Beacon of Change Counseling

Katy Rader, LMHC

Individual and Family Therapy Services

Filtering by Tag: Well Being

Mind-Body Connection

What is the mind body connection and how does it affect me?

Emotions like anger, fear, guilt, anxiety, sadness, resentment, jealousy, depression, and stress can manifest within the body and contribute to physical distress and disease. For example, you are likely already familiar with the way that fear can contribute to digestive upset or how tension can lead to headaches. When you experience emotional states like sadness, joy, or anger, physiological sensations occur in different areas of your body. This connection is multidirectional. Emotional experiences affect the way you behave and the physiology within your body. In the other direction, your perception of these emotion-triggered bodily changes also influences your consciously felt emotions. Essentially, our emotions affect our physical body and our physical body affects how we feel emotionally. The better the connection between our mind and body, the more effectively we can reduce any negative effects of our emotions on our physical body and, conversely, the negative effects of physical ailment on our emotions.

What can I do to increase my mind body connection?

Healing and preventing disease requires a combination of physical, spiritual, and emotional approaches. There are a variety of mind-body approaches that can help you process your emotions and develop inner peace and physical wellness. To avoid the buildup of toxic emotions, you need to remain present and aware. Paying attention allows you to identify emotions as they arise, process them, and choose how you react. One way to effectively express, feel, and get your feelings out is to talk about them. This can be done out loud by speaking with a trusted friend or therapist—or on paper through a journaling practice.

Meditation is another valuable mind-body practice for becoming more present and centering the mind. Meditation is simply relaxing calmly without distractions and acknowledging your thoughts, but allowing the thoughts to pass on by. My favorite visualization during meditation is sitting on the bank of a stream and each thought is a leaf floating on the stream. You acknowledge that the leaf is on the surface of the stream, but you watch it float on down the stream and out of sight. This allows us to not get caught up in a thought. Yoga, breathing practices, tai chi and guided imagery are all effective ways to increase the mind-body connection.

What are the benefits to improved mind body connection?

By improving your mind-body connection, you can expect to feel more aware of your emotions and what has lead to them. Increasing awareness of our mind and body allows us to put some space between our emotions and the response to those emotions so that we can choose how we want to react. We feel more in control of our emotions. Bringing awareness to our body allows us to relax our muscles to reduce anxiety and tension. Improving the mind-body connection also has been proven to improve concentration, reduce triggers for addictive behaviors, improve sleep, decrease blood pressure, control physical pain.

Increasing the connection between your mind and body can bring about a great deal of positive change and is a relatively small investment of time and energy. Prioritizing increasing mind-body connection through meditation, yoga, tai chi, breath work or simply paying attention to your body sensations can have a big pay off for your emotions and your physical body.

Sleep Hygiene

The effects of poor, interrupted or irregular sleep range from the obvious of feeling tired and less productive, to the more surprising and concerning of heart disease and cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation also reduces libido, leads to weight gain and increases anxiety and depression. What can we do to get more sleep to manage all of these negative side effects?

• Maintain a regular sleep routine - Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. Ideally, your schedule will remain the same (+/- 20 minutes) every night of the week.

• Avoid naps, if possible - When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night which may cause sleep fragmentation and difficulty initiating sleep, and may lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation. However, naps of 20-30 minutes can be restorative.

• Don’t stay in bed awake for more than 15-20 minutes - If you find your mind racing, or worrying about not being able to sleep during the middle of the night, get out of bed, and sit in a chair in the dark. Do your mind racing in the chair until you are sleepy, then return to bed. No TV or internet during these periods! That will just stimulate your mind more. 

• This is a good time to do some relaxation. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is particularly helpful to release tension and relax the body.

• Avoid all screens (e.g. TV, phone, e Reader, computer) for at least 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by the screen reduces melatonin, our natural sleep inducing hormone, and can shift our circadian rhythms.

• Drink caffeinated drinks with caution - The effects of caffeine may last for several hours after ingestion. Caffeine can fragment sleep, and cause difficulty initiating sleep. If you drink caffeine, use it only before noon. Cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications may also cause fragmented sleep.

• Exercise regularly- If possible, exercise before 2 pm every day. Exercise promotes continuous sleep. Avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.

• Have a comfortable pre-bedtime routine - A warm bath/shower, meditation, or quiet time, read a book, listen to calming music, write. 

If all of these tips sound overwhelming, don’t worry. Your sleep can be improved by implementing just a few. Which of the above do you think might be affecting your sleep the most? Start with that one for a week and see how it helps. Or you can start with a couple that seem easiest and go from there. Improving your sleep will positively affect many areas of your life and it’s worth changing a few habits to reap the benefits!