The Mind-Body Connection: Is It A Two-Way Street?

Super strength, super speed, invisibility – the superpowers that we see in movies and on television are amazing. But did you know that you actually have a superpower of your own? Your own mind-body connection can be a powerful aid to help you achieve optimal health and wellness.  

Good emotional health is a result of finding healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety. However, many challenges in life can distress your emotional health and later lead to strong, negative feelings. Unexpected events such as being laid off from a job, the loss of a loved one, moving a long distance, suffering from an illness or injury, or giving birth to a new baby can all lead to significant mental health stressors. While some stressors can be positive, others can be mentally difficult, and lead to physically harming your health. 

The mind-body connection refers to the physical changes that occur in your body as a result of your mental state. When you feel relaxed, you may be more aware of the state of your body and be able to tune in to what you need – food, water, rest, etc. However, when you feel stressed and anxious, your body may respond by releasing higher amounts of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.1 These elevated hormones can play havoc with body systems such as raising your blood pressure and heart rate, making you breathe more rapidly, and releasing higher amounts of glucose and fat from storage sites in the body. If immediate danger is nearby, then your activated hormones can help trigger a fight-or-flight response that could save your life. In this case, the stress response would be quite beneficial. However, chronic stress can slowly act to cause debilitating conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.1 

This mind-body connection works both ways. Not only does your mental state directly influence your overall health, but the state of your health can create changes in your mental state. One study into this phenomenon tackled a big assumption – that stress causes stomach ulcers.2 This interesting study found that “the central nervous system both influences and is influenced by gastrointestinal health.” Researchers were able to identify that the link between gut health and brain health is a two-way street.  

Chronic stress is not only painful while you are continually experiencing it, but it may be a long-term stressor to your overall health. You can help elevate your mental health to highly positive levels by taking time to nourish both the body and mind in uplifting ways, such as practicing relaxing meditation, getting regular exercise, doing deep breathing exercises, stretching exercises such as yoga, and eating a healthy, plant-based diet. Make it a daily habit to engage in healthy practices to achieve better mental and physical health.   

Resources

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. “Understanding the Stress Response.” Harvard Healthwww.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response
  2. Templeton, David. “Pitt Study Shows Brain and Stomach Connections Are a Two-Way Street.” Gazette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 29 May 2020, www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2020/05/27/Peter-Strick-David-Levinthal-Pittsburgh-School-of-Medicine-PNAS-cerebral-cortex-microbiome-stomach/stories/202005190088.