The Mind-Body Connection
The Mind-Body Connection
Do you ever find yourself saying, ‘I’m not well because I’m run down?’
If you the answer is yes, then you believe in the mind-body connection.
In recent years there has been a lot of scientific evidence detailing interaction
between our thoughts and behavior with the immune system. This area of study is called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). Have you ever felt nervous or excited before an event and found your heart beating quicker than normal, slight nausea or the need to rush to the bathroom? These are examples of the mind affecting the body. To put it simply our emotions and the way we think affects our health.
Holistic systems such as homeopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) see the mind-body connection as part of their philosophy dating back hundreds of years. However it is only recently that conventional medicine has started to accept this
connection. There has been some encouraging research into mind-body therapies such as meditation, visual imagery, mindfulness, yoga and hypnotherapy.
Before investigations into PNI, conventional medicine saw the body and mind as
separate entities. Hence when you have a physical ailment discussions are focused around the physical complaint and a prescription is given purely on those symptoms. However in more holistic therapies, the whole person is taken into account when forming prescriptions/treatment plans. The emotional component is as important if not more so than the physical. Ultimately physical ailments are manifestations of the emotional state of the person (along with genetics and different inherited susceptibilities).
This is why chronic ailments become worse when you feel stressed/run-down or you find yourself with a cold/virus after a particularly stressful period at work or following a traumatic event. Some systems of medicine go further than this such as TCM or the chakra system. For example, in TCM, organs represent different emotions; the lungs represent grief – therefore after bereavement or grieving for a loss of a relationship you may find yourself developing a chest infection or a chesty cough. Similarly within the chakra system the throat represents communication, so you may develop a sore throat (or be susceptible to) if you have problems communicating or want to tell
someone how you feel, but for some reason are unable to.
We are very intelligent beings, have you ever found that you have been forced to rest through illness after a particularly stressful period? It is our body way of telling us, enough is enough, you need to rest and rejuvenate. Your body will always tell you what needs to be cured, therefore if you look where your symptoms manifest, they will guide you to what is going on emotionally (if it is not clear). For example, lower back problems can represent issues around grounding, feeling safe and secure, and family relationships. Problems with your neck and shoulders can represent that you are carrying too much responsibility or have taken too much on – ‘carrying the world on your shoulders’.
If you would like to find out more about particular ailments and their emotional
significance, I highly recommend these two books:
The Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss
Heal Your Body by Louise Hay
I would love to hear your thoughts on the mind-body connection.
If you would like to explore how I can help you please contact me for a free 15 minute telephone consultation.
Until next time
NB. If you would like to further research into the mind-body connection, please see references below.
Alexander, L. 2011. How to incorporate wellness coaching into your therapeutic practice. A handbook for therapists and counselors. London: Singing Dragon.
Archer, S. 2006. More scientific evidence for the mind-body connection. IDEA Fitness Journal 3 (1). Available at: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/more-scientific-evidence-mind-body-connection [Accessed 5 March 2015].
Astin, J.A., Shapiro, S.L., Eisenberg, D.M., Forys, K.L., 2003. Mind-body medicine: State of the science, implications for practice. The Journal of the American Board of Family Practice. 16 (2), p. 131-147.
Bellinger, D.L., Lorton, D., Lubahn, C., Felten, D.L. 2001. Innervation of lymphoid organs – Association of nerves with cells of the immune system and their implications in disease. In: Ader, R., Felten, D.L., Cohen, N. eds. Psychoneuroimmunology. 3rd ed. New York: Academic Press, pp. 55-111.
Brower, V. 2006. Mind-body research moves towards the mainstream. EMBO Reports. 7 (4). p.358-361.
Carlson, L.E., Beattie, T.L., Giese-Davis, J., Faris, P., Tamagawa, R., Fick, L.J., Degelman, E.S., Speca, M. 2015. Mindfulness-based cancer recovery and supportive-expressive therapy maintain telomere length relative to controls in distressed breast cancer survivors. Cancer. 121 (3), p. 476-484.
Davidson, R.J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.F., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K., Sheridan, J.F. 2003. Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine. 65 (4), p.564-570.
Herbert, T.B. & Cohen, S. 1993. Stress and immunity in humans: a meta-analytic review. Psychosomatic Medicine. 55 (4), p. 364-379.
Kemeny, M.E. & Schedlowski, M. 2007. Understanding the interaction between psychosocial stress and immune-related diseases: a stepwise progression. Brain, behavior and immunity. 21 (8), p. 1009-18.
Lutz, A., Slagter, H.A., Rawlings, N.B., Francis, A.D., Greischar, L.L., Davidson, R.J. 2009. Mental training enhances attentional stability: neural and behavioral evidence. Journal of Neuroscience. 29 (42), p. 13418-27.
National Institutes of Health. 2010. Mind-Body medicine practices in complementary and alternative medicine. Available at: http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/viewfactsheet.aspx?csid=102 [Accessed 6 March 2015].
NHS. 2014. 2014/15 Choice framework. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/299609/2014-15_Choice_Framework.pdf [Accessed 5 March 2015].
Olff, M. 1999. Stress, depression and immunity: the role of defense and coping styles. Psychiatry research. 85 (1), p.7-15.
Pederson, A.F., Bovbjerg, D., Zachariae, R. 2009. Stress and susceptibility to infectious disease: a review of the literature. In: Contrada, R.J. & Baum, A. eds. Handbook of stress science: psychology, biology and health. New York: Springer.
Reiche, E.M., Morimoto, H.K., Nunes, S.M. 2005. Stress and depression-induced immune dysfunction: implications for the development and progression of cancer. International review of psychiatry. 17 (6), p. 515-27.
Thornton, L.M. & Andersen, B.L. 2006. Psychoneuroimmunology examined: The role of subjective stress. Cellscience. 2 (4), p.66-91.
Zachariae, R. 2009. Psychoneuroimmunology: A bio-psycho-social approach to health and disease. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. 50, p. 645-651.
Ziemssen, T. & Kern, S. 2007. Psychoneuroimmunology – cross-talk between the immune and nervous systems. Journal of neurology. 254 (2), II8-II11.