What exactly does mind-body medicine mean? Rather than some esoteric philosophy, I hope to give you some practical ideas about how you can change the interaction between your mind and body. There are 3 video links in this newsletter, and all 3 are well worth taking the time to watch. The total video time is just over 40 minutes. These presentations are packed with great content that I know you will find useful.
We’ve all heard a lot about mind-body medicine. When I hear that term, it sounds as if it is a one way street from mind to body. I’d like to expand on that a bit as we now know it is a 2 way street, and could be called body-mind medicine as well. In the simplest of terms, there is now overwhelming scientific evidence that what we think, believe, and feel emotionally, has a direct and profound effect on our body and physiology. It is also true that our body and physiology impact our thoughts and emotions. This includes things like posture, body language, diet and activity levels. I believe it is important to understand both sides of that equation. I am seeing this personally in doing Foundation Training and would like to share that experience with you. One thing that Foundation Training has done is to make me very aware of my posture. I notice that when my posture is better, I just feel better, and have more energy. Last week one of my Foundation Training classmates posted this great talk by Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy. Click below and take a few minutes to watch her video; it’s a fantastic example of how the mind and body interact with each other.
Another area of interest to me over the past several years has been in the process of thinking itself. It is becoming more and more apparent to me just how powerful my thoughts are and how much they affect not just my emotional state, but also my physical well being. How many of us are really aware of our thoughts? Are they negative or positive, constructive or destructive, inclusive or exclusive, all about me or about others? For me this is an ongoing work, and I see that I have some very habitual thoughts that do not serve me well, or help me to stay well. Becoming aware of those thoughts does allow me to change them. This requires a lot of attention and vigilance, or what the Buddhists would call mindfulness. I am finding this is ongoing work, but well worth the effort. I don’t get stuck in negative thought patterns nearly as often as I used to. A friend of mine calls these habitual thought patterns our “prime dysfunction”, and I agree with him. Click here to watch a video that gives an insightful look at our thinking process and how we have the choice to think outside our “default mode”.
The whole point is that we do have the ability to choose what we think and that makes a huge difference in our physiology. There is an exciting new field emerging called “Positive Psychology” based on these ideas. The leaders in this field have found that there are some simple steps we can implement that can actually change our thoughts and our brain. To learn more watch this video by Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist from Harvard. I highly recommend doing the simple steps he outlines in this video for 21 days and see what happens.
So our thoughts affect our body, and we can learn to change our habitual thought patterns. Our body also affects our brain, and being more physically active, and adding simple movements like Foundation Training can increase our levels of stress reducing hormones. The bottom line is that you are in control and not the victim of your thinking. I know I used to think “that’s just the way I am”, or that all my thoughts were really true. I now see that just isn’t so. Much of what passes for thought is just habitual chatter that we think is who we really are. I remember a saying from the 70’s: Question Everything! This is especially true of our thoughts. Try watching your habitual thoughts. Start a “Happiness Journal” using the steps recommended by Shawn Achor for 21 days : Write down 3 things you are grateful for each day , journal about one positive experience each day ( a paragraph will do), exercise daily(even a 15 minute walk, or better yet 10 minutes of Foundation!), meditate ( sit quietly for a few minutes daily to begin with, it’s a great time to pay attention to your thoughts), and perform a random act of kindness daily like e-mailing someone to tell them how much you appreciate them, or better yet, do it in person. I started this and have kept going for 2 months now. It’s something I look forward to daily.
For those who would like to pursue this further, I recommend reading the following books: Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert, and The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge.
Wishing all of you a glorious summer! Enjoy the sunshine, get out and move, and pay attention to your thoughts!
I appreciate all of you so much!
Jim Bentz DC