What Is the Mind-Body Connection?
The mind-body connection is exactly as it sounds: the philosophy that the mind and body are inherently connected. In some teachings, it is said that the mind and body are one and the same and merely manifestations of one another. So, what does that mean? Ultimately, everything we do within our body deeply affects our mind, and vice versa; everything we think, everything we feel, and everything we experience mentally has a physical effect on our bodies’ experience. Some examples of mind-body practices are yoga, tai chi, conscious dance practices, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
The Science of the Mind-Body Connection
The idea that the mind and the body are connected has been recognized for thousands of years by many different traditions and cultures. Additionally, science has been backing it up for decades. Even if we simply look at how the physical body works, specifically with hormone release and the endocrine system, we can acknowledge that the way we feel and experience our emotions has a staggering effect on the body’s psychological response.
When triggered or stressed, our body releases hormones that activate a “fight or flight” response in the body: pumping our blood faster, raising our heart rate, and preparing the body to protect itself. In the same sense, when we feel safe and supported, our bodies relax into “rest and digest,” which is essentially when the body cycles back into its continuous healing process.
The Mind-Body Connection in Recovery
Recovery is a physical, emotional, and mental experience, a complete transformation of both body and mind, and a complete revolution from the inside out. Yet, in many recovery programs, the physical aspect of the mental aspect is the main focus, rather than bridging the gap and bringing the two together. It’s not incorrect, and yet it will most likely feel incomplete eventually. At some point throughout the recovery process, focusing on just the physical or just the mental, we realize it’s not enough. We begin to uncover so much more emotionally that perhaps we weren’t even aware of prior. It is as if there was a large gap, and suddenly we are missing something entirely. This is where mind-body practices can come into the picture to help throughout our recovery process.
How to Nurture the Mind-Body Connection
Many formal practices are based upon the mind-body connection, such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, dance movement therapy, massage therapy, qi gong, and more. Ultimately, these practices intend to begin not only to see but experience the connection between the body and mind and start to use that in our day-to-day day lives. Both the body and mind are incredibly powerful tools that we can use during our recovery journey.
When first becoming sober, many of us are drawn to very physical activities such as hiking or fitness, as they help us burn energy that we may feel we have in excess. It helps us to feel better, sleep better, and reduce our stress. It’s also a proven mood booster (hello, endorphins!) and is an excellent tool for relapse prevention. Others may be drawn to more mental practices such as talk therapy, journaling, meetings, and meditation, which help us become more aware of ourselves, our emotions, and our needs for a life of sobriety. Yet, when used together, we have a powerfully conscious combination. That is where we can begin to bridge what we learn from our bodies with what we learn in our minds.
Ways to Bring it All Together
If you aren’t feeling excited about going to a yoga class or trying tai chi, something as simple as being very aware of your breath and body during your physical exercise can be a great way of nurturing the mind-body connection. Some things to consider include:
- How does my body feel right now?
- How deep am I breathing?
- Am I aware of the way I am holding myself in my body?
- Am I being safe and nurturing to my body parts?
- Am I hurting or strengthening myself?
Yoga and tai chi are powerful mind-body tools because the main focus is always on the energy and how that energy flows, which means the relationships between the body, breath, and mind and how that all flows together. During these traditional practices, there are tools and ways to keep the mind and body focused during these activities; however, it is not the only way to experience this connection. If you are a person that doesn’t want that much physical exertion, trying meditation with simple somatic touches on various body parts, and focusing on both the feeling of the body and breath, can be another great way to invoke the mind-body experience.
The mind-body connection can seem like a mystical thought at first. Yet, throughout our recovery, we begin to experience different things in our bodies and minds that demand our attention. The more conscious we become of ourselves, the more aware we become of the relationship between the body and mind. During recovery, it is imperative to continue to connect with these deeper parts of ourselves. At Hired Power, we understand the need to connect with both body and mind for a full, holistic healing process. We encourage a full range of tools and support for a strong and happy road to recovery. Hired Power is a dynamic group of recovery professionals that provide an empowering range of services in a compassionate and healing environment that gives people the best opportunity for long-term success and happiness. Our Personal Recovery Assistants encourage and motivate clients to become active participants in their own lives. Contact Hired Power today at (800) 910-9299.