MIND-BODY CONNECTION

MIND-BODY CONNECTION

Mind and body are not only connected, but are inseparably one. Our minds consist of our beliefs, thoughts, emotions/feelings, etc.; which are invisible. We know they are there because we experience them. In contrast, our bodies consist of tissues, blood, bones, muscles, fats, and so forth. The tissues consist of molecules and the molecules are ultimately made up of atoms. A basic emotion like fear can be described as an abstract feeling or as a tangible molecule of the chemical/hormone adrenaline. Whenever you have a fearful thought, there are biochemical changes in the brain followed by the body that elicits fear. Hence, without any chemical or hormonal reactions, you feel nothing.

There is no pain without nerve signals that transmit pain; there is no relief from pain without endorphins that fit into the pain receptors to block those signals. During World War II, the power of placebo was recognized as a scientifically viable phenomenon. Henry Beecher, an Army medic, accidently discovered the placebo effect when he ran out of pain-killing morphine, which he was using to treat the wounded soldiers. He replaced the morphine with a simple saline solution but continued to tell the wounded soldiers that it was morphine, so that they will remain composed. To his surprise, almost half of the soldiers reported that this inert saline solution actually reduced pain and in some cases eliminated the feeling of pain. Exactly how placebos worked to relieve pain was a mystery then but neuroscientists of that era had uncovered several important clues. They theorized that placebos must play a role in helping the brain release natural chemicals and changing brain activity in ways that mimic the effects of real drugs and treatments.

What were these chemical communicators that were facilitating this placebo effect? Is there a biochemical and physiological answer to the connection of the mind and body? Lot of research lead to the discovery that the brain makes its own morphine in the form of endorphins, (which is shorthand for endogenous morphines). These endorphins and other chemicals like them (peptides) are found not just in the brain, but also in the immune system, the endocrine system and throughout the body. A peptide is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. These peptides mediate intercellular communication throughout the brain and the body. These neuropeptides and their receptors have been theorized to be the biochemical correlates of emotions.

Finally, a scientifically-based (both biochemical and physiological) explanation that clearly demonstrated the unique pathways connecting the mind to the body has been firmly established. There are two major pathways involved: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) via the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axis (SAM axis).

The body's primary stress management system is the HPA axis. The HPA axis responds to physical and mental challenge to maintain homeostasis in part by controlling the body's cortisol level. Dysregulation of the HPA axis is implicated in numerous stress-related diseases. The sympathetic nervous system's primary process is to stimulate the body's fight-or-flight response. It is, however, constantly active at a basic level to maintain homeostasis.

There are now sufficient data to conclude that psychosocial stressors can lead to actual health problems. In one epidemiological study, all-cause mortality increased in the month following a severe stressor – the death of a spouse. Theorists propose that stressful events trigger cognitive and affective responses that, in turn, induces changes in sympathetic nervous system and endocrine system, and these ultimately impair immune function. Potential health consequences are broad, but include rates of infection, HIV progression, cancer incidence and progression and much more.

Stress is thought to affect immune function through emotional and/or behavioral manifestations such as anxiety, fear, tension, anger, sadness, etc. and physiological changes such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, etc. Researchers have suggested that these changes are beneficial if they are for a limited duration, but when stress is chronic, the system is unable to maintain equilibrium or homeostasis; the body remains in a state of arousal, where digestion is slower to reactivate or does not reactivate properly, often resulting in indigestion. Furthermore, blood pressure stays at higher levels. Stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers and mental illnesses such as depression.

Over the past 20 years, mind-body medicine has provided evidence that psychological factors play a major role in many illnesses and that mind-body techniques can aid in their treatment. Clinical trials have indicated mind-body therapies to be helpful in managing and healing many conditions. There is also evidence that they can help to improve psychological functioning and quality of life.

Mind–body interventions are medical and pseudo medical interventions based on the idea of the mind influencing the physical body. The category was introduced in September 2000 by the United States National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). This category encompasses alternative medicine interventions. All mind-body interventions focus on the interaction between the brain, body and behavior, and are practiced with intention to use the mind to alter physical function and promote overall health and well-being. NCCIH defines as a mind-body intervention because it utilizes the mind's capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms is cognitive behavioral therapy.

Since 2008, authors documenting research conducted on behalf of the NCCIH have used terms "mind and body practices" and "mind-body medicine" interchangeably with "mind-body interventions" to denote both therapeutic as well as mental and physical rehabilitative practices that "focus on the relationships between the mind, brain, body and behavior, and their effect on health and disease.

The health benefits of mind-body medicine have barely touched the surface of what it offers for future health and well-being. Realizing that our minds and what we believe, think, feel and practice can affect our mental and physical health is truly an amazing tool in our ability to personally create not only better health but also the potential for a less stressful and more peaceful lifestyle.

A true Mind-Body Therapy is a therapy, wherein the mind (beliefs, thoughts and emotions/feelings) and the body (exercises and diet) are used to heal mental as well as physical discomforts, dysfunctions and diseases. It is a unique treatment without medicines and having sufficient scientific evidences to support its efficacy. For this, a good therapist is required to treat or give therapy; or we can also learn the art of “Mind-Body Self-Healing,” which can be represented with 2 Ps for Mind – Positivity and Peace; and 2 Fs for Body – Fitness and Food.

Mind and Body are two separate entities of one identity, of which, one breeds the other. Performance of an individual. Whether good or bad, is an outcome of the co-ordination and working of the mind and the body together. Dysfunction in their relation leads to chaos in the physical body. A human as a being is an output of mind- body relationship. They are not to be treated differently, rather understood as one connection!

About the Author

Dr Sanjoy Mukherji
Psychologist.

Dr Sanjoy Mukerji is a Gold Medalist and National and International Award-Winning Psychologist in Mumbai. He was also awarded as "India's Best Psyc

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