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The Mind Body Connection

Taylor Paganini, LMT O.T

Awareness of the Mind Body connection is by no means something new. Until approximately 300 years ago, essentially every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole. But during the 17th century, the Western world started to see the mind and body as two separate entities. In this view, the body was seen more as a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts, with no connection whatsoever to the mind. This Western viewpoint had definite benefits, acting as the foundation for advances in surgery, trauma care, pharmaceuticals, and other areas of allopathic medicine. However, it also greatly reduced scientific inquiry into humans; emotional and spiritual life, and downplayed their innate ability to heal. Thankfully by the 20th century this began to change.

What is the Mind Body Connection? When we talk about an individual’s mind body connection we are simply talking about the beliefs one holds towards themselves and the world, our emotions, our memories, and our habits. These connections between what is going on in our mind and heart, and what is happening in our body, form the psycho-emotional roots of health and disease. Your mind and body are powerful allies. How you think can affect how you feel, and how you feel can affect the way you think. The mind body connection happens on both and physical and chemical level. Different mental states can have a positive or negative affect on our biological functioning. This occurs since the nervous system, endocrine, and immune systems share a common chemical language, which allows constant communication between the body and mind through messengers like hormones and neurotransmitters. A good example of how the mind body connection works is how we handle and respond to stress. When we are stressed or anxious, our bodies react as if it is under attack. We begin to produce physical symptoms such as feelings of shortness of breath, increased heart rate, stomach pains, and muscle tension. This physical reaction is called our fight or flight stress response. This stress response is harmless when needed such as reacting to danger or avoiding an accident. But to constantly be in a state of stress, we are causing our bodies to produce stress hormones on a regular basis which can have negative long lasting effects on our physical and mental health.

Our Bodies Manifest Emotion Emotions like anger, fear, guilt, anxiety, sadness, resentment, jealousy, depression, and stress can manifest within the body and contribute to imbalance and disease. For example, you are likely already familiar with the way that fear can contribute to digestive upset or how tension can lead to headaches. Physiological vibrations can occur in different areas of the body. One study showed that people who repress their emotions are more likely to have disruptions in the normal balance of the stress hormone cortisol compared to people who freely express emotion. Over time, chronic psychological stress can change the way the body functions at a hormonal and immunologic level, contributing to the development and progression of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research also shows that what your brain produces depends in part on your thoughts, feelings, and expectations. If you're sick but you have hope and a positive attitude and you believe that you'll get better, your brain is likely to produce chemicals that will boost your body's innate healing abilities.

How can we strengthen our Mind Body Connection? From a personal and professional standpoint as a massage therapist, and as someone who deals with chronic pain herself, there is always a deep rooted emotional aspect to one’s pain and physical suffering vice versa. The first step in strengthening the connection between our mind and body is awareness. In order to do this, we must simply recognize the importance of its relationship and how to begin reprogramming our thoughts and behavioral patterns. Awareness of the mind- body connection can be very helpful in: *Increasing mental alertness and activity *Stress management *Better sleep and brain function *Speeding recovery from illness *Lessening pain and discomfort *Shortening hospital stays *Enabling patients and families to better cope with illness *Help with substance abuse recovery *Reducing missed time from work

Healing and preventing disease requires a combination of physical, spiritual, and emotional approaches. There are a variety of mind-body approaches that can help you process your emotions and develop inner peace and physical wellness. To avoid the buildup of toxic emotions, you need to remain present and aware. Paying attention allows you to identify emotions as they arise, process them, and choose how you react. One way to effectively express, and get your feelings out is to talk about them. This can be done out loud by speaking with a trusted friend or therapist—or on paper through journaling. Meditation is another valuable mind- body practice for becoming more present and centering the mind. A regular meditation practice is a particularly effective way to help the body control emotional responses and the additional neurochemical patterns that can otherwise flood the body with harmful stress hormones. Other great techniques and therapies that focus on the interaction between the mind, body and behavior include: *Massage Therapy *Acupuncture *Biofeedback *Tai Chi/QI gong *Yoga/Pilates *Guided imagery or meditation *Hypnotherapy *Pranayama and mindful breathing techniques *Connecting with nature *Healthy diet and intentional eating habits These can all be valuable tools for increasing awareness of the body’s biological processes, in order to help you become empowered to manage emotions and alleviate their neurophysiological impacts. “Going beyond our ordinary concept of self is what always brings us the greatest sense of joy in life. Going beyond our own boundaries brings us an ecstatic awareness of how we are truly created in connection with all that is.” –Cynthia Sue Larson

Taylor Paganini L.M.T, O.T is certified in Myofascial Release Technique, Trigger Point Therapy, AMMA, and Prenatal massage. Also certified in flame Cupping. Her techniques are to help unblock energy in the body and bring better mobility and functionality to the muscular and nervous systems in order to reconnect the mind/body experience.


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