Understanding the mind-body connection is a complex concept. We all know what our bodies are. Our legs, our arms, our feet. But what about our minds? Are our minds our thoughts? Our brains? Our consciousness? All of the above? There are so many questions. Too many to cover in a single article.
But what about the impact our mind has on our bodies? Is it possible that our thoughts, feelings, and emotions can impact our physical selves? It’s entirely possible, and what’s, even more, is that the mind-body connection is even stronger than you may realize.
Understanding the Mind-Body Connection
To begin understanding the mind-body connection, first, we have to look at the role of the human mind versus the human brain. Our minds are home to our belief systems, our attitudes, biases, emotions, and more. Our brains house neuropathways, blood vessels, chemical receptors, and more physical attributes. Yet they’re interdependent.
Your brain relies on both internal and external factors when determining how to behave. You’ve probably already felt the mind-body connection without even noticing it.
Different emotions and thoughts influence our bodies and actions in various ways. This is primarily attributed to chemical reactions in the brain that trigger physical responses and affect our minds.
Sometimes, these chemicals fluctuate naturally, but sometimes they become unbalanced, leading to issues with mental health. No matter the circumstance, these changes in our brains and our thoughts are connected to our bodies.
Emotions and the Body
Have you ever noticed that when you’re in a certain mood, you tend to feel different? When you’re sad, or clinically depressed, you may find yourself tired all the time, sore, and achy. When you’re stressed, you may experience frequent headaches or neck and shoulder pain. This isn’t a coincidence.
Alternatively, when you’re happy, you often feel energized. If you’ve just experienced a positive experience, such as a promotion, winning a sports game, or successfully landing a skateboard trick you’ve been practicing for months, you get a burst of energy. Your body physically pumps you up in response to your emotions.
The Manifestation of Physical Feeling
Now we know that our brains release chemicals when we’re feeling a certain way. Let’s look at how these chemicals affect us physically and mentally.
The human body releases cortisol when the mind experiences stress. Cortisol causes inflammation and hypertension, leading to pain. This explains the tense feeling in your shoulders and the headaches that won’t seem to go away when you’re working on a tight deadline or have had a crazy week.
Other physical symptoms of stress include stomach aches, excessive sweating, insomnia, or tremors.
Your mind is stressed, your brain responds, and your body feels the results.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s most often linked to depression. When your brain doesn’t produce enough of the chemical, it interferes with your ability to experience joy and happiness. Low levels of serotonin don’t just affect mood but can cause physical symptoms to appear as well.
Serotonin deficiency is physically associated with appetite, excessive fatigue, nausea, and problems with gut health.
Dopamine is another neurotransmitter that is closely related to both mood and physical symptoms. While many people associate dopamine with depression, the chemical leads to positive feelings too.
When you have a positive experience, like reaching a goal or coming home to your dog, your mind gets a rush of dopamine, making you feel happy and energized. The release of dopamine has also been connected to addictive disorders such as compulsive shopping or gambling since the feel-good rush is so intense.
Physically, the brain chemical affects digestion, explaining why a person struggling with a mood disorder may experience stomach pains and digestive issues.
How Our Bodies Affect Our Minds
Our minds affect our bodies and vice versa. Ever heard the phrase “You are what you eat?” There’s truth to it. Our bodies rely on certain nutrients to maintain equilibrium, and when we neglect ourselves physically, our minds suffer.
Additionally, physical activity releases endorphins in the brain, a “feel-good chemical.” When we stay physically active and eat well, get enough rest, and monitor our health, we’re more likely to feel better mentally.
The Perfect Balance
The mind-body connection is one that is interwoven deep within the constructs of our brains. It may seem like a question of the chicken versus the egg, but one thing is clear. The mind and body depend on each other equally, to help us feel our best, both physically and mentally.