The Mind/Body/Spirit Connection and Healing – My Last Post
“Every patient carries her or his own doctor inside.”
This will be my last post here at Kibby’s Blended Life. I have decided to call it quits with this space. Everything here will be available till the end of May 2016. Life is great and I am doing well. I have grown so much through this blog and with you all over the years. My heart is elsewhere and I am honoring that. I didn’t want to leave or disappear without a farewell. Thank you for being a part of this journey.
I wrote this post last year (added to it over the past few days) and felt it a perfect gift from my soul to yours. Enjoy!
Health issues are much thicker than the skin. Therefore, mental and emotional aspects cannot be ignored for long term, balanced health to be achieved. Our emotional, mental and physical selves are intertwined and interlinked. There is ample evidence to prove that psychological health affects physical health and vice versa. Thinking holistically means viewing yourself as a whole being, not a collection of parts. Mind, body and spirit are inseparable, and illness in one of these areas often produces illness in the others. Think holistically and your overall health will improve.
Listen to yourself. Listen to your body. If you listen to what your body is telling you, you will know what is wrong. Trust your intuition, even if it means overriding tradition. When you have a physical problem, the root of the problem may not be what the symptom is. Your higher self may direct you to what is going on to be able to get the root of the problem. It all gets back to: Listen to that little voice inside. This approach to health care is often dismissed as irresponsible, because it has not been flooded in “scientific proof.” Now, however, proof emerges from medical journals in a steady stream. Recent research has revealed how the immune system and the nervous system communicate with each other. So when something upsets you, your immune system feels it, too.
You may have already thought about the relationship between the mind and the body, and you may have some beliefs about it, especially if you have ever become physically ill over the problems of life. Have you ever experienced a frightful dream that was so real that you woke up with a pounding heart or a cold sweat over your body? This and other everyday experiences are proof that your thoughts and emotions that you experience triggers countless chemical reactions throughout your body via your nervous and endocrine system.
There are numerous reasons why people get sick. Sometimes that can be because of poor nutrition, smoking, excessive alcohol, environmental toxins, genetic predispositions, age, inappropriate medications, stress, past traumas, or unexpressed emotions. All of these can contribute to disease and illness.
My own interest in how thinking and emotions affects health began years ago. My health issues that plagued me as a teen had re-emerged in my late 30’s. I was “doing all the right things” according to what I had learned, yet with no relief. I knew there had to be something deeper on a level that I never gone to before.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, emotional ill-health is caused by lack of coordination between an individual’s senses, emotions and thoughts. In the Ayurvedic view, the heart and mind are intimately connected. When that connection is weakened, problems arise. The lack of ability to process emotions in a timely way is the main cause of emotional imbalances. Some people are able to process an emotion quickly, which means they are able to let go and move on with their lives. For others, the processing or “cooking” of thoughts is slower, so the negative impression remains with them for a very long time and impacts their current thoughts and emotions, resulting in negative mood, disease and illness.
This is where I found a healing platform for several childhood traumas that had never been dealt with. I looked at my life and realized that I was not happy with certain aspects of it. I decided to change, work on my issues, forgive others and myself, change my thoughts and reactions to situations and learned how to LIVE. This is not something you do once and you’re healed. It is an on-going journey of the soul. I learn something everyday. I go through rough times just like everyone else, but the key is to stay present and see it for what it is in a larger picture. Don’t be afraid to delve deep. Freedom and peace await you there. I avoided it for many years but one day I decided to open the door and go in fully. No looking back. It was the BEST decision of my life. Healing began that moment I said YES to LIFE. Whatever it took.
Deepak Chopra, a medical doctor and widely-known author, who has conducted research in this field, contends that body cells store everything that we have ever experienced in life, and that everything the mind is unable to express is stored in the body. Part of his theory is that in the gap between body and mind is the spirit, and we need to heal the spirit because it programs the mind. We need to listen to our bodies to figure out just how to heal the spirit. This is something that I have witnessed in my own personal journey. Our bodies talk to us in numerous ways, and if we get sick, it is not necessarily a punishment, but rather, a message. Instead of thinking of illness as a punishment for not doing something, it might be more productive to ask, “What is my body saying to me? What do I need to address? What do I need to look at? What thoughts, beliefs and behaviors could be contributing to this? What do I need to change in my life?”
If we listen to our bodies, we can then try to understand what our bodies are telling us. When we can use pain as a warning, we ask ourselves, “What is going on here? What do I really need to see here?” Illness is an opportunity to grow and change, to heal with the past, to learn to live, and to embrace what we really want. Be sure that you have healed any sadness in your heart as this often blocks us from moving forward and seeing results. Self-love may be one of the most integral components of overall health. To be truly honest and vulnerable with yourself so that you can break the vicious cycle (conscious or unconscious) of thoughts, emotions and routine to empower yourself that you CAN DO IT.
