The idea of the connection between the mind and the body is far from new. This idea goes all the way back to Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, and is also still prominent in Eastern medicine traditions. The mind-body connection refers to how your mind affects your body and how your body affects your mind. Your mind doesn’t just refer to your brain; your mind includes all of your mental states including thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and images.
The mind affects the body through a chain reaction of processes in the body. Mental states can trigger changes in blood chemistry, heart rate, and the activity of cells and organs in the body, including the stomach, digestive tract, and immune system. This can range from feelings of anxiety causing your heart to race or even lead to ulcers, to the feeling of falling in love leading to the sensation of butterflies in your stomach.
Similarly, the body can impact your mental states. When you get sick or injured, your mind can interpret the situation in many different ways. Some people may tend to become depressed, anxious, or stressed in response to an illness. These reactions could, in turn, impact how you manage or cope with your illness. Other people may tend to have a more positive attitude and be better able to handle the stress that accompanies illness. At times, our body can even show us how we are feeling. Noticing tension in your shoulders or having frequent headaches can be signals that you are feeling stressed.
Research shows that becoming more aware of the connection between your mind and body can lead to better outcomes, like managing stress better, improving immune function, and having overall better health and wellness. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, practices like meditation, prayer, tai chi, massage therapy, relaxation techniques, and yoga can be used to improve awareness of the connection between your mind and body. Read more here.