I have, for many years, been convinced of the mind/body connection. We’ve all heard “think positive for positive results” but how do our bodies respond to the experience of grief? How does the body respond to the thoughts we frequently think after the death of a loved one? Thoughts such as “I’m all alone”, “No one understands how I feel”, “I’m afraid”, “Where do I begin to build a new life”. Fill in your thought.
When we look at the connection between out thoughts and feelings, when we really become aware: first, there’s my thought, “I’m alone”. Next, where am I experiencing that thought in my body? Is there tightness in the throat, clenching in the gut, a headache, tightness in the chest, clenching of the jaw, weakness in the legs?
Now, what are the results of these long-term thoughts and feelings? According to Dr. Candice Pert, a neuropharmacologist, the chemical messengers that are essential to the mind-body relationship are found on both the brain’s cell walls and on those of the immune system. Their presence in both demonstrates their close relationship, which means the brain and emotions are closely related to the immune system as messages are transmitted back and forth.
Dr. Pert also showed how the endocrine system with its hormones plays a part. Simply put, as long as it is all balanced, health is maintained. But, once a stressor causes an emotional imbalance, the immune system suffers and disease can overcome it. Challenging situations in life cannot always be changed, but our thoughts about them can be.
What can you do? If we change the thought, we change the feeling and we then change the physical response. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. Many times we don’t even notice the thought that initiates the feeling on the physical level. First thing is to reconnect the mind and body. Meditation and the act of sitting silently, becoming aware of our bodies can be the first step. We pay attention to the big physical reactions in our bodies but it’s the subtle feelings we need to increase our awareness to. Deep breathing is another way to reconnect our thoughts with our feeling body.
Try this simple exercise: notice where in your body you feel tension, stress, and un-ease. Now, take a long deep breath in, hold for a count of three then release. Again, take a long deep breath in, hold for a count of three and release. One last time, take a long deep breath in, hold for a count of three and release. Bring your awareness back to your body and notice any subtle changes where you had been feeling stress, tension or un-ease. Can you feel the change?