Mental health statistics are astounding; 792 million people in the world are affected by mental health issues showed one study in 2020. The NHS reported that between 1st April 2019 and 31st March 2020 there were 2,878,636 people in contact with mental health services. So if you’re going through mental health issues yourself, know you are not alone, but how might this affect our bodies too? Is there a link between the two? Or is that more new-age mumbo jumbo?
Well, we know that neurotransmitters in our brain control our feelings such as happiness and also modulate hormones which in turn affects our: motivation, central nervous system, our appetite, mood, memory, temperature etc. Can something as simple as a thought or mindset affect our body’s health? Here is my in-depth look at the connection of our mind-body and what it may mean for our wellness.
Stress is your brain sending out a fight or flight signal to the body, your heart-rate elevates, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. Fascinatingly though, it doesn’t matter if the threat is real or perceived. That job interview you’ve got is not a real threat, but your heart rate might rise thinking about it. That date you have planned isn’t a threat either; however, your mind and body might perceive it as such and create that butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling.
Also, prolonged chronic stress can lead to things like anxiety, depression and physical issues like skin problems, eating disorders, gastrointestinal issues and sexual disorders. As terrifying as this sounds it shows a link between mind and body. Therefore, a way to regain your wellbeing is through counselling, meditation, yoga, Thai Chi, doing things you love to do, exercising and eating nutritious foods are all proven to lower stress and depression.
PLACEBO & NOCEBO
Researchers have found that the use of placeboes is quite unexplainable, that giving a sugar pill to a group of people and telling them it’s a potential cure for their disease, can cure them of their ailment. Similarly, the newer Nocebo effect, which is telling a group of people that the sugar pill will hurt their stomach, and thus the results show an increase in stomach pains. Therefore, what we think and believe is a huge factor in our health. After all, the brain is sending signals to your body and then it interprets those signals.
Studies have shown that the effects of mantra meditations such as the classic “OM” have helped in dealing with stress levels within the brain. All types of meditation are a great way to slow down, reduce your stress and understand your thoughts. WellBe users have access to the Calm Meditation app. You are able to use the Calm premium app free for 2 months (wahoo!) Calm’s aim is to bring more clarify, joy and peace into your daily life through guided meditations, Sleep Stories, breathing programs and relaxing music. To unlock their full library of content go to: Calm.com/welldoing
EMOTION AND THOUGHT
A study in 2013 studied 701 participants from various backgrounds and told them to colour in a body map of where they felt particular emotions like worry, they were surprised that the similarities were cross-cultural. Also, scans have been done on the body during different emotions further prove this. To begin, think about your emotions, where do you feel sadness, joy and anger? Is it always the same place? And could there be a correlation with physical pain triggering certain emotions for you?
Deepak Chopra, American author and alternative medicine advocate, said: “a shift in consciousness creates a shift in biology.” He goes on to explain that there is evidence to suggest that people with a more positive outlook release certain chemicals in their brain via thought, and in turn respond better to illness and disease than those with the same disease but a more negative outlook.
To conclude, there is an undeniable link chemically, emotionally, and physically between the mind and the body. Our thoughts on a situation can cause us stress or joy and our body and all of its intricate systems work in correlation with that thought, and vice versa. We are slowly learning to take care of the mind, to sit with our emotions and truly feel and understand them, and to treat our bodies well with a balanced diet and exercise. Going forward I hope we all learn to love both our fascinating minds and intelligent system we call the body and give them the care and support they need to thrive!
Written by Jacqueline Renouard
Jacqueline Renouard is a Film and TV Production graduate with a passion for self-improvement. Her passion extends to researching psychology, nutrition and wellbeing through her 8-year yoga and meditation practice, and writing across many different styles.