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