I invite you to listen to your inner voice. The one that is smart and wants the best for you and that you sometimes ignore. If we learn to listen to the whispers of our body, it won’t give us “screams.”
Stress: The Important Link to Illness
Your body is hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. Such threats are rare today, but that doesn’t mean that life is free of stress. The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that travel through the bloodstream. They move in and out of tissues and organs, defending the body against foreign bodies (antigens), such as bacteria, viruses and cancerous cells.
On the contrary, you undoubtedly face multiple demands each day, such as shouldering a huge workload, making ends meet and taking care of your family. Your body treats these so-called minor hassles as threats. As a result you may feel as if you’re constantly under assault. However, you can fight back. You don’t have to let stress control your life. When you encounter a perceived threat — a large dog barks at you during your morning walk, for instance — your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.
We all have stress; it is a part of life that is not going to go away. However, it is not the amount or severity of stress that matters, but rather the “way we handle our stress” that affects our immune system. When stress erupts, the body suddenly jumps into the “sympathetic nervous response” – SNR, also known as the stress response, or the “fight or flight” response. When SNR is produced, other body functions are halted until the stressful situation has passed. Glucose flows abnormally, digestion is inhibited, reproductive growth is decreased, tissue growth and repair are lessened, and all of this depresses the immune system. This is the body’s way of taking care of an immediate emergency.
The immune system also receives signals to slow down while cortisol does its job. But with chronic stress, however, the immune system stays in low gear, leaving the body vulnerable to infection and disease. Common illnesses brought on or worsened by stress are cardiovascular disease, digestive problems, skin conditions and poor memory function. The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure return to baseline levels, and other systems resume their regular activities.
Yet when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems.
As cortisol levels drop, the immune system cells begin to resume their role of protecting the body. While you cannot avoid all of the stresses that come your way, you can learn how to control your reaction. Learning to deal with stress in a healthy manner will minimize the negative affects it has on the immune system.
Handling Stress Effectively
We have the mechanisms and the support systems we need to deal with stress intelligently, but often, we think we don’t. We think that we are all alone. We become overwhelmed by our troubles and no longer believe we know what to do, yet we have the tools we can use to deal with stress, elevate the immune system response, and thereby improve our overall level of wellness. It’s kind of like we have the equipment but are hesitant to take it out of the toolbox. We have an opportunity to take advantage of the resources within and around us. I like to visualize my toolbox when stress arises. I can go to it and see what tool is required for the situation and environment at the moment.
Bodywork can be an effective stress reduction technique. Massage is an ancient form of healing that actually releases peptides into the blood and muscles and thereby elevates the immune response. Touch is very healing.
Reiki or energy healing is another modality that I find to be very helpful (I do self practice). Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing and self-improvement that everyone can use.
Meditation is very effective because it reduces the stress response. Sitting quietly and breathing slowly can shift the body away from “fight or flight” to the normal state of our nervous system. By meditating regularly, you can fairly often keep your body in a state of quiet and rest with all systems operating at normal speed.
Deep breathing is an excellent tool for stress. When you get so anxious about your pain or a situation that you can’t seem to think straight, it helps to slow down and take deep breaths. This is the first tool in my toolbox to pull out. The act of focusing on my breath centers me and expands the energy around me. In this space, I can think and act more clearly. Slow breathing is a bridge between the mind and the body. With consistent practice of this technique, one can be conditioned to be in this state of calm when a situation arises. Check out my article “Just BREATHE – How Important It Is“. (videos included).
Another way to help our immune system is by getting honest with ourselves about our emotions and “feel our feelings”. If you are angry or sad or happy, you cannot fool your body of the fact. Whatever is going on in the mind needs to be expressed. If it does not find expression through the mouth, then it will surely emerge as an ulcer, rash, or some other symptom. It is important to pull whatever is in the depth of your soul that has not been addressed.
We cannot relax in our current life, no matter how much meditation, slow breathing and yoga we do, if we are secretly fuming about something that hurt us twenty years ago. We all have had traumas, we all have had issues, and it is “healthful” to try to see what needs to be healed, no matter how uncomfortable it is to think about. I feel THIS AREA is KEY!
As important as facing our psychological issues is to our health, we must also remember that it is equally important to get on with our lives and have fun. Every time you laugh, endorphins are released, and this has a positive impact on health. Some ways to elevate your immune system now can be as fun as kissing, hugging, exercise, walking, hanging out with a friend, singing, creative work and hobbies, capacity for joyful living and healthy relationships.
Taking Responsibility for Our Health
Illness results when we don’t take care of ourselves, while “wellness” is all about responsibility. That responsibility is for our health and well-being. Wellness refers to a lifestyle designed to prevent illness. Components of wellness include exercise, nutrition, avoidance of known environmental toxins, regular check-ups, a spiritual process and awareness that these variables either promote or detract from wellness.
