By Psychologist Paula Lorimer
The health of your physical body is impacted by your mind, your emotions, and your experiences. Your body responds to the way you think, feel and act through the “mind/body connection,” and actually keeps score of all the emotions you experience, both positive and negative.
When you have a thought or experience an emotion, certain chemicals (hormones, neurotransmitters, and neuropeptides) are released from your brain and body in order to help the body regulate an emotional event. This is natural. When we achieve something, dopamine is released in the brain which is a natural reward and makes us feel good. When we are afraid, cortisol is released to prepare us to fight or run away, helping us survive.
Positive feelings such as happiness, connection, satisfaction, and contentment have a positive impact on your body such as improved immune function, better sleep, increased resiliency (less negative effects of stress), improved digestive activity, and a general increase in overall functioning and wellness.
Negative emotions such as anger, fear, stress, anxiety, and depression are natural to all of us and we need to experience these emotions. Chronic, swallowed, or unexpressed negative feelings continue to live in the body and can wreak havoc. Unexpressed or unmanaged negative feelings have been linked to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Pain (lower back, neck, body aches)
- Sleep difficulties
- Digestive problems (nausea, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome)
- Illnesses (lowered immune functioning)
Our bodies talk to us all the time. Illness, pain, or a presenting health issue may be a signal that something is happening emotionally. Ask you doctor as well as check in with yourself. Have things been more stressful lately? Did you have a conflict with your partner? Are you holding back from saying something? Is there something unresolved from your past? Are you feeling guilty or not letting go of something? All of these emotions and experiences will show up in your body. Listening to what your body is telling you will promote both physical and emotional healing.
Here are some tips you can follow to help enhance your mind body connection in a positive way:
Listen to your body
What is your body trying to tell you? Listen carefully and try to meet it’s needs. Does your body need rest, to speak up, to reach out, or to pull back? For example, when I am on a long phone call, I start pacing around after a while. This is my body’s way of telling me I’m done talking on the phone even before my thinking brain has figured it out. I feel better when I get off the phone and I feel tense if I stay on. Listening to your body regularly will tell you about your emotional world.
Working with someone who specializes in how the body stores emotions can help reconnect your body and mind to help reach optimal functioning and wellness. Yoga, tai chi, qi Gong, as well as certain types of massage and acupressure are all great ways to listen to your body and learn about what emotions you are experiencing. These practices can also be helpful to release emotions from the body and self.
Express your feelings in appropriate ways
If feelings of stress, anxiety, or sadness are causing you physical problems, keeping them in can make you feel worse. Learn how to best express your feelings to another person, by writing them down, or being creative. Let out your emotions in healthy, satisfying, and therapeutic ways.
Because positive feelings impact the body in positive ways, developing and focussing on feelings of gratitude, joy, and contentment will help buffer negative feelings, increase stress resiliency, release tension, and promote healthy physical functioning.
To your health – Body, Mind, and Soul!