The Mind Body Connection
Wellness is fast becoming a dominant lifestyle value. The pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well being through active and holistic commitments allows us to reach optimal health and wellness. Thus, allowing us to reach our goals, find our purpose and live a happier life.
Wellness promotes a sense of whole and understanding of one’s body. It does not necessarily mean you are free of all medical conditions. It simply allows you to live a lifestyle that integrates the mind, body and spirit to help create a sense of balance and harmony, giving you the tools to deal with chronic illness, pain or discomfort.
“Wellness is a state of physical, mental, social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease.” World Health Organisation.
Integrated medicine and healthcare is becoming a popular choice to help achieve a positive state of wellness whilst experiencing illness, anxiety, stress of daily life. According to the Faculty of Integrated Medicine, Bath, “Integrative medicine is a compassionate, proactive approach to healthcare which combines the very best of all medicines.” Taking this into consideration, it is no wonder that more people will seek out traditional styles of medicine such as chinese and complementary as this incorporates more of a mind- body link into their practice. Something which helps to promote overall wellness mentally and physically. Where as Western medicine can still view the mind and body as separate.
Mind- Body-Medicine (MBM) is relatively low risk, physically and emotionally while the potential benefit can be high. This type of therapy takes into account people’s thoughts and emotions as well as their overt medical problems providing a form of medical care that helps patients become much more in tune with their mental and physical health, creating a sustained long term solution for feeling well. Mind Body medicine is a low economic cost as many can be taught by paraprofessionals and invoke no high tech interventions. The ultimate benefit being they can easily be applied in the context of conventional medicine rather than standing in opposition to it.
Mind Body Medicine is still a relatively new phrase that was not known or widely understood fully until the late 20th century. However, the mind body approach offers a vital partnership of practitioners from the medical and medical health fields. These can range from nurses, doctors, psychologists, yoga instructors, nutritionists, spiritual healers and tai chi teachers. Naturopathic practitioners understand that Hippocrates was indeed correct when he made the connection almost 2500 years ago that what the body manifests is a result of the mind, the concept still isn’t readily utilized.
An increasing number of US Medical Schools and centres now have departments dedicated to mind body research and treatment. This now interdisciplinary research known as Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) incorporates, belief systems, hopes and feelings as well as biochemistry, physiology and anatomy. A big part of the approach is to enhance awareness of self care behaviour and healthy choices. This is achieved through the study of how our physiological state and neurological and hormonal factors affect the functioning of the immune system.
There is sufficient information to suggest that the immune system can be affected by stresses and anxiety from psychological to physical. Laurel Alexander explains in her book ‘How to Incorporate Wellness Coaching into your Therapeutic Practice,’
“Faulty thinking can lead to the emotional turmoil which may produce inappropriate behaviour eg overeating, workaholism. Evidence suggest that loss of psychological control can lead to a reduction of normal homeostasis and that when this happens our immune system is weakened making it easier for symptoms to manifest.”
How someone deals with stresses, emotions and feelings can have an affect on how long they survive a chronic illness. The ultimate goal of mind body technique is to get the mind to relax and reduce the amount of stress hormones so your body is in a better state to fight off the illness. Mind Body techniques encourage relaxation, mind clarity, improve coping mechanisms, promote mindfulness in short potentially lessening the need for western medicine and medication.
Stress describes a reaction to an event and everyone deals with situations differently, meaning that stress can manifest itself in many different forms. What is known however, is that any type of stress whether it emotional, physical, cognitive or behavioural can lead to increased heart rate, irritability, depression, carelessness, addiction and insomnia. This added to an existing medical condition or illness can significantly prolong and dramatically affect the recovery process. Stress will not cause an illness and not all stress is bad, for example positive stress adds to anticipation and excitement. We just need to manage and control stress, through finding mind- body techniques that work best for the individual.
People are aware that stress has a powerful impact on the body. People that are constantly negative, pessimistic, angry or anxious tend to be more likely to become stressed or ill due to the stress hormones suppressing the immune system. There is medication for depression, anxiety and stress, however for it to have a more impactful effect a mind body approach can provide an outlet for sustained happiness and wellbeing without the eventual need for medication. This can come in any from and is down to the individual to decide.
One ever growing and extremely popular way to reduce stress and promote mind clarity is through sea therapy, living in Cornwall and working with clients on the Cornish coast this has become a dominant part of the recovery process for many people. There is something about water that draws us in and fascinates us and now there is scientific proof that water can make us happier, more connected and more productive. After all it is the most omnipresent substance on earth and we ourselves are three quarters H2O.
Wallace J Nicholas a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences and co founder of Ocean Revolution and LiVBLUE states that,
“we are on the forefront of a wave of neuroscience, evolutionary biology and medical research that is illuminating the physiology and brain processes that underlie our transformative connection to water.”
Drawing upon his breakthrough research, as well as personal stories from top surfers, scientists and artists, Wallace J Nicholas shows in his book The Blue Mind, precisely how proximity to water can improve creativity, health and professional success and reinforce our connection to the natural world.
There are several charities world wide that utilize the calming effect water can have on participants and use it to help manage stress, anxiety, depression. For example The Wave Project, Operation Surf and Wild Swim. The scientific facts speak for themselves in terms of recovery and change to mental and physical state. B.Schram wrote in the Physiotherapy Journal May 2015 101 his discovery into the mindful effects of Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
Over a 6 week period a training intervention of 13 people previously untrained in SUP achieved significant improved results in both mental and physical health. An average of 41.98% improvement in anaerobic fitness and 23.57% in aerobic fitness.
Through questionnaires and counselling the participants increased their self rated satisfaction with their own health by 28% and psychological health by 17.49%
Participants tested over a 12 month period saw self rated quality of life increased by 84.1% and psychological health increase by 33.9%
The most fascinating point to mind body connection is that there are huge ranges of techniques that are all extremely accessible that can improve your overall wellness and assist western medicine without the need to be prescribed, diagnosed or pigeon holed. It is your choice to live a healthier, happier lifestyle and so it is ultimately your choice what avenue of wellness therapy you choose. Sea therapy works for some not for others, however, it can be a vessel that proves mind clarity is achievable for you, which then encourages you to find the activity you relate with the most to continue that feeling. With mindful drawing, yoga retreats, sound bathing, meditation courses, wild camping, food foraging and distance running all become more present and available it is interesting to observe societies developing view on wellness and ultimately the mind body connection.