New Year’s Resolution: Working on Mind-Body Connection

Hi all, hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are fully recharged for a brand new semester. It is the time of year that everyone is talking about and still adhering to their New Year’s resolution. Though I’ve never truly committed to one myself, I do have some thoughts laid out for the upcoming year. Last semester was a very busy and stressful one for me. More than often, I found myself drowning in work and not knowing what to think or how I feel. So one of my resolutions for this year is working on mind-body connection. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” By focusing on the interconnectedness and interaction between mind and body, we can become more aware of ourselves and our well-being.


What is mind-body connection

Seems like there is a lot of talking around meditation and mindfulness these days, but for real, what is mind-body connection? In short, it is the connection between mental and physical health. What’s going on in our minds, our emotions, feelings, and memories of certain events, has an impact on our biological functioning. I’m sure many of us have experienced increased heart rate and tightness in chest when anxiety arises. And the common saying of “feeling butterflies in stomach” describes a moment when fear or tension triggers discomfort in people’s digestive system. Studies have shown that negative emotions such as anxiety increase stress hormones, which subsequently suppress the activity of certain white blood cells and increase the probability of autoimmune diseases. While emotions evoke physiological responses, how the body is doing can also influence how we feel emotionally.

How and why disconnection happens

Our body has ways to tell us what it wants. We feel sleepy when the body wants rest and hungry when it demands energy and fuel from food. However, in a culture that prioritizes rationality and reasoning, we are often told to believe that the mind is superior to the body. If there is enough will power, our brain can tell the body and the heart what to feel and what to do. I’ve done that many times to power through a bad day, to be productive when I’m really not feeling like it, or just to make myself think I’m in control of my life. It works sometimes, but the longer I stay in that mindset the more confused, frustrated, and tired I become.

Disconnection happens when we fail to or intentionally refuse to recognize the cues from our mind and body. Have you ever woken up feeling like nothing interests you or too numb to react to anything? Other signs of disconnection include extreme fatigue, body dysmorphia, unexplainable anger and sadness, and substance abuse. Some argue that disconnection is turning into a worldwide epidemic. Operating in a high-stress and high-speed environment, people nowadays often go after efficiency and perfectionism at the cost of losing touch with the internal self, without realizing that doing so may put their health and well-being in danger.



How to improve mind-body connection:

Check in with yourself regularly. Physical cues are often a good indicator for changes in emotions. Do you feel unsettled? Is your body heavier and tenser than usual? Is today the kind of day you want to smash a workout or can’t be even bothered to talk to others? It is totally fine and normal to feel not ok. Rather than repress or ignore the negative feelings, try to get down and deep with the them. Pick up these thoughts and describe in details what they are. Identifying the problem accurately is the first step of resolving it.

Look for the possible causes. Once you’ve taken note of the physical or emotional cues, try to trace them and look for potential reasons of why you are feeling like this. Maybe you are extra grumpy today because of a pressing deadline and heavy workload. Perhaps the nausea comes from being nervous for an important upcoming event which you are not sure if you are well-prepared for. Too often we avoid engaging with negative emotions, thinking they are harmful for us and those around. But in fact, the real harm comes only when the anger, dissatisfaction, or unhappiness are left un-checked and lead to negative coping mechanisms.

Sleep for longer and better. Sleep is one magical activity that can heal the body and mind at the same time. There are more than enough scientific evidences on how sleep repairs organs and rejuvenates the body. And for many people, bed time is one of the rare moments when they are able to fully relax, be grounded, and reflect on their day. If you need any advice on how to get quality sleep, check out the episode “All Your Sleep Questions, Answered” on the Ten Percent Happier podcast.