The body and the mind interact in a powerful way to affect our health and wellbeing. The body comprises a number of biological systems that carry out specific functions that are necessary for our survival. The body is responsible for the way we function, and the way we move. And the mind, is our body’s control centre – it receives and sends messages to these biological systems to keep us alive and well. The mind is responsible for how we think, feel and act. When we feel pain and discomfort of the body, or illness or disease, it can affect our state of mind. And when we experience psychological stress, it can trigger physical reactions that can cause pain and discomfort and can even contribute to the onset or aggravation of a number of physical illnesses or disorders.
Evidence of this interaction can be traced back to the earliest days of medicine, and healers have pondered the connection for centuries. And of course, we know that the brain can convince the body that a fake treatment is the real thing (otherwise known as the Placebo Effect - noting that this effect can be observed on symptoms modulated by the brain only, for example, the perception of pain). But we don’t need the science to appreciate this interaction – most of us would be familiar with the experience of catching a cold (or anything else that had been going around the office) when we’ve been feeling stressed. Or a sore stomach and digestive upset in anticipation of a date or a presentation to a large audience. And for anyone that experiences chronic pain, you’ll be familiar with the negative impact that it can have on your mood!
A good example of the mind body interaction is how you respond to stress. Constant stress can cause tense muscles, pain, headaches, migraines, neck and back problems or digestive issues. It may also lead to high blood pressure or other serious problems. On the other hand, with health problems, or chronic pain, you might become depressed, anxious, and stressed, which could affect how well you think, feel and act.
But despite the evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, we tend to overlook the remarkable interaction between body and mind and treat them as two distinct systems*. And just as the interaction between the body and mind can be a negative feedback cycle, it can also be a positive one. One way of creating a positive feedback cycle is relaxation and promoting a sense of calm. When our body is calm and physically relaxed, we can also calm our mind. And when our mind is calm, we release tension in our body and interrupt our body’s negative feedback cycle. This interaction should not be overlooked or underestimated – rather, it should be acknowledged and considered, for optimal health wellbeing.
*Of course, there are physical and psychological diseases and illnesses that have a very clear diagnosis and treatment, and we are not suggesting that these are “all in the mind”. We are furthermore not suggesting that all physical and psychological diseases can be cured by the mind - it is important that you seek medical advice for your symptoms.