Important Things You Need to Know About: The Mind – Body Connection

By Hagit Malikin, Intern at Evolution Psychology Center

Physical health is one of the most important aspects of one’s life. Without caring for our body, nurturing it and providing it with necessary attention, it may be very hard to live a full and exciting life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) dedicates the month of April to physical health awareness. This is an important topic and deserves attention worldwide. On April 7th, the WHO will center their awareness on the importance of health insurance and health coverage, focusing on the importance of health access to everyone, everywhere. Being able to access resources and obtain help are some of the first steps needed to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

I would like to extend health awareness month to include the mental health component as well. The WHO states that “there is no health without mental health’’1.  Our thoughts, emotions and behaviours contribute to our physical health2. Studies have found a positive link between physical and mental health such that people with chronic and acute diseases were more likely to experience various mental health problems than those who were physically healthy3. The opposite was shown to be true as well. Some mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, were shown to worsen or increase the risk of physical problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, respectively4,5.

The notion that our thoughts and mental states have an effect on our bodies comes from the mind-body connection theory, focusing on the connection between the mind and the physical being. Stress is one of the most relatable examples for everyone, as we all have experienced this at one time or another. For instance, a busy executive or university student will endure the stress and pressure of deadlines, projects, and examinations. Being in the constant mental state of stress and competition evokes reactions in our body. Some may experience headaches, stomach aches or even a decrease in their immune function, provoking an increase in colds and flus6.

Treatment becomes an important topic with the mind -body connection. Seeing that the two work together, this provides alternative routes for action. For example, yoga, and meditation can be very helpful for relaxing the nervous system and healing7. What’s more, the way in which we care for our bodies in a physical sense can provide powerful benefits to mental and emotional health as well. For example, exercise, if practiced in sufficient quantities and at appropriate levels of intensity, has been found to perform as well as anti-depressants in managing symptoms of depression and anxiety. It likewise promotes focus and increases energy. Getting adequate sleep and maintaining balanced nutrition also help keep the mind healthy, with some of the foods we eat and nutritional supplements we ingest, having a direct impact on our mental and emotional functioning. Finally, getting enough relaxation and leisure time, while benefiting the body, also nurtures and revitalizes the mind by occupying it with passions or relieving it with rest.

We only have one mind and one body. It is ours and we are the only ones that can take care of them. Being aware of the unity that exists between our mind and body can help us attain our optimal wellbeing.

On behalf of Evolution Psychology Center, remember to always take care of your mind and body. It will go a long way!

For physical health resources, visit the following website. You can find information on many different physical health problems. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets

For mental health resources, visit the following website. https://cmha.ca/document-category/mental-health

References:

  1. Promoting mental health : concepts, emerging evidence, practice : summary report / a report from the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the University of Melbourne. (2004).
  2. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/p/physical-health-and-mental-health
  3. https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/the-relationship-between-mental-health-mental-illness-and-chronic-physical-conditions/
  4. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/6/1069
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/anxiety-and-heart-disease-a-complex-connection
  6. https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune
  7. Büssing, A., Michalsen, A., Khalsa, S. B., Telles, S., & Sherman, K. J. (2012). Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: a short summary of reviews. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2012, 165410. doi:10.1155/2012/165410