near the anniversary of a loved one’s death, a divorce, diagnosis of a life-changing illness, or job loss?

Now, do something really radical: assume your body is trying to help you, not scare you. Thank it for showing you something’s up. Yes, actually thank the part with the symptom for getting your attention. You may not consciously be aware of what sparked this physical reaction, just trust your body is giving you a warning sign to take it easy and listen to what is going on. Do some self-inquiry by using the above questions, talking with someone, journaling, or trying a gentle a body scan.

Ignoring smaller body messages often results in your unconscious mind upping the ante and creating an actual disease Regardless of your sensitivity, the next time you have a headache, back pain, acid reflux, neck pain, gastrointestinal issue, or other kind of physical distress, take a moment to check out what is going on in your life.to get your attention. This is clearly a controversial stance, but it’s my personal theory. Of course, not all disease is psychologically based, but I believe much of it is. Dr. John Sarno—who specializes in rehabilitative medicine—has been talking about the mind-body connection for years. Over a century ago, Sigmund Freud expressed similar ideas when he spoke of conversion disorder. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann—known for defining homeopathy as an alternative medicine—also wrote of this link in the early 1800s. Candace Pert and many other scientists have worked to show the connection is there physiologically, as messages get sent back and forth from the brain to the body and the body to the brain through neuropeptides, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals.

If you are a highly sensitive person (HSP), you may find you get these body-to-mind messages before an obvious symptom shows up, simply by being aware of subtle physical changes. Regardless of your sensitivity, the next time you have a headache, back pain, acid reflux, neck pain, gastrointestinal issue, or other kind of physical distress, take a moment to check out what is going on in your life. Even a few minutes of self-inquiry can make a huge difference in how you feel or get you on the road to feeling better.

References:

  1. Brower, V. (2006). Mind–body research moves towards the mainstream. EMBO Reports, 7(4), 358–361. http://doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400671
  2. Hahnemann, S. (2009). Organaon of medicine. London: Gazelle Distribution Trade.
  3. Hansom, D. (2012). Back in control: a spine surgeon’s roadmap out of chronic pain. White River Junction: Vertus Press.
  4. Pert, C. B. (1999). Molecules of emotion: the science behind mind-body medicine. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  5. Sarno, J. (1999). The mindbody prescription: healing the body, healing the pain. New York: Warner Books, Inc.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 15 comments
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  • Tod

    Tod

    September 7th, 2016 at 10:14 AM

    When we hurt physically most of the time that is where we are going to start, looking for something physically wrong with us that could be causing this.
    It would be the rare person who would initially take a step back and consider that there could be something much deeper than this going on, that there could be a mental cause for the physical pain that we are feeling.
    It is just smart to know that while something may manifest in one way this does not mean that this is where the pain is actually originating.

  • felice

    felice

    September 7th, 2016 at 4:07 PM

    Every year when it comes aorund the time of my divorce being final, I get a little melancholy. It’s not like I miss him I don’t think but just the whole idea of being married.
    It was all I ever wanted and when that ended it sort of felt like I had lost my purpose or my drive.

  • Nicole Urdang

    Nicole Urdang

    September 9th, 2016 at 5:46 AM

    Hi Felice,
    Thank you for taking the time to write.
    You might like this piece on my website called: MISSING WHAT YOU DON’T REALLY WANT. Here’s the link: holisticdivorce.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/missing-what-you-dont-really-want/

  • Nicole Urdang

    Nicole Urdang

    September 9th, 2016 at 5:49 AM

    Thank you, Tod. In years past, I think it would be the rare person who would consider a psychological cause for a physical issue. Luckily, there is far more information available now that brings the body-mind link to light, and more people who recognize it.

  • Avery

    Avery

    September 9th, 2016 at 10:29 AM

    Because there are a lot of times that our body is trying to tell us something and we simply ignore what it is that it is trying to tell us.

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    September 9th, 2016 at 4:35 PM

    Hi Avery,
    Yes, I agree completely; and, that’s when the body ups the ante to get our attention. We also don’t want to over analyze every little thing. Sometimes, it’s hard to strike a good balance.
    The reading suggestions, especially Hansom and Sarno, can be very elucidating if you want to delve into this more deeply.

  • Emmy

    Emmy

    September 10th, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    Although this is not necessarily a new school of thought it is really just now beginning to pick up some steam and validity as more and more people are searching for new and more creative ways to attack those physical ailments. This could be the answer that so many people that have been searching for but they have never been given any guidance on how to achieve it. I think that the more we talk about it and the more readily available information actually is on these kinds of connections then there will be greater visibility as well as acceptance of more alternative forms of healing.

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    September 10th, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    Hi Emmy,
    I wholeheartedly agree!
    Thanks for taking the time to write.

  • Jade

    Jade

    September 12th, 2016 at 10:28 AM

    What could ever steer you more clearly toward the issues you are really facing and should probably confront than your own body?

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    September 12th, 2016 at 6:13 PM

    Hi Jade,
    Good question. I think people are all wired a bit differently. For one person, it may be a bodily sensation that alerts them to something they might want to investigate. For someone else, it could be an emotion. For many, it’s something they find themselves returning to intellectually, or ruminating about. If we practice being aware of all possible avenues of internal messages, whether they come from the body, emotions, or thoughts, we can plumb our depths with compassion and gentleness.

  • Theresa M

    Theresa M

    September 13th, 2016 at 8:04 AM

    I agree, the body is giving us messages all the time. If we paid more attention, we could discover that the body holds and carries so much of who we are. If we have experienced trauma of any kind in our lives, it can manifest in physical/somatic symptoms and in our movement patterns and postures creating tension and discomfort. Whilst I acknowledge and advocate the benefits of Yoga, Mindfulness and Meditation, Dance Movement Psychotherapy offers a more in depth medium, for those who want to discover more about their symptoms, incorporating and promoting the mind-body connection as a path to healing.

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    September 14th, 2016 at 4:11 AM

    Hi Theresa,
    I didn’t know about dance movement psychotherapy. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Theresa Messenger

    Theresa Messenger

    September 16th, 2016 at 1:32 AM

    Nicole, If you are interested in finding out more you could contact American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) or have a look at my website http://www.evolvemovementtherapy.co.uk

  • Nicole

    Nicole

    September 17th, 2016 at 4:32 AM

    Thank you for the link, Theresa.
    It’s a beautiful website and an integrative, important way to create new awareness and healing.

  • Theresa M.

    Theresa M.

    September 18th, 2016 at 9:12 AM

    Thank you Nicole

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