Mention the words, “mind-body connection,” and every self-styled life coach within ear shot will nod affirmingly as if you have just unveiled the secret to life. Aside from the trendiness, what does this really mean and how is it relevant to receiving therapy? This topic becomes especially confusing because the established method for receiving therapy involves sitting and talking, using almost all mind and no body.
What does Mind-Body Connection Mean?
The mind-body connection is the link between a persons thoughts and attitude and their physical health and physiological reactions.
To help explain the mind-body connection, it’s important to remember humans are still animals – essentially monkeys with less hair and more anxiety. As the top tier model of the animal kingdom, we boast the luxury feature of abstract thought and speculation. Regardless of what we are doing physically, our mind has the ability to conjure thoughts that will impact us both emotionally and physically.
This is great for the times we are hiking and see a mountain lion. Instantly our mind says, “run or that thing will kill you,” and our nervous system triggers what is commonly called the fight or flight response. Stress hormones like adrenaline are released into the bloodstream putting all available resources into running and staying alive.
The mind-body connection becomes problematic from the lack of specificity exercised by the nervous system. If our significant other or employer says, “we need to talk,” our minds will most likely have a negative automatic response, “oh no, this is bad, I can’t handle this.” Cue our nervous system at this point, overhearing the catastrophizing and perceiving us to be in danger.
The Mind-Body Connection and Therapy
This connection complicates therapy because talking about past traumatic experiences can trigger a fight or flight response due to the psychological stress of remembering and retelling. This slows down progress and if it continues for multiple sessions, clients will likely feel unsafe just thinking about their next appointment.
Thankfully there are a number of evidence-based modalities that Kaizen clinicians are trained in that address the fight or flight response brought on by our thoughts and memories.
We understand that mental illness does not take place solely in the mind. Just as an x-ray can clearly show a broken leg being healed, a brain scan can definitively show how therapeutic interventions reduce anxiety and depression.
If you would like to learn more about mind-body interventions and to speak with clinicians who understand stress physiology, request an appointment today.