When we think about health, one of the first things that comes to mind is our bodies. 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, finding the perfect balance between mind and body will open the doors to a healthier and more joyful life. Here’s how to start.
The Power of the Human Mind
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 actually 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 achieve 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 the world of McRaven, “somehow the mud seemed a bit warmer and the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.”
Where “A Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” Comes From
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 real or perceived dangers. The body receives the messages that come directly from the mind causing 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.
How Mental Health Affects Physical 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 stomach 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.
What Scientists Are Saying
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 how a healthy body is connected to a healthy mind, it’s safe to say working towards a stronger connection between the two will change your life for the better.
Benefits Of A Balanced Mind-Body Connection
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:
Better stress management
Studies show that, when you improve your mind-body connection through practices such as yoga or meditation, you are able to activate the relaxation response. As a result, the nervous system rejects the “fight or flight” response associated with stress and embraces the “rest and digest” response — powering emotional well-being and alleviating the physical symptoms of stress.
Powered immune system
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 are able to 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, the 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.
Control of addictions
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 a 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 — achieve its pain relief effect without engaging the opioid receptors of the brain.
Many times, we struggle to get the much-needed sleep required to function at our best potential. Sometimes it’s our thoughts and worries, the ones that won’t give the body a rest. Fortunately, a powerful mind-body connection can help you train your brain to be ready for bedtime whenever you need it most. A great sense of mindfulness achieved through meditation brings awareness to the present moment, silencing negative thoughts and ensuring a natural energy restoration.
6 Habits to Keep a Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body
There are many ways to cultivate a healthy mind and a healthy body and enjoy the benefits that come with a positive relationship between the two. Here are 6 habits you can incorporate to your daily routine:
Meditation has been around for as long as 3000 years. Fairly recently, scientists have been discovering its countless health benefits. As you meditate, you focus your attention inward to induce a state of deep relaxation.
The best thing about meditation is that there are hundreds of different approaches to it. There is not a universally accepted meditation, which means you can try techniques that meet your needs. You can choose from Mindfulness meditation, Love and Kindness meditation, breathing meditation, amongst many others. At Synctuition, for example, we specialize in sound meditation, incorporating the latest technology such as 3D sounds, Binaural Beats, Gamma Waves, ASMR sounds, and more.
2. Exercise regularly
We all know that exercising and keeping physically fit is hard work, especially when we try to make time for it in our busy schedules. Exercising doesn’t always mean intense workouts or long hours spent in the gym. If you haven’t been physically active for a long while or are not looking forward to it, you can start small. Short walks, office exercises, cycling or swimming can be good ways to give your body the level of activity it needs. Remember that it’s always best to consult an expert if you have a pre-existing health condition or haven’t been active in a while.
3. Foster creativity
Intuitively, we know that creativity is good for us. Many times, our creative passions bring joy to our life. But, have you ever wondered if science has something to say about the benefits of creative behaviors? Being creative is a crucial part of our lives. In fact, creativity improves brain function, mental health, and physical health by making you happier, boosting your immune system, making you smarter and much more.
According to a recent study by New Zealand psychologists, engaging in creative activities contributes to an “upward spiral” of positive emotions and feelings of flourishment and well-being. Coloring books for adults have become bestsellers due to their capacity to reduce stress levels.
Activities such as expressive writing also seem to help with chronic pain management. People dealing with this condition had improved pain control plus pain decline after writing down their angry feelings for over 9 weeks, according to a study. If you are craving creativity, try activities such as music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing.
4. Follow a healthy diet
There is no doubt about it: food is the most important factor that can directly affect your health. Whenever you eat something that has gone bad, your stomach aches or you feel nauseous. This happens because, when food acts as a poison, it causes inflammation, which alters the balance of hormones, nutrients, and neurotransmitters. Ultimately, this affects your body’s ability to manage and heal from stress or illness.
Think about sugar for example. High sugar consumption results in blood sugar fluctuations, provoking anxiety, headaches, irritability, mood swings and even increased depression. It is also linked to decreased intake of essential nutrients associated with obesity, diabetes, inflammatory disease, and joint pain.
This is why it is extremely crucial to choose food that is beneficial for your body. Greens, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouts are excellent options. They are packed with phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. Try to eat at least one complementary raw meal per day. If you are struggling, contact a specialist.
5. Connect with others
Throughout your life, the number and strength of your relationships have an impact on your mental and physical well-being. How many times have you felt amazing after catching up with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time? Or, while having a rewarding conversation with a relative? Overall, social connection generates positive feedback on social, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Scientific findings have even speculated that an act of intimacy such as hugging can have amazing benefits. Hugging boosts your oxytocin levels (the love hormone), increases serotonin (elevates mood and creates happiness), strengthens the immune system and your self-esteem. Only a few seconds of love is enough to put you in a positive mood and boost your well-being.
6. Focus on the bright side
From time to time, somebody tells you to “look on the bright side”. This phrase holds more power than you might think. There are plenty of reasons to start cultivating optimistic and affirmative thoughts and minimizing negative self-talk. For example, a positive mindset has been associated with many health benefits such as lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold, better cardiovascular health, and enhanced coping skills during times of hardships.
It is unclear why people who engage in positive thinking get to experience health benefits. One hypothesis is that having an optimistic outlook allows you to better manage stressful situations, which, in turn, reduces the harmful physical and mental health effects stress has over you.
Create the habit of a Healthy Body and a Healthy Mind today
A Healthy Body is equivalent to a Healthy Mind. For a long time, humanity has seen the mind and the body as two separate entities. Nowadays, we know that a positive relationship between the two of them gives us a powered immune system, more energy, and better stress management. All you need to do to experience these perks and change your life for the better is exercise, fostering creativity, embrace human connections, follow a healthy diet, focus on the positive, and meditate. At Synctuition, we have developed the latest meditation technology to help you relax and clear your mind from negativity. Our beautiful journeys contain 3D sounds, rhythmic entrainment frequencies, Gamma Waves, ASMR sounds, and binaural beats to help you develop a healthy body and a healthy mind. Start your life-changing journey today!