When thinking about health, one of the first things that come to mind is the body. Without a healthy and strong body, it’s hard to go about our day and achieve our purposes. In this fast-paced world, we prioritize physician appointments, daily workouts, and healthy diets to keep our bodies fit and functional. However, there is something just as crucial we tend to neglect: our mental health. As the adage goes, a healthy body is a healthy mind. Optimal mental and spiritual health, as demonstrated by science, plays an essential role in physical health. For this reason, saba sport login finding the perfect balance between mind and body will open the doors to a healthier and more joyful life. Here’s how to start.
During World War II, writer Jack Schwarz, like thousands of people, was unfairly deprived of his freedom. While being kept captive, he endured mistreatments, poor living conditions, and hunger. In this difficult time, Schwarz never lost hope and decided to find solace in his mind. Through constant prayer and meditation, he reached a peaceful mental state in which he was in full control over his body, being able to block out pain and endure his challenging situation.
Experiences like this one prove that the human mind is more powerful than we believe. It also has a great influence over our bodies as the two of them are in constant communication, affecting each other in positive and negative ways. According to army veteran David Goggins, when you are physically exhausted and have 0 strength left, you have about 40% more capacity within you. It is your mind telling you that you are tired and done for, preventing you from achieving your best potential.
Similarly, a positive mindset can be the key to achieving success. In his 2014 speech, Admiral William H. McRaven opened up about his experience as a Navy Seal trainee. He and a group of trainees endured over 8 hours submerged in chilly mud. When several men were about to give up, one of them broke into song. Suddenly, more and more trainees began singing, encouraging each other to go on. In McRaven’s words, “somehow the mud seemed a bit warmer and the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.”
As exemplified by Schwarz and McRaven’s experiences, your body is affected by what the mind tells it. These can be emotional states (happiness, anger, sadness) or perceived dangers. The body receives the messages that come directly from the mind provoking certain physical reactions.
Here is when we say “a healthy body equals a healthy mind”. Originally, this is a Latin saying — mens sana in corpore sano — which translates to “a healthy body can sustain a healthy mind”. We often hear this phrase as friendly advice or as the slogan of our favorite lifestyle brands. However, this phrase holds a powerful meaning and the key to a better and, in some cases, longer life.
About 300 years ago, we paid more attention to the mind-body connection as plenty of medicine systems treated the mind and body as a whole. From the 17th century onwards, the Western world began seeing the mind and body as two separate entities. The body became a vessel, a machine made of independent and replaceable parts, which held no meaningful connection to the mind. Luckily, in the 21st century, this view has shifted once more as research continues demonstrating the complex links between the body and the mind and their overall impact on our health.
As previously mentioned, our minds and bodies are constantly engaging in conversations with each other. Whenever we are ill or in physical pain, we are in a bad mood; we feel discouraged and even depressed. This goes all the way around as our minds can also affect our bodies. As Dr. Arthur Barsky wrote, “we feel emotions in our bodies”. Unfortunately, more often than not, these emotions can be harmful. Under constant stress, for example, our stomachs or chests hurt and we feel weak and nauseous. Whenever we are hurt or angry, our pulse races or we get headaches.
As claimed by mind-body medicine, whenever a thought surfaces, a chemical goes with it. In the words of Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, “the brain and peripheral nervous system, the endocrine and immune systems, and indeed, all the organs of our body and all the emotional responses we have, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another.”
This means that, when you experience stressful thoughts, the brain sends a specific signal to neurotransmitters — the chemical messengers that control virtually all of the body’s functions. Neurochemicals proceed to prepare the body so it can deal with the stressful situation or perceived danger. As a result, we experience a series of reactions such as increased blood pressure, which allows faster speed and response time to a potential threat.
From the second half of the 20th century, the number of studies supporting the healthy body, healthy mind idea increased. The research discovered that, just as mental distress can lead to physical dysfunction, healthy states of mind can boost physical well-being.
In 2008, Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin identified the prefrontal cortex as the specific area that becomes activated in states of well-being, as measured through complex EEG recordings and functional MRI testing. Working with long-term meditators, the research demonstrated that mental training increased levels of happiness and overall health.
Most recently, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar studied the brains of meditators versus non-meditators. Lazar was able to observe increased white matter in the hippocampus. This is linked to a good memory, compassion, and introspection, which can lead to successful aging. Although there is much more to discover in regards to how a healthy body is connected to a healthy mind, it’s safe to say that building a stronger connection between the two will change your life for the better.
Developing a healthy body and a healthy mind through a stronger connection between the two can do wonders for your well-being. As supported by the previously mentioned studies, this harmonious relationship will give you key tools to live a happier and more prosperous life through a vast array of benefits such as:
Studies show that, when you improve your mind-body connection through practices such as yoga or meditation, you can activate the relaxation response. As a result, the nervous system rejects the “fight or flight” response associated with stress, embracing the “rest and digest” response, powering emotional well-being, and alleviating the physical symptoms of stress.
The immune system is one of the most important and fascinating aspects of the mind-body connection. As your immune cells participate in the chemical messages sent by the brain throughout the body, your thoughts, moods, and emotions are transmitted to those cells. Under stress, for example, the cells can trigger an inflammatory response — heat, redness, pain, and/or swelling. This also increases your propensity for numerous diseases, leaving you vulnerable to common infections.
When you meditate, these chemical messages change in important ways. You become aware of the present moment and can let go of negativity. Furthermore, you cultivate feelings of positivity, love, and empathy, which, with time, will help you stay healthy.
Feeling tired at the end of a long workday is completely normal. However, nowadays, we experience collective exhaustion for a wide number of reasons. Stress is one of the main culprits. When the fight or flight response is activated, cortisol hormone levels begin flowing, and our bodies store as much energy as possible, leaving us exhausted once the danger or stressful situation passes. Studies by the University of Rutgers, show that mind-body techniques such as yoga and meditation can reduce stress by up to 50%.
What’s more, some studies have suggested that a strong mind-body connection through meditation increases the level of endorphins. These chemicals provide a powerful energy boost and the famous “runner’s high” — a state that makes us feel exhilarated and euphoric after a rewarding run.
When the natural flow between your physical body and mind is broken, your level of self-awareness becomes restricted. Negative feelings and emotions surface and you experience self-doubt, helplessness, jealousy, etc. This opens the door to destructive addictions like smoking, drinking, and emotional eating. When you expand your awareness of the mind-body connection, your compassion and empathy proliferate. You become emotionally balanced and ready to take control of your life.
Just like Jack Schwarz, a superior body connection can help you manage pain. In an NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health) study, Dr. Fadel Zeidan and his colleagues discovered that practices like mindfulness meditation — a mind-body intervention combining focused attention on the breath with a reduction in the awareness of external sensations and consequent thoughts — promote a pain relief effect without engaging the opioid receptors of the brain.