With every moment you live and every breath you take, you are giving and receiving an infinite amount of atoms with the universe. In the simplest of terms, the mind body connection is the intertwining relationship between our mind, body and our environment we live in. We are all interconnected with our inner self and the world around us.
When we digest the food we eat, our body extracts the good nutrients we need. It then rids our body of what we don’t need. The same process is applied to the careers we choose. The relationships we make. The overall life experiences we have.
The symptoms and ailments we get are a physical warning sign from our body saying: Something’s not right. Red alert! Must restore balance!
From a functional point of view
From this holistic perspective, health isn’t merely the absence of disease or symptoms; it is a state of optimal well-being, vitality, and wholeness. Illness, in contrast, develops when there is a disruption ― a blockage in the flow of energy and information in our body-mind. Symptoms and sickness are the body’s signal that we need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing the blockages, and reestablish the healthy flow of intelligence.
The Mind-Body Connection
Since the body and mind are inextricably connected, every time we have a thought, we set off a cascade of cellular reactions. These act in our nervous system that influence all the molecules in our body. Our cells are constantly observing our thoughts and being changed by them.
Of course, this is not to say that all illnesses are “caused” by our thoughts. The relationship between the mind and body is complex, and sometimes things happen at a physical level for which we don’t have a plausible explanation. We have to acknowledge that we may have an inherent tendency for health or imbalance, and in some cases, genetic inheritance is the major factor underlying an illness. At the same time, we have amazing potential to heal and transform ourselves through our thoughts, perceptions, and choices. The body is a magnificent network of intelligence, capable of far more than current medical science can explain.
Establishing a healthy dialogue between our thoughts and our molecules helps us shift from imbalance to balance. And when we’re in an optimal state of dynamic balance, we naturally tend to listen to our body with love and reverence and make choices that support balance, happiness, and wellbeing. The following seven mind-body prescriptions will help you create this positive feedback loop:
1. Take time for restful sleep.
Restful sleep is the essential key to having health and vital energy. When you’re well-rested, you can approach stressful situations more calmly, yet sleep is so often neglected or underemphasized. There is even a tendency for people to boast about how little sleep they can get by on. In reality, over time, inadequate sleep disrupts the body’s innate balance, weakens our immune system, contributes to weight gain and depression, and speeds up the aging process.
Human beings generally need between six and eight hours of restful sleep each night. Restful sleep means that you’re drifting off easily once you turn off the light and are sleeping soundly through the night. If you feel energetic and vibrant when you wake up, you had a night of restful sleep. If you feel tired and unenthusiastic, you haven’t had restful sleep.You can get the highest quality sleep by keeping your sleep cycles in tune with the rhythms of the universe, known as circadian rhythms. At the Chopra Center, we find that if people can commit to a consistent sleep ritual, they can usually retrain their mind to experience healthy sleep patterns. Find recommendations for a restful sleep routine here.
2. Release emotional toxins.
Many of us harbor emotional toxicity in the form of unprocessed anger, hurt or disappointment. This unprocessed residue from the past contributes to toxicity in our body and needs to be eliminated. You can begin by asking yourself a question. “What am I holding onto from the past that is no longer serving me in the present?”
Once you have identified what you want to release, spend some time journaling about how your life will be different when you change. Then you can do a specific releasing ritual that declares to yourself and to the world that you are letting go of whatever it is you’ve been holding on to. If you need more help in this area, consider attending the Healing the Heart workshop at the Chopra Center. In a nurturing, supportive environment, you will be guided intensive, loving process to release emotional pain and then fill the newly created space in your heart with love and self-nurturing behaviors.
3. Cultivate loving relationships.
Research shows that a good social support network has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It can keep you from feeling lonely, isolated or inadequate. If you feel good about yourself, you can deal with stress better. Friends and loved ones can be a good source of advice and suggest new ways of handling problems. But they can also be an excellent distraction from what’s bothering you. If your network of friends is small, think about volunteering. Joining an outdoor activities group or trying an online meet-up group to make new friends can help.
4. Enjoy a good belly-laugh at least once a day.
From the scientific perspective, laughter is an elegant mind-body phenomenon. It reduces the production of stress hormones and boosts the immune system. Researchers in Japan found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who watched “rakugo” or comic storytelling experienced a significant decrease in their pain and stress hormone levels as well as an increase in two immune-enhancing functions.
These are just four examples of how powerful the mind body connection can be. Use it for good, and you will be better than ever.