We have heard, “Your mind is a powerful thing,” in motivational quotes, stories of inspiration and to explain emotional states. What does this unseen thing do? How powerful is it? What is its connection to the brain, our emotions, our health, and body?
For centuries, healers have asked these same questions of connection between mental, physical and the health. Recently science has begun to study and recognize the power through which emotional, spiritual, and behavior can directly affect health. As research in the field of mind-body medicine is finding, emotions and thought patterns can contribute to imbalances within the body, and this is where therapies like hypnosis, visual imagery, meditation, yoga, and biofeedback are being used to reestablish balance and promote health.
These studies better explain how the beliefs you hold about yourself and the world, your emotions, your memories, and your habits all can influence mental and physical health. These connections between what is going on in your mind and heart, and what is happening in your body, form the psycho-emotional roots of health and disease.
This mind-body connection happens on both a physical and chemical level. Explaining how the brain is the hardware that allows you to experience mental states that are labeled the “mind.” This concept of the “mind” encompasses mental states including thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. These different mental states can positively or negatively affect our biological functions. That occurs in the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems since they share a common connection, which allows constant communication between the mind and body through messengers like hormones and neurotransmitters.
An example of this is how the neurological pathways connect parts of the brain that process emotions with the spinal cord, muscles, cardiovascular system, and digestive tract. Another explanation of how major life events, stressors, or emotions trigger physical symptoms. Have you experienced butterflies in your stomach when you feel nervous, or when your heart feels like it is pounding out of your chest when you are under intense stress? This is an aspect of the mind-body connection.
These intersecting systems help to establish the mind-body connection and the importance for the maintenance of health to prevent the development of diseases. For example, emotions like anxiety can trigger increased stress hormones, suppressing the immune system, setting the stage for the development of infections or worse cancer.