Mind-body Connection: a new old concept

Posted by Carlos Mandeiro on


Mind-Body Connection… That trendy paramedical concept isn't that new actually, but it's not largely well-known either. We thought we should make an article about it, because it has been doing a lot of noise in the academic world where it is studied intensively.

Let's start with a story.

Everything in Judy's life is going well: she has a wonderful family, a handful loving friends and is doing great at her job. In less than 10 years, she managed to climb the ladder, going from a regular employee to a manager and, at last, the head of the department. All seems great, but there's a black spot on the picture: Judy has been diagnosed with diabetes one year ago. And while she loves her work, she's been growing anxious lately, with the crisis and all those changes in her department. She finds herself irritable, when she's not feeling exhausted, and the headaches don't seem to leave her anymore. To top it all, she has been hospitalized two times in the last couple months for her diabetes despite her careful monitoring of her sugar levels. What is going on? It turned out that her anxiety prevented her from paying attention to the signals of her body. Would have she been relaxed, she would have felt those huge drops of her blood sugar level. But Judy, as many people of our modern society, was in a rush.

Her doctor advised her to take Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes, while still following her treatment. After a few sessions, Judy began to be able to better manage her mental state, and become more mindful of those moments she was stressing out and had to slow down a bit. Fast forward, months later and Judy hasn't been hospitalized a single time. She notices when her sugar levels are dropping and can prevent this to worsen. She's also less tired and irritable, both being consequences of the unhealthy stress she had.

The Mind-Body Connection: a fancy concept?

The Mind-Body Connection seems like a fancy marketing trend, while it actually is nothing new. Until approximately 300 years ago, every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole. Western medicine then began to study mind and body aside from one another. This separation allowed research to focus on each side, and led to the extraordinary developments we know today, from pharmaceuticals and surgery to psychology and trauma care. However, it also greatly reduced scientific inquiry into humans' emotional and spiritual life, and downplayed their innate ability to heal. Thankfully, this view started to change some decades ago, where the complex links between mind and body started to be studied. Integrative psychiatrist James Lake, MD, of Stanford University, writes that "extensive research has confirmed the medical and mental benefits of meditation, mindfulness training, yoga, and other mind-body practices".

So, will you tell us what "Mind-Body Connection" entails already?

Let's first be clear: when we talk about the mind, we do not talk about the biological brain. We're talking about the complex conjunction of mental states such as thoughts, emotions, beliefs and images. They can be conscious, unconscious, or more often a mix of the two. Each mental state can have a positive or negative effect on the physical body. For example, the mental state of anxiety causes you to produce stress hormones.

Many mind-body therapies focus on becoming more conscious of mental states and using this increased awareness to guide our mental states in a better, less destructive direction. This entails mindfulness practice, meditation, hypnosis, support groups and relaxation.

What are the Body-Minds therapies?

Related to mind-body therapies are therapies that use the body to affect the mind, such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and some types of dance (these are sometimes called body-mind therapies). Ultimately mind-body and body-mind therapies are interrelated: the body affects the mind, which in turn impacts the body (and the mind). Don't undermine the benefits of a simple tisane either, as a good warm infusion of relaxing herbs can have a great effect (if you're looking for it, we have a specific product aimed for relaxing body and mind here). 

This article is too long*! A key take-away?

Take care of yourself as a whole, not just of your body. Take time to unwind and blow some air, to relax and improve your mental well-being, while taking care of your body health. You'll be on a virtuous circle of goodness.


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