Mind-Body Connection: The Interplay of Mental & Physical Wellness
As we come to learn more and more about mental health and emotional wellbeing, one thing that continues to become more clear in the research is the Mind-Body connection. Evidence shows that our mind and body connection is so tightly interwoven that the two are constantly impacting each other, and there is no way to separate the two. If you’ve ever been anxious and then gotten a stomach ache, or felt down and noticed a loss of energy, or been stressed and felt your shoulders tighten, you’ve experienced the mind-body connection!
The Central Nervous System
The Central Nervous system is what connects it all together. Composed of our brain, spinal cord, and over 7 trillion nerves, the central nervous system runs the show and is what connects our mind and bodies together. The central nervous system is responsible for taking in and responding to information from our surroundings. When our brains receive information, our body releases hormones or neurotransmitters in response to the information we are taking in. This release of chemicals then influences our thoughts and emotions, and even how we act. For example, let’s say you're walking down a wooded trail, when all of a sudden you jump to the side, your heart is racing, and you feel a bit panicked. Then you see a snake slithering off of the trail into the woods. Before we are even aware of what happened, our body is reacting to keep us safe! Another example: we walk into our favorite coffee shop and instantly feel a smile come across our face, and maybe even a slight buzz of energy as the smell of freshly ground coffee fills our nose. Our body is reacting to the familiar sounds and smells of the coffee shop, and our brain knows that it will soon be hit with a delicious, warm burst of caffeine. These types of responses are happening unconsciously all day long as we go about our day.
Somatic experience of mental illness
When it comes to our mental health, symptoms of mental illness often appear as somatic, or physical symptoms. Some common physical symptoms of mental illness include gastrointestinal issues, muscle tightness or soreness, fatigue, disturbances of sleep, changes in appetite, and rapid breathing or heart rate. While it is always good to visit your doctor to rule out a physical illness, many times these symptoms, combined with changes to our mood or thoughts, are indicative of a psychiatric illness. Trauma disorders, such as PTSD, greatly interfere with our central nervous system and can lead to numerous somatic symptoms. Finding a provider who understands this mind-body connection can ensure that symptoms are being addressed from both a brain and body standpoint.
Positive impacts of movement on the brain and body
Given the clear evidence that our brains and bodies are so connected, it may come as no surprise that movement and exercise can greatly impact not only our physical well being but our mental wellbeing. There is lots of evidence that movement, whether that be gentle yoga, walking, lifting weights, or intense aerobic exercise, releases feel good chemicals in the body and helps to combat mental illness. It all goes back to the central nervous system. If our nervous system is over activated, meaning that our heart rate is high, our muscles are tense, and our breathing is rapid, using gentle movements such as yoga can help to teach the nervous system to slow down. When our nervous system is more regulated, not only do we feel better physically but our mind is more clear and our mood improves. On the flip side, if our nervous system is deactivated, and we feel lethargic, and numb, movement that increases our heart can help bring our nervous system back to a regulated state, which again improves not only our physical experience but our emotional experience as well.
At Mind and Body Therapeutic Connections we believe in healing the whole person, and honoring the mind and body connection. We also feel passionately about reducing barriers that clients often face that can make it difficult for them to take care of both their physical and mental wellness. At Mind and Body you now have the option to create a yoga or fitness class that best meets your needs and works with your busy schedule. Rather than a traditional gym setting with pre scheduled classes and high fees, Mind and Body allows you to create a month long series of classes for a budget friendly fee of $70 for the month. These classes are small in size, and taught by instructors who understand the mind-body connection. You can choose from a variety of fitness and yoga classes, and select the day and time that you’d like that class to re-occur each week for the month. We hope that our Create a Class program makes it easier for clients to attend to their physical wellness, and honor their bodies' need for movement in their healing journey. Click ‘prices/scheduling’ at the top of our home page to schedule your create a class for the upcoming month. We look forward to supporting you in your wellness journey!