The mind/body connection is the foundation upon which we can take control of our mental health. In simplified terms, our minds respond to the state of our bodies and our bodies respond to the state of our minds.
Pay attention next time you find yourself in a stressful situation; perhaps you have been rushing to finish a project before the deadline, and you have just put on the finishing touches. As soon as you submit it, the weight of the world will be lifted from you, or will it? Once you remove the blinders of being in stress mode, you will likely be able to see the subtle ways in which your body has responded to these heightened emotions. Take stock: your shoulders may be hunched up to your ears, you may have been grinding your teeth, your tongue may be pressing against the roof of your mouth, your muscles may be clenched, your heart may be beating more quickly than normal, you may have been biting your nails, you may feel a tension headache near your temples and you may even have a stomachache. This is the mind/body connection in action.
The mind/body connection and mental health treatment
The mind/body connection, by definition, suggests a marriage between our minds, our emotional responses, our bodies and our physical responses. It is for this reason that mental health treatment must focus on treating the whole person rather than only treating the textbook symptoms of a specific mental disorder. When our mental health suffers, our physical health suffers, and when our physical health suffers, our emotional health suffers. The same can be said for when our mental health and physical health thrive, which can be facilitated through holistic mental health treatment.
A mental health treatment that values the mind/body connection will encompass the client’s thoughts, emotions, physical responses, relationships and circumstances that may have an impact or play a role in their mental health. This practice is necessarily rooted in mindfulness; the client must learn to become aware of and name their emotions, whether they are experiencing any physical symptoms that could be a reaction to those emotions, and how to manage these mind/body responses.
Treatment rooted in the mind/body connection can vary by client and level of care, but there do exist some mind/body counseling techniques that individuals can practice at home:
- Positive thinking is thought to benefit both mind and body by releasing certain chemicals in our brains that influence our happiness. For example, some schools of thought regarding the mind/body connection suggest that you will not get sick if you think positively and believe that you will not get sick.
- Paradoxical intention is the practice of exaggerating one’s feelings to a ridiculous extent in order to regain control over those emotions. For example, if you are afraid of spiders, you should imagine spiders wearing a silly outfit. If you tend to hunch your shoulders up when you feel stressed, intentionally exaggerate the hunching of your shoulders so that they are much more hunched than they normally would be. This can enable you to recognize the power you have over your emotions and mind/body response, and sources of anxiety may be less intense after you imagine them in ridiculous scenarios.
- Physical exercise can directly address the mind and the body at the same time. Exercising gives us the feeling of burning off excess energy; exercising is generally healthy for our bodies on its own, and in the mind/body context, it is valuable in reducing stress, clearing the mind and building self-confidence.
The objectives and goals of mental health treatment that is informed by the mind-body connection will be those that benefit the whole person. Emphasis should be placed on developing a deeper connection and understanding of the self, recognizing mind/body responses and supporting overall health and well-being.
Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare is dedicated to your treatment and sustained wellbeing. In our practice and your treatment plans, we abide by our core values of integrity, dedication, passion and collaboration. We honor the mind/body connection and believe in treating the whole person. Get help today by reaching out at 678-274-4936.