The brain and the body are often spoken about as totally separate entities, doing its own separate things and always at odds. But in reality, your brain and body do – and should – communicate quite a bit. In fact, they’re so connected that Harvard Medical School reports that an anxious brain can cause an upset stomach, and, reversely, an upset stomach can give a person anxiety. Many parts of your body constantly send signals to your mind, telling it how to feel; likewise, your brain greatly influences how you feel in your body. So the mind-body connection cannot be overlooked. How strong is yours? Here’s a look at the benefits of a good mind-body connection and how to improve yours.
What Exactly Is The Mind-Body Connection?
Your mind-body connection is essentially the connection between your consciousness and the various parts and systems of your body, including everything from your joints to your muscles to your organs. It is the concept of how strongly (or not) you are aware, at any given moment, of the state and needs of each part of your body. There is a name for the awareness of one’s bodily position and movement, and that is Kinesthesia. But that mostly pertains to matters like balance and posture. Beyond that, a mind-body connection helps you recognize things like:
- hunger cues
- the need for socialization
- the need for alone time
- the need to exercise or expel energy
It’s easy to see that a mind-body connection can impact both one’s physical and mental wellbeing. If you struggle to notice the cues listed above, it might be time to find ways to strengthen your mind-body connection – and we’ll list some at the end of this article.
Benefits Of A Better Mind-Body Connection
Improving your mind-body connection can help boost your workout routine in many ways. The most straightforward benefit falls under the topic of Kinesthesia. A better mind-body connection will help you better understand how you want your muscles and joints to move and how to direct them more precisely. This can help you nail the right form, posture and movement in a given exercise and even help prevent injury.
Strengthening this connection can also help you recognize what sort of exercise your body is craving today and which areas need the most activity. Plus, it can help you understand when your body needs to rest – which is an important part of a holistic exercise routine.
Having a solid mind-body connection can help you maintain a healthy weight because it helps you be more aware of when you are hungry, and when you’re full. A study published in the American Psychological Association found that those without body awareness are prone to over eating. In the absence of hunger cues – or at least a lack of awareness of them – people tend to eat more than they need.
Improved Mental Health
Sometimes, your body communicates to you needs that pertain to mental and emotional health. For example, if you strengthen the mind-body connection, you’ll understand when your body is crying out for alone time or when it craves to be in the presence of others. In one study, researchers polled individuals on their body awareness and mental health and found that those who ignore body cues experience more depression and lower self-esteem.
Not knowing these cues can have a downward spiral effect. For example, without understanding hunger cues, you could reach for a high-sugar food. That blood sugar spike and drop could cause fatigue. Then, that fatigue ultimately makes you skip your workout – a workout that helps maintain your mental health.
Ways To Reconnect To Your Body
It’s clear now that strengthening and maintaining the mind-body connection is important to overall wellness. Luckily, there are simple exercises you can do almost anywhere and with almost any athletic ability that can improve this important connection.
Focused breathing exercises give you a chance to remove distractions and just pay attention to what is happening inside of the body. There are many different kinds of breathing exercises, but the idea behind most is to take intentional breaths – often counting to a set number on each one. You’ll usually purposefully use just the mouth, just the nose, or one for the in-breath and one for the out-breath. Exercises like these bring your attention into the body and remind you of the life forth that is your breath that feeds all of your organs.
If you feel awkward dancing, that’s even more reason to give this exercise a try. Find an open space where you won’t risk bumping into anything, put on music you love, and just move in the ways you’re your body asks you to. Do what feels good. Dancing is a great way to tune in and pick up on cues about what your body wants. In fact, research in the Journal of Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews showed that dancing improves the connectivity between the two cerebral hemispheres.
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise for those wanting to boost the mind-body connection. Movements are exact, and often done slowly, in rhythm with the breath. This combination of pairing focused breathing with intentional movements really brings your focus into your body.
Cold Water Exposure
Cold water exposure can involve taking a cold shower, dipping into a freezing cold pool for just a moment or jumping into a cold lake. Doing this, even for just one minute, brings awareness into the body. You’ll be completely focused on the ways your body is resisting the cold, your physical impulses to get out of the cold, the shaking of the skin and the increased speed of your breath.
Getting a massage can be a relaxing and easy way to reconnect with your body. Experiencing different types of massages lets you learn what sorts of pressure and movement feel good on your body. During the massage, you are fully focused on the part of the body being worked on. And after the massage, you can notice the ways your body feels different in response to the treatment.