Building a Mind-Body Connection
- December 2018
- By: James Hodgson
What in the world is a mind-body connection? It may sound like some kind of unprovable theory, however, science shows the mind can control a lot more than we typically think. Research has now proven that we are able to heal chronic conditions, experience drastic weight loss, get better fitness results and faster, improve mood, and simply be at our best through the power of facilitating a mind-body connection. There is also evidence this can help tap into improved mental abilities, stronger immune system, and better quality of life.
The set of mechanisms through which one's thoughts, emotions, or spiritual practices can directly affect the way the body functions, being conducive to illness or to health, as seen in the effects of stress on the immune system or in such phenomena as the placebo effect, biofeedback, reiki, hypnosis, and meditation.
What Science Says:
An increasing number of US medical schools and centers now have departments devoted to mind-body research and some also to mind-body treatment. Several factors have driven this steady growth: most prominent is patients' increasing interest in self-care, wellness and alternative medicine, and their concomitant dissatisfaction with the success of allopathic medicine in preventing and treating chronic illnesses (Brower, 2006). Research has documented the mechanisms through which stressful emotions alter white blood cell function. Stress diminishes white blood cell response to viral infected cells and to cancer cells. Moreover, vaccination is less effective in those who are stressed and wounds heal less readily in those who are stressed (Littrell, 2008). Therefore if we can learn to actively reduce stress, we can improve our immune system's ability to keep us healthy. This is just one aspect of the mind-body connection
How to achieve it:
Let's start with an analogy. It may not be a perfect analogy, but hopefully it gives you the idea. Signals from your brain to your organs are similar to learning to navigate through a new city. At first, trying to navigate takes time and effort. You are not efficient with your routes. Over time though, you learn what roads are heavily trafficked and what roads are the quickest to take to get to the grocery store or work. Your nerves work in the same way. At first when focusing it may seem like nothing is happening. You may feel a little difference, but that signal is traveling slowly as it hits stop lights and dead ends. As the signals from your brain to your muscle travel more frequently, it begins to move faster and more efficiently, you will feel and be stronger. A continued focus will allow your body's systems to communicate better and better with each other. You will have more energy from your body working more efficiently.
Meditation is a little different, in that you are trying to slow down the signals. During meditation, there is typically a single thought or idea you focus on. Sometimes meditators even try to clear their mind of all thoughts
The first step toward better mind-body connection is awareness. How can you change something you are not aware of? There is an accurate quote to sum this up, "You don't know what you don't know until you know". Essentially, this mind-body connection is created and built through a continual feedback loop (the more focus, the more feedback, the stronger the connection). From there, many methods exist in how to facilitate a stronger connection with the wide variety of mind-body modalities: yoga, balance training, massage, meditation, strength training, etc. When strength training, each rep you complete, your mind should have a singular focus of squeezing the muscles your working as hard as you can. This activates more muscle fibers, allowing faster strength improvements, more calories burned, and a stronger neural pathway. When doing bicep curls and practicing the mind/body connection, it may be tough to "feel" your bicep and to consciously squeeze it, you may "lose" the connection a few times, or lose focus and begin thinking about what to make for dinner. Over time, however, it should get easier and easier to consciously engage that bicep muscle, the neural pathway will get stronger meaning your brain will communicate with that muscle faster, smoother, and more efficiently.
Tasha's Success Story
Tasha's story is an inspirational journey. We could not be more proud of what she has accomplished. The wisdom she has learned along the way is invaluable!
"All of my life I've been ridiculed for being heavy. The people I went to the school with, co-workers, boyfriends, random people in public, even my own family and some teachers have humiliated me for my weight and appearance. Having tried to lose weight countless time as a child/teen/adult I decided that if I wanted to be successful this time, something would have the change. I needed to do it out of genuine love for myself, not because I hated my body and would only feel worthy if I changed it.
We each wake up every day and have the gift of deciding how we want to use our 24 hours. There are so many things people will tell you what you need to do to be successful. So what really is the best way to reach your goals? The way that YOU can. Put one foot in front of the other, even if you feel like you're doing so blindly. You don't have to be perfect to progress, and falling short is always better than stopping short. My transformation is an ongoing series of choices I started making in January of 2017. I started with being mindful of the kinds of food I was putting into my body. After a few weeks of eating cleaner, I started paying attention to my calorie intake. Eventually, I built up the courage to sign up at Eastside Athletic Club, that was the real game changer for me. It's a beautiful thing to be surrounded by people striving to move forward towards their goals and overcoming their own obstacles along the way."
"Flash forward a year and a half .. I'm down 160 pounds, body deflated leaving behind quite a bit of excess skin and all stretch marks still intact, but nevertheless feel amazing. This is about more than just weight loss, this is me taking back my life and learning to accept my body, along with the person inside of it. Participating in life is so much more enjoyable these days. Being able to trust my body and knowing it's strong enough to take me through life is something I've worked so hard for. Before starting this journey I was settling, and trying my hardest to be invisible, whereas now I am fighting every day physically and mentally to be the woman I'm going to spend the rest of my life loving."
"It's important to remember that no single phase of life is permanent. Don't ever forget that you deserve to live a healthy life. You deserve to be happy and have control and the only person who's going to get you there is you. I love this journey, I love that even more than the physical transformation I've been able to completely change my mentality. Yes, I still have doubts and insecurities, plenty of them in fact. But I look at myself and see a capable, strong woman. Taking my life back into my own hands is the single most empowering thing I've done in my life."
LILA'S SUCCESS STORY
No matter your age, you can make an improvement to your health and fitness with dedication like Lila has shown. Thankfully, she was smart enough to notice a problem and more importantly brave enough to ask for help. She created a goal, stuck with it...even when it was extremely difficult, and now is planning a missions trip to rural Thailand!
"Hi there. My name is Lila, age 74, and I have belonged to East Side Athletic Club since I was 65 and would use it occasionally until I retired at age 70. At that point, I went several days a week and ride the bike and maybe do a few exercise machines. I had noticed as I get older my balance was not as good as it once was, and my body movements we not all that great. Because of this, I had several falls, thankfully only breaking a bone one time. Then I noticed I couldn't get up off the floor without assistance. I know it was time to do something about it.
That was when I started working with a personal trainer and he has helped me immensely. His name is James. James is very considerate of my age and limitations and knows when to push me and when to back off. When to encourage me and when to laugh with me. I usually go to the gym 3-4 days a week now and work with James one of those days. We did train 2-3 times a week until we achieved my first goal of getting up and down off the floor without help. Once we achieved it, My son and my husband really encouraged me to keep working with him to continue being challenged and improve in my health and fitness. He has me doing balance, strengthening exercises (especially core), and exercises that help with my mobility as well. My balance and mobility has greatly improved, even my kids have commented on it and encouraged to keep it up. Thank you James!"
Photos coming soon...
Do you have a transformation story you would love to share to inspire others?