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The mind-body connection

by Suzanne Wintner, MSW, LICSW, PhD

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Our minds and bodies are in constant communication. You might say they have one another on speed dial. This mind-body connection is powerful and directly linked to our overall wellness. Health professionals are increasingly acknowledging the mind-body connection and refocusing their work on treating the whole person.

How our minds influence our bodies

The mind represents our thoughts, attitudes, and emotions, which can be directly felt by our bodies. Most of us are familiar with blushing when we’re embarrassed, crying when sad, and feeling stomach butterflies when we’re nervous or excited. But did you know our mental well-being affects us down to the cellular level? For example, when we feel stressed, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are more prevalent in our bodies. This chemical reaction can affect things like heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and perspiration. A stress response might be useful when trying to evade danger or get a lot of work done. However, repeated exposure to stress can make you physically unwell. Learning mental strategies to cope with stress in healthy ways is beneficial to your mind and body. Read more about emotional regulation here.

How our bodies influence our minds

Our bodies also affect our minds in significant ways.  What we eat, our exercise habits, and even how we carry ourselves, impacts our mental state. People who make healthy lifestyle choices tend to feel better and more energized. For example, when we exercise, our bodies respond by increasing production of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. Norepinephrine, serotonin, and endorphins are just a few of the chemical messengers that boost our mood and fight against stress. Factors such as eating a nutrient rich diet and spending time outdoors can also have a positive impact on our minds. Engaging in healthy habits on a regular basis is like training your brain to feel good more often.

Introducing kids to the mind-body connection

Knowledge is power. Introducing kids to the mind-body connection will help them recognize the importance of taking care of both their mental and physical selves. Knowing how our emotions cause a physical response deepens self-awareness and understanding of the nature of emotions. This body map activity is a great starting point for helping kids understand the mind-body connection. 

Mind-body activities

Activities that enhance the mind-body connection help kids learn how their bodies react to different mental and emotional states. This can lead to a greater ability to control physical factors impacted by stress, including breathing, heart rate, and muscle tension. Biofeedback, yoga, mindfulness, and guided meditation are all activities that can strengthen the mind-body connection. Check out this guided meditation for kids. 

Our minds and bodies are inextricably intertwined.  Your mental state can influence your physical state and vice versa. Having an understanding and appreciation of this connection may contribute positively to overall well-being. 

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