To be able to live a lifestyle designed to regain or maintain wellness, we must be honest with ourselves that illness is multifactorial (involving a variety of elements). Illness is caused by many things, and never the result of one single factor. At the same token, wellness is mutifactorial. A holistic approach to health care means consideration of the Whole person, and not just “some of her parts”. Owning up to what we ourselves must do means looking at our whole lifestyle, not just some of our habits. The whole kit and kaboodle. For example, getting adequate exercise but continuing to smoke won’t necessarily result in wellness. Eating nutritionally but getting no exercise, again, does not take into account all of the many factors of wellness.
Exercise is a major part of the mind/body connection. When we exercise, chemicals called “endorphins” are released from the brain, from the adrenal glands, the hypothalamus, the pituitary and thyroid glands. When I am really agitated, or have something that I need to work out, if I can go outside for a walk in nature, jump on my rebounder, step onto my yoga mat or do something physical, I feel better. The action of exercising somehow alters the stress level. Part of this is due to the release of endorphins and the other part is that the perception of myself improves when I exercise.
Find a kind of movement or exercise that serves you. Whatever you enjoy doing, do it MORE! It might be running, dancing, skiing, yoga (gentle or sweaty), going to the gym, hula hooping or even just walking. Be sure you are not pressured into it (by others or yourself), but do WHAT YOUR HEART DESIRES. This is key to a consistent, long term motivation in daily movement. Exercise and movement are big components of wellness, but slaving away at an activity you dread is hardly an expression of healthy intention.
Spirituality and Your Health
Each individual must find his or her own path to wellness, one that supports his or her belief system. Just because we adopt a few externally visible wellness techniques, such as publicly eating kale or going to yoga class, we are not assured of optimal health, because internal, spiritual factors are also involved. When I think about healing, I think of the mind, body and spirit as a trilogy. All three must be addressed to achieve health and well-being. Use whatever works for you personally. Be it meditating, playing or listening to music, prayer, being at one with nature, creating art (even in the kitchen), writing, exercising or whatever means you have for tapping into your energy for wellness.
Personally, I have found I need a spiritual process to help me achieve optimal wellness, because it helps to break down the barriers between the mind and the body. Our bodies will always tell us how they feel in relation to exercise, food and stress. So listen to yourself. If you need to step away from a relationship that is unhealthy, please do so. If your exercise regimen is too strenuous and causing you and your body more stress, cut back to something such as walking, yoga, tai chi, etc. It will vary from person to person. AND from moment to moment. One day I need to lift weights and the next day I just want to take a quiet walk in nature. Go with what your body and spirit NEED. Listen and pay attention. The individual sense must emerge from your inner voice.
By turning to a source within ourselves, one that we know works for us and brings us personal peace, we can deal with stress more effectively, stay in the parasymphathetic (calming) nervous response and elevate the immune system.
Ask for guidance through your spiritual practice, then listen and watch for the signs to emerge.
Wisdom: Being Your Higher Self
As you become aware of the energy around you, wisdom helps you understand it. You begin seeing that everything that happens to you is meant to assist you in going even higher. As you begin to believe that all things are being created for your highest good, it becomes so. Your positive perspective creates a supportive and nurturing environment around you; it allows energy to flow with you, rather than against you.
Wisdom is the ability to be conscious of what is happening around you, to see the higher truth, and express yourself with compassion. As you open to energy, you will begin to get more input and information from the Universe. Wisdom helps you to soften that information, to reinterpret the messages.
Wisdom comes from the heart. The wise heart embraces others with a feeling of compassion for whatever stage they are at in their souls’ evolution; it approaches them with a feeling of love and oneness rather than judgment.
Wisdom is the ability to know what is important in your life and what is not, what things are distractions and what things are the call of your soul. It is the ability to sort through all the data that is coming in and select only those things that contribute to your sense of well-being.
Wisdom is the ability to know which activities are truly serving your higher purpose and which are merely distractions from your path. As you identify with your deeper being, your soul, you will achieve feelings of inner contentment and peace. The power to heal and to be whole is within YOU. Each and every one of you.
YOUR journey and path is unique to YOU. Don’t look to others for what they do and try to imitate. Believe me on this one. I’ve been there. Done that. Go with your own authenticity. Become friends with your body, your spirit and emotions. They are your biggest teachers and healers. Embrace them with forgiveness, compassion and love. Once I did this, major shifts happened and continue to do so. It is a wonderful and beautiful journey. Enjoy the ride.
Thank you ALL! You have touched my heart deeply in the time that I have had this space to share with you. Your connection and friendship has meant so much to me. I know many of you by first names and think of you often – I really do! I wish you THE BEST in this life.
You have the Power!
Harness it and Shine Bright with Health & Wellness!
My love always,